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Search for new UNM president continues

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The search for the University of New Mexico’s next president has proceeded to the interview stage despite a pending faculty resolution seeking to halt the process.

Rob Doughty

The search committee completed the first round of candidate interviews last week, UNM Board of Regents President Rob Doughty said Tuesday.

But Doughty said the regents still intend to formally address a Faculty Senate resolution asking the board to postpone the search and extend interim President Chaouki Abdallah’s time in the job.

The regents will hold a special meeting Oct. 3 to vote on the resolution, he said, and that outcome “will determine how we will proceed” with the search.

Doughty, chairman of the presidential search committee, had announced plans last month to bring five finalists for campus interviews in October.

The regents would then select a new president by November.

But the Faculty Senate – citing concern about stability in the face of rapid leadership changes, budget cuts and an impending accreditation process – continued to push its position that UNM should instead postpone the search and keep Abdallah, the school’s provost, as interim president through spring 2019.

The regents did not act on the resolution during their Sept. 12 meeting, but more than a dozen faculty members spoke during the public comment period to stress the importance of having their position acknowledged.

It’s a stance professors reiterated Tuesday during a Faculty Senate meeting, telling Doughty and Regent Alex Romero they believed regents should still address their resolution, regardless of whether they approve it.

“This is a way in which we can prove to others during accreditation that we give feedback to the regents, they make decisions about that feedback – good, bad or indifferent – and then we get that feedback,” said Kathryn Watkins of the College of Education.

But Romero said voting on the faculty resolution might project an air of division, suggesting instead that it be amended to reflect ongoing conversations between the parties about how faculty can be involved in the process.

“At the end of the day, we really want the same thing. But what message are we sending the general public (with), ‘OK we’re going to force the issue. You guys are going to have to vote on this’?” he said. “Whatever the outcome is may not be the best for the general public to see some divisiveness going on here.”

But Ann Waldorf of the School of Medicine said the public should get the most transparent view of the university’s decision-making process, even if it shows disagreement.

“I appreciate your spirit of collegiality. I think that’s actually very, very important,” she said in response to Romero’s remarks. “I do think, though, that there is something to be said about showing the general public that the regents are passionate and the faculty is passionate, and sometimes those passions don’t line up nicely.”

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