Faculty and students are expected to crowd the New Mexico State University Board of Regents meeting today to voice concerns about a proposal to transfer $1.1 million from the instruction and general fund for academics to athletics.
The recommendation from the Athletic Review Committee, tasked by regents with “sustaining the current moment of success in Aggie Athletics,” has drawn strong opposition from NMSU’s chancellor, provost and Faculty Senate.
“It’s a bad idea. It will poison things with the Legislature,” said Christopher Brown, chairman of the NMSU Faculty Senate.
Brown will speak at the meeting and read a memorial unanimously approved by the Faculty Senate that outlines opposition to the proposed transfer to athletics of more than half of the 2 percent allocated by New Mexico lawmakers for NMSU academic programs.
Chancellor Garrey Carruthers and Provost Dan Howard, in a letter to the Board of Regents last week, wrote, “There is no doubt such a transfer would infuriate the legislature, seriously harm the credibility of NMSU, and would lead to a loss of trust that would take years to regain.”
The Athletic Review Committee recommends acting within 90 days to build on the recent high-profile success of NMSU’s men’s athletic teams.
“Football’s Arizona Bowl victory as well as the current 26 national ranking for men’s basketball are at the forefront of creating national recognition for NMSU,” the committee’s report says.
The committee’s recommendations include higher salaries for coaches, more money for recruiting and the hiring of promotions and marketing staff.
“The goal of these recommendations is not only to maintain but increase this success to the benefit of the NMSU Brand and the University as whole,” the report says.
Kevin Prieto, president of the Associated Students of NMSU, said, “We are not in favor of the full proposal for $1.1 million. I’m interested in looking at a compromise.”
Prieto said that he was still in talks with other members of the student organization but that one compromise could be restructuring athletic’s $4.1 million debt to provide more funding.
Some faculty members expressed doubts the additional funding would improve conditions for students.
“The proposal is particularly distressing (because) it’s not suggesting they need more scholarships for student athletes. The proposal is to increase salaries and number of coaches,” said Miriam Chaiken, dean of the Honors College.
She said the NMSU Board of Regents, by diverting funds, would be sending a message that athletics is valued more than academics.
“I don’t think other (New Mexico) universities are going to jump down that rabbit hole. I think they’re going to learn from the blowback that NMSU is surely going to receive if this happens,” she said.