Wednesday, November 11, 2009
UNM Pulls Plug on Locksley Matter
By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
The president of the University of New Mexico regents said Tuesday that an independent investigation into the handling of the Mike Locksley altercation isn't necessary, even though campus leaders harshly criticized UNM officials.
"No new information has surfaced to warrant any further investigation at this time," Regent President Raymond Sanchez said.
The statement followed concerns raised by staff and graduate student leaders, who blasted the university's handling of the Locksley affair. Staff Council President Elisha Allen joined the chorus calling for an independent investigation into the matter.
"I've spoken with many staff, and very few feel that the official version of these events has credibility," Allen said in a letter presented to regents during Tuesday's regents meeting.
The Locksley matter is "a local and national disgrace," Allen said.
Faculty and student leaders said they were concerned about the "disrepute cast" on UNM and wondered whether it was caused by a "systemic problem" in the athletics department.
Former assistant J.B. Gerald alleges that head football coach Locksley punched him in the mouth and choked him during a Sept. 20 coaches' meeting. Witness statements taken three days after the incident appear to support Gerald's allegations.
Locksley admits that an altercation took place but denies punching or choking Gerald. Helen Gonzales, vice president of Human Resources, says the official investigation she conducted two weeks after the incident didn't substantiate Gerald's claim that he was punched, though it did find that Locksley grabbed Gerald by the collar. Locksley was eventually suspended for 10 days.
UNM President David Schmidly and Athletics Vice President Paul Krebs, meanwhile, are refusing to answer any more questions about the issue, despite the recent revelation that UNM failed to release the back side of one of the initial witness statements.
"He's said what he's going to say," UNM spokeswoman Susan McKinsey said of Schmidly. She did, however, say that Schmidly has not read the witness statements compiled by Athletics Department employee Shannon Garbiso. The originals of those statements have been destroyed, though copies remain.
"I'm done commenting (on the Locksley altercation)," Krebs said Tuesday. "I've commented numerous times. I have no additional comments on that."
Last Wednesday, Schmidly, Krebs and Gonzales met with Journal editors and reporters and held a news conference in which they acknowledged that the handling of the altercation had been bungled. They denied there was any attempt at a cover-up.
Then about 5:30 p.m. Friday, following repeated requests by the Journal for clean copies of the witness statements, the university sent an e-mail with the clean copies acknowledging that it had failed to send the back side of quarterbacks coach Tee Martin's witness statement when the copies were originally released to the media.
That page revealed that about a month before the altercation, Locksley told Gerald he was going to "slap the (expletive)" out of him. Martin also reportedly told Garbiso that some players on the team felt that they were doing something wrong and were responsible for Gerald's mistreatment.
UNM won't comment about whether the new information demonstrates a pattern of abuse by Locksley. Nor will the university comment on the suggestion that some football players felt responsible for what was happening to Gerald.
In his letter to regents, Allen was blunt about how staff members feel about the university's handling of the case.
Allen said he's encountering a "sense of hopelessness on campus," and that confidence in leadership is breaking down due to the Locksley issue. He said he has yet to hear a plan to ensure that the workplace will be safe and respectful and that policies will be applied in an evenhanded manner regardless of position or title.
Faculty and graduate student leaders also alluded to the recent scandal involving a women's soccer player caught yanking an opponent to the ground by her hair.
"Many faculty members are enormously concerned about the disrepute cast on the university by some events in recent months in the Athletics Department ..." said Richard Wood, president-elect of the Faculty Senate. "Such things have no place in the university and must not be accepted here by any of us."
Head of graduate students Lissa Knudsen went even further, saying the recent scandals in UNM athletics seemed to be a systemic problem within the department.
"Athletic Director Paul Krebs recently received a promotion to vice president," she said. "Is this the return we are to expect on our investment?"
She said it's obvious there's a problem in athletics, but the university is in denial about it. She plans to lead an effort to cut the $1.5 million in student fees that subsidizes athletics.
Former Human Resources employee Maria Garcia told regents she was "appalled" with the "incompetence" demonstrated by Schmidly, Krebs and Gonzales. Garcia asked for an independent investigation, saying taxpayers deserve the truth.