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Professor leaving UNM over honor for governor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A prominent faculty member at the University of New Mexico School of Law is severing ties with the university to protest UNM President Bob Frank’s choice of Gov. Susana Martinez for a Presidential Award of Distinction – announced nine days before the election.

Maureen Sanders, a 1979 graduate of the law school, said she disagrees that the governor has been particularly good for the overall health of New Mexicans even with the expansion of Medicaid coverage, the main reason cited by Frank in publicly naming the honorees earlier this week.

The timing of the announcement, so close to the election, was especially troublesome, she said, adding that UNM should stay out of partisan politics and the election.

“President Frank, for whatever reason, decided not to do that,” she said.

Sanders is a longtime supporter of the university – particularly the law school, both financially and timewise. She was honored with a distinguished achievement award 10 years ago by the school’s alumni association.

In 2013, the Women’s Law Caucus presented her with the Justice Mary Walters Award. This year she was the keynote speaker for the law school’s first-year orientation program.

She was a full-time professor for 10 years but more recently has been teaching one class as an adjunct professor while working as a private attorney. She plans to complete the course she is now teaching.

“The voters can decide if the governor has been good for New Mexico in health issues,” she said. “I, personally, believe the governor has not been good for the health of New Mexico.”

The choice of Martinez was based on what he believes was “a bold, nonpartisan move on her part to enhance health care for all New Mexicans,” Frank said Thursday.

“The governor created the state health care exchange, expanded access to Medicaid and moved to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other health care workers around the state,” he said. “Her decision on Medicaid … was at odds with her own party and in direct contrast to most Republican governors at that time.”

Sanders applauded the expansion of Medicaid but said the administration hasn’t done enough to sign up thousands of eligible people.

She also questioned cuts in benefits for the developmentally disabled; the failure of the Children, Youth and Families Department to protect children; and the lack of timeliness in processing food stamp applications.

“Hunger, to me, is a health issue,” she said.