All Regents were in attendance during the Jan. 16 Board of Regents meeting, which began with a heavy focus on finances.
The approval of the meeting minutes quickly passed, and University of New Mexico Interim President Chaouki Abdallah started his Administrative Report.
The report began by addressing that the 30-day New Mexico state legislative session has commenced, and that financial expectations and allotments from the legislature are appearing better than expected.
Abdallah said he is “hopeful that our financial situation will improve.”
Chief Financial Officer appointed to athletics dept.
Abdallah also introduced Rob Robinson, the new chief financial officer appointed to the athletics department. Abdallah said Robinson has “hit the ground running” and has been involved in many meetings so far that will help the University further understand the financial situation in the athletics department.
Robinson, who began his position as CFO last week, spoke briefly about himself and said, “Everyone has been very welcoming and warm. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this opportunity.”
A financial plan for athletics will be proposed in one month and will attempt to address the issues of debt, deficiency and what plans of action the University will undergo moving forward. Abdallah said that the report will not be able to address all inquiries — “we won’t be able to say where we are going to cut, but we will be able to say how much we are going to cut.”
UNM continues response to audit, research projects and Gray Area training
In addition to the appointment of a new CFO, UNM is continuing its response to a state audit report and further investigating the solutions that the audit suggested. Abdallah said several people are currently working on the solutions and are meeting on a monthly basis.
To further assist with this goal, UNM is currently attempting to develop a financial software — a process that Abdallah said, “has started and stopped due to a lack of funds.”
In the administrative report Abdallah also briefly touched upon several research projects being done at UNM. This section included a team of UNM researchers who are attempting to more efficiently heat, cool and ventilate rooms. The researchers — who have already been awarded $200 million — hope to do so by developing a way in which a room will be able to detect occupancy and shut off systems when no one is present.
Jan. 5, 2018 also marked the seventh status report that UNM submitted to the Department of Justice — a stipulation that was included in an agreement from 2016. Notable in this report was that UNM has currently provided 22,412 individuals with the in-person Gray Area training. This number includes undergraduate, graduate, professional and branch campus students.
UNM Press monetary allocation put on hold
Abdallah concluded his report with a discussion of the UNM Press, saying, “We all agree that UNM Press is very valuable...Every press in the nation requires some sort of support from their university.”
He continued by proposing an action item that a one-time allocation of $350,000 be supplied to the press so that they may have a balanced budget and continue forward in their plans and services.
David Harris, the executive vice president for administration, said “interest rates have been slowly ticking up,” and the proposed amount would be the product of interest that had not yet been budgeted.
At this point, the movement was called to question and seconded. However, Regent Thomas Clifford said “I am not prepared to vote on this issue without more information.”
Regent Suzanne Quillen spoke in favor of the allocation, saying, “The press has worked hard and made great progress, compared to four years ago. It is an amazing difference.”
Regent President Robert M. Doughty concurred with Quillen, saying, “It’s a great organization…I very much support this.”
The motion came to a vote — Clifford was the only member to vote against the decision. After the vote, Clifford expressed dissatisfaction with some of the financial decisions and said, “There’s not contemplation of the Regents until we vote on it, and that’s not a good system.”
Several individuals agreed with this evaluation, including Regent Bradley Hosmer who said, “It helps makes sure that we aren’t faced cold. I would endorse the idea that we set forth a process.”
Abdallah said the process has changed many times over the years, and it would be likely that it could be altered once more in order to accommodate these concerns.
Austin Tyra is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers the Board of Regents. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @AustinATyra.