With the University of New Mexico’s new president starting in two weeks, members of its Board of Regents are publicly declaring their desire to welcome her with a better functioning governing board.
Multiple regents expressed concern at Tuesday’s board meeting about the board’s current communication and decision making. Garnett Stokes will become UNM’s eighth president in the past 20 years, including interims, and Regent Suzanne Quillen said Stokes’ success largely hinges on the cohesiveness of the board, which she said right now is “failing” in its job.
Quillen noted that the board has not met about its strategic plan since 2016 or convened to hear interim President Chaouki Abdallah’s plan for “re-engineering” UNM despite Abdallah’s “repeated requests.” She stressed that the board is larger than one or a handful of people.
“I guess what I’m asking for today is that we again attempt to come together as a full board, start anew to address the critical issues facing this university as a board of seven. At least it’s a start,” Quillen said, earning applause from the audience.
Regent President Rob Doughty did not respond to Quillen’s or other regents’ related comments during the meeting but touted UNM’s recent accomplishments in a written statement to the Journal.
“There have been differences of opinion between board members from time to time,” he wrote. “But if you look at the big picture of what has occurred on our watch, the university’s four-year graduation rate has improved from 16.4 percent in 2014 to 29.4 percent in 2017 as a result of intentional policies and new approaches to graduating more students.”
Quillen was not the only one to speak about the current state of the board on Tuesday.
Regent Alex Romero urged better communication, saying “We need to talk. It’s not happening.”
He then complimented Doughty’s “transparent and inclusive” approach to selecting Stokes as president, a decision the board reached unanimously. Romero asked that Doughty “use the same talent to move us forward in dealing with these issues that are before us.”
Regent Brad Hosmer, meanwhile, referenced board members’ responsibilities under the law. He said that regents must put the university’s interests ahead of even their own and should not allow outside interests to interfere with university actions. He noted that individual regents don’t have authority and stressed the importance of working as a unit.
“That’s what boards are about — taking different perspectives and blending them together into the most constructive possible solutions,” Hosmer said.