Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article contained a graph with "$8.4 thousand" instead of $84 thousand. This has been corrected, and the Daily Lobo apologizes for the error.
The University of New Mexico is not home to only students, but to more than 46,000 catalogued items totaling more than $233 million in value.
Over the course of two years, more than 700 items have been deleted from campus inventory after being evaluated to be obsolete, damaged or repurposed, according to an inventory sheet provided by UNM’s Purchasing Office.
Almost 100 items were removed due to being stolen or missing, according to the inventory sheet.
Some materials are listed as more than 20 years old, but a combination of time and use, also known as depreciation, lowers the value the older and more used an item becomes.
To remove an asset from the inventory list, University departments must complete an annual audit, submit a request for deletion form and a memo from the department head — it is a large review process before it can be removed from inventory said Alisha Lopez, the business manager for Inventory Control, adding that the Purchasing Department is in charge of facilitating the audit.
One of the hundreds of items that have lost their luster over the years is an electron microscope. Purchased in 1986 by the Cell Biology Administration for almost $130,000, the microscope — removed from UNM’s inventory in 2017 — is now worthless, according to the spreadsheet.
Lopez said the University auctions or repurposes some obsolete items instead of throwing them out.
“Equipment can’t last forever and this is how we deal with it,” Lopez said.
The 712 items deleted from UNM’s inventory total about $2.7 million, but depreciation estimates that the cumulative value is a little more than $84,000.
“We’ve got a ton of assets worth nothing and we want to get them off the books,” said Bruce Cherrin, the chief procurement officer at the Purchasing Department.
While the assets may be worth nothing on paper, Cherrin said the University makes an average of $129,000 a year in auctioning surplus and obsolete items.
However, there is a different process for dealing with stolen items, said Patrick Burwinkle, a University inventory control manager.
“It’s really the department’s responsibility to keep track of their assets. We do the inventory audits to help (the departments) verify that they have (their assets), and whatever they can’t find, they report to us either through the audits or during the year,” Burwinkle said, adding there is a police report filed for every stolen item.
Stolen items on the spreadsheet can also be more than 20 years old, like a microscope — purchased for almost $12,000 for the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department — which is now worth nothing.
The 96 deleted, stolen or missing items at one point cost the University a little more than $72,000, but are worth almost $19,000 today.
Most of the deleted, stolen or missing items were electronics such as laptops and tablets.
Lucas Lantz is a recent UNM graduate who completed his master’s degree in structural engineering in the spring of 2018.
He said he thinks the University is “reasonably equipped,” but that it would not hurt to cycle out old technologies and tools for newer ones.
“You do more things with more (funding), which makes the students get involved with resources,” Lantz said.
While there is a plethora of items in the University’s inventory, UNM departments undergo the audit.
All departments have a contact with inventory control who is responsible for submitting the annual audit, Lopez said.
“We have guidelines, we offer training and assistance, there is education unlike how it was reported that nobody really knows what they’re doing — that’s not the case,” she said.
Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.