Despite the appropriate processes being undertaken by UNM student leaders and administrators for nominating a new student regent, Gov. Susana Martinez chose to reopen the process, resulting in a nominee who wasn’t previously submitted for consideration.
The new student regent nominee, second-year law student Garrett Adcock, was recently announced by Martinez after student government members scrambled to find new candidates at the request of the governor in February.
The state’s 60-day session came to a close on Saturday before any of Martinez’ three UNM regent nominees could be confirmed, although most regents at other state universities were confirmed. UNM’s regents will most likely be voted on during a special session Martinez will call.
In early October, the Graduate and Professional Student Association and the Associated Students of UNM — the primary student governing entities at the University — were tasked with carrying out their own routine selection processes in search of qualified candidates to represent the students on the Board of Regents.
This process of recommendations is detailed in the New Mexico Constitution under Article 12, Section 13.
“The governor shall select, with the advice and consent of the senate, a student member from a list provided by the president of the institution. In making the list, the president of the institution shall give due consideration to the recommendations of the student body president of the institution,” the Constitution reads.
ASUNM Chief of Staff Delia Brennan said their process involved a panel interview consisting of basic questions about the University and what each interviewee would bring to the position.
“We went in with the perspective that we would send on anyone who we thought could be completely qualified and that we could trust as the student regent,” Brennan said.
By Nov. 1st, ASUNM submitted four names to then-UNM President Bob Frank.
GPSA president Glenda Lewis said they had their own formal interview process and eventually recommended three students to Frank as well.
After one of ASUNM’s applicants withdrew, the remaining six were then interviewed by Frank’s office, approved and sent on to Martinez.
It was at this point, Lewis said, that GPSA was informed that one of their recommendations was being seriously considered for the position.
However, on Feb. 8th, both student governments were asked by current acting UNM President Chaouki Abdallah to reopen the application process for the Student Regent position.
Consistent with past practice and the requirements of the New Mexico constitution, Abdallah said a list of student regent nominees was submitted by him for consideration by Governor Martinez.
Abdallah said the nominations covered a broad range of UNM students, including all those recommended by ASUNM and GPSA, and all of whom the administration believed would have “excelled in serving in this critical position.”
“We were made aware that one of our candidates from GPSA’s recommendations had spoken with the governor’s office and was possibly the next Student Regent. That’s all we knew,” Lewis said. “We hadn’t heard anything else formally, so after that we were unsure why the selection process was reopened.”
ASUNM President Kyle Biederwolf said that when he served on the selection panel for the Student Regent as an ASUNM senator in 2014, applications were similarly requested to be reopened after both student government’s recommendations had been sent to Martinez.
“From what I remember, we went through and sent names to the president. I don’t know exactly what happened with that process, but I do know that two years ago there was another call out for more applications, similar to what happened this year,” he said.
After meeting internally, Biederwolf said they decided to resubmit all of their previously interviewed applicants, and did not add any new applicants.
“From reviewing our notes and thinking about all the time and effort we put into them, we decided to re-submit those names to President Abdallah with our full confidence,” he said.
Lewis said that her office decided to resubmit their previous applicants as well, along with eight new inquires they had received during the reopening process.
Among these new eight applicants was Adcock.
“The governor’s selection, Garrett Adcock, possesses an exemplary academic and extracurricular record of achievement, and we are excited to begin working with him as a member of our Board of Regents,” Abdallah said.
Adcock and the previous Student Regent, Ryan Berryman, share similar pasts, both having connections to the UNM Athletics Department. Adcock is a former member of the Lobo football program, and Berryman was a manager for the UNM men’s basketball program.
The approval of UNM regents became a divisive issue during the last days of the session, when Martinez began vetoing numerous bipartisan bills with no explanation, some of which passed the legislature almost unanimously.
When representatives asked for a reason for the vetoes, the governor sent the House and Senate a letter in which she chastised them for placing an “undue burden” on New Mexican families in their budget, and for failing to vote on all her regent nominees.
“The Senate has claimed that support for our universities is critical, yet it refuses to fulfill its constitutional role of confirming regent nominees,” the letter states.
A state Senator told the Daily Lobo that while no one in the Senate explicitly refused to confirm her UNM regent picks, there were some Senators who felt that Martinez was trying to politicize the board and attempting to control UNM and the Health Sciences Center through the board.
The governor’s office did not comment on why officials requested that applications be reopened for the last two Student Regent appointments. A statement from the governor’s press office simply listed Adcock’s qualifications.
Her office also declined to comment on why the top GPSA candidate in consideration was turned down, despite being so heavily vetted.
“The process is one thing. But in the end, if you’re sitting on this committee, are you going to do right by the people who are expecting you to represent them? That’s the big picture,” Lewis said.
Gabriela Garcia-Huff is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @thegreen_gablin.
Jonathan Baca is managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JonGabrielB.