Thursday, February 26, 2009
No-Confidence Votes Taken at UNM
By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
University of New Mexico faculty members sounded the alarm Wednesday, taking no-confidence votes aimed at top officials after warning that the school's academic mission is eroding.
Results will be available sometime today.
The three no-confidence votes targeted President David Schmidly, regents President Jamie Koch and Executive Vice President David Harris.
Faculty leaders said 872 people turned out for the meeting, including nearly 500 voting faculty members. A fourth motion considered by faculty asked for an independent audit to determine how the university spent increased state funding and other revenue since 2003.
The other asks for a change in UNM's executive structure, including a demotion for the office of the executive vice president for administration, which now reports directly to the president. Harris now holds that position.
"We are here because many of us feel there has been a prolonged and systematic weakening in UNM's ability to bring quality education to students through close contact with faculty," Faculty Senate President Howard Snell said. "...We are here because many of us feel our previous efforts to communicate this concern and work collaboratively to restore the University of New Mexico have not been met with enthusiasm, support and welcome by our administration."
Symbolism at the meeting abounded. It was held at Popejoy Hall, the same place where Schmidly was inaugurated 16 months earlier and where he talked about looking toward UNM's bright future. The venue is named for beloved UNM President Tom Popejoy, who headed UNM for about 20 years.
Before the vote, Schmidly told faculty members he wasn't going anywhere, but he pledged to do what it takes to regain faculty trust.
"As long as the regents want me to serve, I'm going to do so," Schmidly said.
The most popular motion appeared to be the no-confidence vote against Koch. It included a request that Gov. Bill Richardson withdraw Koch's nomination to a new term on the Board of Regents.
Richardson, however, is standing by Koch.
"I am moving forward with my reappointment of Chairman Jamie Koch to a second term on the Board of Regents," Richardson said. "Under Chairman Koch's leadership, the regents have made a tremendous amount of progress during the past six years, and they have my full support as they navigate through these tough financial times."
At a news conference after the meeting, Koch complained that he wasn't given a chance to respond to faculty concerns.
Richardson also commended the UNM administration for making tough choices necessary to see the school through the global financial crisis.
"I am hopeful that today's meeting will renew a mutual respect between all parties and lead to more open and constructive dialogue," Richardson said. "I have the highest regard for the faculty at UNM and would welcome direct discussion about their concerns."