March 13-19 has been lauded as national "Sunshine Week" by Governor Bill
Richardson and a number of public-spirited organizations, but will the NMSU
Board of Regents pay any attention? There was no evidence of it at their
meeting on March 14, nor has there been at any meeting for several years,
which have been observed regularly by representatives of Common Cause.

Sunshine Week is a nationwide effort to emphasize how important it is for
citizens to know what their government is doing. In fact, however, the NMSU
Regents' procedures and rules have evolved as if to keep public input and
awareness to a minimum. For example:

*No public input is provided at any meeting. Other boards of regents in New
Mexico do make regular provision for this. Common Cause wrote in February to
urge this, and Regents President Robert M. Gallagher replied a few days ago
that providing public input will be given "careful consideration." We have
heard such promises before; no public mention of this was made in the March
14 meeting.

*"Executive Sessions" are almost always held whenever the regents meet, with
a statement of purpose so broad as to justify the regents legally in holding
secret discussions on almost any subject. No minutes are kept of these
sessions even though they clearly are meetings, and a legal record must be
kept of all regents meetings. (Given the presumed sensitive nature of
business in these sessions, the minutes should be kept confidential, Common
Cause believes, but only for a reasonable period.)

*NMSU Presidents play very little role in regents meetings, although they
may be presumed to provide the most sensitive, insightful voice as to what
is happening on the campus. The presidents' reports are typically scheduled
last on the agenda, are always hurried for this reason, and seem to receive
little attention. (There was no president's report at all at the March 14

*Regents meetings are often held out of town, even as far away as Santa Fe,
making it difficult for observers to attend. Difficult and expensive: the
cost of travel and lodging for the regents and up to two dozen vice
presidents, deans, coaches, support staff, etc., is a subject overdue for
cost analysis. Other boards of regents in New Mexico do not follow this
extravagant practice, why should NMSU?

*Minutes of regular regents meetings are, in fact, verbatim transcripts with
many pages of attachments. They are available in reasonable time at the NMSU
Library, but they are so bulky as to defy practical use by anyone without
unlimited time for the job. One wonders if the regents, themselves, can know
or remember much about what was done in previous meetings. Suppose one wants
to research tuition or dormitory costs for the last dozen years -- the task
would be very daunting. But this need not be so if a standard style of
recording minutes were adopted. At the least, an index should be required
for the bulky minutes, as now being recorded.
In this connection, it is worth noting that the regents receive many
important reports at their meetings which are a valuable part of the record,
but there is hardly ever any open, substantive discussion of anything among
the regents. Common Cause observers believe that this is because discussion
of controversial issues is held in the executive sessions so that voting in
open sessions, involving no discussion, is almost always unanimous. This
typical display of unanimity by the regents is, well, unreal.

(JPB, 3/14/05)