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NMSU regents defend curb on chancellor’s powers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico State University regent leaders are defending the board’s controversial resolution that curtailed the hiring authority of outgoing chancellor Garrey Carruthers in response to a letter signed by 43 lawmakers calling for the entire board’s resignation.

NMSU’s Board of Regents earlier this month passed a resolution that would prevent Carruthers from making certain permanent hires, including for some senior leadership and coaching jobs. Carruthers, who retires on July 1, could still fill any such openings with interims, but would need to consult with Regent Chairwoman Debra Hicks to determine the duration of those appointments.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, last week wrote a letter blasting the move, describing it as “wholly unnecessary” and “drastic,” and questioning the message it sends to any candidates considering the NMSU chancellor position. Papen’s letter called for the entire board to resign “for actions that do not serve the best interests of the university, its employees or its students,” and a bipartisan group of 42 more lawmakers from both chambers signed onto it.

But Hicks and Vice Chair Kari Mitchell wrote in a response letter this week that the state constitution and implementing legislation vests “control and management” of the university with the regents and that regent bylaws empower them to use resolutions to make temporary directives.

They wrote that their action “is a best practice of universities as they position for leadership transition. Given our opportunity to improve student outcomes in enrollment retention and graduation rates – it is critical that the new chancellor has the ability to select as many members of his or her team as possible to ensure long-term success for growing NMSU.”

Papen said Tuesday she had not personally received the letter, but said she disagreed with the regents’ defense after the Journal read her a passage. She said the board has taken its constitutional authority too far.

“In my 18 years now going on in the Senate, I’ve never seen anything like this – this kind of micromanaging and this sort of thing happening from the regents,” Papen said in an interview.

Carruthers is a former Republican governor of New Mexico. He announced last summer his plans to retire when his five-year contract ends this July, but later acknowledged regents already had told him they did not intend to extend his contract. He then publicly stated he would willingly stay another two years, but regents shortly thereafter voted to start the search for his replacement.


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