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UNM Regent Wins Approval

By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
      SANTA FE - State senators voted to confirm University of New Mexico regent Jamie Koch by a wide margin, but not before several berated the university for what one senator called "unconscionable" spending on "bloated senior management."
    Faculty members who had voted no confidence also opposed Koch's confirmation, but the Senate eventually voted 31-5 to confirm him for a second term on the school's governing board.
    Koch said he was humbled by the support.
    "I hope this is behind us now," Koch said. "The problem I see is they (faculty) spent so much time and so much energy in regards to this confirmation for over a year that if we had spent that much energy on (UNM finances) we'd be better off."
    Voting against Koch's confirmation on the Senate floor were Cisco McSorley, Dede Feldman, Eric Griego and Gerald Ortiz y Pino, all Albuquerque Democrats; and Stephen Fischmann, D-Mesilla Park.
    The Senate also confirmed UNM regent J.E."Gene" Gallegos and student regent Emily "Cate" Wisdom. Gallegos was approved 33-2 and Wisdom was approved unanimously.
    The terms for Koch and Gallegos expire Dec. 31, 2014, while Wisdom's term expires Dec. 31 of this year.
    The confirmation votes took place after hours of hearings in the Senate Rules Committee during which lawmakers questioned administrative growth at UNM, whether the university has become a political dumping ground, why UNM must rush to hire consultants to fix problems that arise and why the six-year graduation rate is so low.
    But the most pointed criticism came from Griego, who spent more than 20 minutes delivering a blistering speech about administrative growth at UNM and how the school's academic mission appeared to be suffering.
    "This (UNM) administration needs to be reined in," Griego said. "It is patently, patently unacceptable to have 20 to 25 senior vice presidents or associate vice presidents at this institution."
    He noted that at the same time the administration was growing, tuition was shooting up, several departments within UNM's College of Arts & Sciences were losing faculty and the student/faculty ratios were increasing.
    Griego said he wants to see a plan for cutting UNM's administrative costs.
    The UNM administration didn't comment on concerns raised by lawmakers Monday. Spokeswoman Susan McKinsey has previously said that while an administrative review is under way, an institution with a $2.4 billion budget requires capable senior leadership to operate effectively and efficiently.
    Earlier Monday, the three regent nominees were asked directly by Feldman for their views on the administrative growth.
    Wisdom defended it, saying she felt all the vice president positions were critical to UNM. Koch and Gallegos told the committee they want administrative cuts and have asked UNM President David Schmidly to come up with a plan.
    Griego called UNM's spending on administration unconscionable.
    "The overwhelming view among those not in power, those not in the administration, those not on the board of regents is that there's a real problem at UNM right now," he said. "And it relates to how much administration is spending on the most bloated senior management in the state of New Mexico of any public institution. It's unconscionable. We should be outraged by it."
    While several people from UNM spoke against Koch's confirmation, others voiced support.
    Cheryl Willman, head of the UNM Cancer Center, said Koch's efforts were a big reason for the success the center has experienced.
    Faculty member Tim Lowrey, meanwhile, gave Koch an "F" for his performance as a regent, and more than a dozen faculty members stood up to oppose Koch's confirmation.
    Koch, meanwhile, told the committee he has gained enemies at UNM because of investigations that have been launched to find problems, such as the recent payroll problems found in the Biology Department.
    "Our jobs as regents have not been easy. ..." Koch said. "All I'm asking for is accountability."
    Faculty Senate President Doug Fields said he believed the Rules Committee made a grave error in recommending Koch's confirmation.
    "There are other people in this great state who represent diverse views from geographically, ethnically and the areas of academia that can do a much better job representing the University of New Mexico to the public and in oversight of the University of New Mexico," Fields said.

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