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UNM regents to pick president finalists after rejecting faculty resolution

Rob Doughty

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico’s governing board officially quelled a faculty effort to halt the school’s presidential search during what became a contentions meeting Tuesday — and then immediately began selecting finalists for UNM’s top job.

The Board of Regents could name the top five contenders by week’s end, board president Rob Doughty told the Journal. The regents are on pace to choose the school’s 22nd president by November, filling a job Bob Frank left last year.

The search — initiated last fall — has not slowed since Faculty Senate President Pamela Pyle in August began urging regents to delay hiring UNM’s 22nd president. The faculty senate wanted the regents to keep interim Chaouki Abdallah at the helm an extra year to lend stability to a budget-crunched institution amid rapid leadership turnover and a pending accreditation process.

A presidential search committee made up of 22 members from inside and outside the university — including regents Doughty, Marron Lee and Tom Clifford — wanted to move forward, Doughty said. It conducted interviews two weeks ago.

The regents on Tuesday held a special session to address the faculty senate’s resolution to delay the search. But when none of the seven members moved to adopt the resolution, Regent Marron Lee made a new motion to take the “next steps” in the search. It passed 6-1, with Brad Hosmer voting no. Regents thanked faculty for their feedback. Those on the search committee said UNM has a strong presidential pool.

“The way I see it, that new president — whenever they come in — is really going to add to our bandwidth, and I think we need that extra bandwidth,” Clifford said.

But Pyle said it seemed the board deliberately avoided voting on the faculty’s resolution, prompting a terse exchange with the board and a explanation of how Robert’s Rules of Order applied.

“Yours is a positive vote on something rather than a negative vote for what we asked for, and there’s a difference in appearance,” Pyle said.

Lee said the failure to advance a motion equals a denial under the rules. University counsel Elsa Cole agreed, saying the regents’ action was “the equivalent of a ‘no’ vote.”

Doughty attempted to re-introduce the resolution to address Pyle’s concern, but Lee resisted. She ultimately motioned to move the meeting into closed session, during which regents were set to pick the presidential finalists. Doughty told the Journal the search firm needed to contact the regents’ chosen finalists before publicly announcing them, which could happen later this week.

Both Doughty and Pyle said in interviews after the meeting no “rift” exists between the faculty and regents.

“We clearly addressed their concern and listened to them,” Doughty said, saying the two groups have been working “hand in hand.”

Pyle said she appreciated that the regents considered the resolution but said “we have not established a common language for the perception of trust and open dialogue.”