Meeting of Friday, October 20, 2006

All regents were present at this 9:00 AM meeting in the Regents Room, Educational Services Center, main campus, held as usual in conjunction with Homecoming Weekend. It is worthy of note that, in addition to social activities, a "work session" was held from 1:30 to almost 5:00 PM the previous day. Given the travel time necessary for most regents plus considerable time in reading their packets of material in advance of every meeting, this amounts to the donation of much time and energy by every regent -- unremunerated except in terms of intangible personal satisfaction. Prestige? Power? Not much. And there is lots of good stuff going on.

This and earlier reports for Common Cause are offered, not in a carping spirit, but to inform the public at large of their work and to point out ways by which their public image (and service) may be enhanced. In this connection: no provision is ever made in any way, yet, for public input in meetings of the NMSU Board of Regents. Common Cause will continue to press on this issue.

These reports have repeatedly observed the circumstances surrounding the regents' closed executive sessions. For such a session on September 8, 2006, a small step toward specificity was taken in the announcement that it would be held "to discuss litigation matters and the disposal of certain real estate...." In approving the (secret) minutes of this meeting on October 20, however, the regents reverted to their vague, old, boilerplate formula, that they discussed "personnel, legal and real estate matters" in accordance with law. This vague language leaves the regents free to discuss in secret almost anything related to the university, which clearly violates the spirit if not the letter of the law.

Press reporting on the so-called "work session" held on October 19 represented it with some hyperbole to be historic. It was certainly interesting and useful. NMSU's community colleges are flourishing, in general.  The regents met with the NMSU Community College Advisory Board and heard and discussed reports from the Chief Executive Officers of the NMSU Community Colleges at Alamogordo, Carlsbad, Grants, and Doņa Ana in that order. It was implicit in the proceeding that the "One University" program is flourishing. Eleven statements were presented in the agenda for this session, explaining "the community college's function and role in the local community...." Next to last was to "[o]ffer educational opportunities to students who may not otherwise have entry to higher education...." More important to those who prepared this agenda, and presumably the regents, was (no. 8) to "[p]rovide a venue for NMSU to deliver upper division courses and degree completion." The regents clearly intend for all their "community" colleges to become mini-universities, offering a full range of courses toward BA, even MA degrees. As to disadvantaged, non-traditional students whom community colleges have traditionally been formed to serve: NMSU leadership is not so much interested in you.*

It remains to be seen whether or not the regents are backing off from their years-old very expensive practice of meeting on these campuses in succession, forcing numerous executive, staff and faculty members to travel from Las Cruces to participate. It may be implicit in the announcements of these "work sessions" (as at the Inn of the Mountain Gods last July) that they are open to the public, but this is never stated, leaving the implication that the public is not welcome.

At the October 20 open meeting, regents followed their agenda with no surprise except, unusually, that the executive session announced for 4:00 PM was canceled. All Consent Calendar items were approved without comment except for the voluble Robert M. Gallagher who commended provision of waivers of tuition for certain students at Grants and Alamogordo.

Approval of a "Letter of Intent ... for the Purpose of Developing a Hotel on University Lands" was carried out after discussion. Intercap Institutional & Investors, LLC, of Austin, Texas, is authorized to carry out a feasibility study  in the next twelve months, during which NMSU is prohibited from negotiating with anyone else. Regent Gallagher was not pleased with the possibility that, after a year's delay, NMSU might be back at square one without any compensation from Intercap for such a delay, but he deferred to Senior Vice President Ben Woods who believes that the proposal is fair. The university's mailing to 1,700 possible hotel developers produced only twelve responses of which Intercap's was best, according to Woods.

Woods reported later on discussions moving forward with the city of Las Cruces, not complete, for construction of a "Las Cruces [Convention] Center" to be across the street from the hotel. (Corner of University Avenue and Union Avenue: hotel on SE corner, Center on SW corner) The two projects are related but not linked, not technically dependent upon each other. Woods thinks that a special Board of Regents meeting might be necessary as early as November in connection with the proposed Center. From 460 to 590 new jobs may be at stake.

Under "Informational Items" recruiting and retention work was discussed at length. New targeted mailings are being carried out in recruit-ment, and efforts at retention have met with good results, although more needs to be done in both areas. Dean Garrey Carruthers reported on the study carried out at his behest with a view to doing away  (more or less completely) with out-of-state tuition. It did not pan out after analysis, as he readily admitted. High-tuition elite universities can benefit from such a provision, but not the typical low-tuition state college or university. Doņa Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley delivered an accelerated power-point presentation on the planned Spaceport America, asking for the regents to take a public position in favor of the proposed Gross Receipts Tax increase to pay for it. No immediate action was taken.

NMSU President Michael Martin devoted most of his report to outrage that flyers have been circulated on campus that flaunt as fact statements that are misleading at best, but are essentially false and misleading. As an example, but only one example, he noted that NMSU is portrayed as being rich, sitting on an immense $82 million endowment which could be used to improve staff salaries, etc. In fact, almost all of that endowment is under various restrictions by law, by donors, etc. He challenged Common Cause and the undersigned, by name, to undertake actively the denunciation of all such false and misleading utterances. (Continuing in outrage to me, privately, after the meeting, he blamed at least one of such flyers on AFSCME, while asserting that he is in general in favor of unions.)

John P. Bloom

for Southern NM Common Cause

 *Dr. Margie Huerta, CEO of Doņa Ana [formerly Branch] Community College, may have some explaining to do. Interviewed in the Las Cruces BULLETIN, October 20, pp. B10-B11, she stated in part, "College can be intimidating to students, regardless of their age.... I know what it's like. Everyone deserves a second chance."