UNM president replacement discussed - Albuquerque Journal

UNM president replacement discussed

University of New Mexico community members debated Friday whether the next leader of the university needs extensive academic experience or if savvy management skills are more valuable.

That was the main conversation at a forum of about 40 hosted by UNM’s Board of Regents to solicit input in replacing President Bob Frank when his term concludes at May’s end.

Eighteen people spoke during the 90-minute forum, saying the new president should also have knowledge of New Mexico and a commitment to diversity on campus.

Most faculty members who spoke said academic credentials were necessary.

“What I see as a really essential leadership quality is that, first and foremost, our university president has to be an excellent teacher,” said Melissa Bokovoy, chairwoman of the history department. Many faculty members said a president without academic credentials would have a hard time earning their respect.

Others argued that the next president would need to make tough decisions to guide the university through trying financial times. The state earlier this year cut the university’s budget by about 5 percent.

James Lewis, the president of the Alumni Association of the University of New Mexico and a former state treasurer, said UNM needs a good manager for financial success. He shared a quote from Ray Kroc, the man credited with the success of McDonalds.

“He said this, ‘You don’t get a cook to run McDonalds. He could be the best cook in the world, but he is not a manager,’ ” Lewis said.

Frank did not attend the forum.

The regents also recently announced a committee of students, faculty, staff, community members and state lawmakers to help in the search. The board of regents said the search would be national, but it has not said more specifically what it’s looking for in a candidate, such as what his or her salary would be or how long he or she would be attached to the university.

Jack Fortner, currently the longest serving regent with 18 years of experience, led the forum. He posed the administration-acumen versus academic-credentials question because the university had previously hired someone who was not from an academic background, former President Louis Caldera.

He said that at the time, the regents thought Caldera’s management experience – he had been a California state lawmaker and worked in the Clinton administration – would be beneficial to UNM. Caldera served as president from 2003 to 2006, and resigned before the end of his contract.

Fortner said it was important for the committee to know what people think is important in the next president.

“I just want to know if the committee finds what they think is the right person, is it OK that he doesn’t have a strong academic background? The committee needs to hear this,” Fortner said.

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