The latest Board of Regents meeting ended with a heated exchange between Regent Tom Clifford and Faculty Senate President Pamela Pyle Tuesday afternoon.
Clifford accused Pyle and the rest of the faculty leadership of being “cowardly” on their behalf following the Regents vote to cut sports and not forgive the athletic department debt, which was something that the faculty had requested last winter.
When asked if the faculty had taken a position on the Board’s handling of the athletics budget, Pyle said the faculty had weighed in behind the scenes because much of the faculty was gone during the summer when the decision was being made.
She added that she frequently heard faculty asking why the department wouldn’t look at the “holy grail” of the Mountain West Conference and cut football instead of men’s soccer. She said that no one had asked her for a public comment. Pyle also noted that the faculty wasn’t involved in the decision making process.
“I guess my concern is that there’s been no public mention by the faculty that I’ve seen in support of our effort to have the athletics program retire its debt, which was the specific request that was made to us last winter,” Clifford told Pyle.
As the two went back and forth, the tension in the room seemed to escalate and Clifford accused Pyle of hanging President Garnett Stokes out to dry on an issue that the Board of Regents and the University has taken a lot of criticism on. When asked about the exchange, Pyle provided the following statement to the Daily Lobo:
“The accusation from Regent Clifford has no merit, and therefore really needs no rebuttal,” Pyle wrote. “Derisive comments are meant to separate people, not bring them together. Being a leader at any level involves having a high regard for those that you lead, and it seems apparent that some members of our Board of Regents do not value the community they serve. I look forward to productive dialogue in the future, where true collaboration and respect for different opinions are valued.”
The Daily Lobo was unable to reach Regent Clifford for comment before publication.
Associated Students of UNM President Becka Myers, who was originally scheduled to follow Pyle in the advisor comments, ended up declining that opportunity.
“I think, and I will say this loudly, the Regents are in a position of power and we are just there to advise them,” Myers said. “I think that it is rational and it is fair for Faculty Senate President Pyle, and for myself, to say we understand where we are as a university, the financial state, but this is the dissatisfaction we’ve had with the process, these are the issues that we have and we don’t support that. For them to try and spin it in a public forum to where it’s on someone else and not them is exactly the issue that we’ve had with them in the past.”
Myers also took issue with comments made earlier in the meeting by Clifford concerning what he said was the underrepresentation of men on the University’s campus. Currently, there are about 2,000 more females enrolled at UNM as undergraduate students than there are men.
Myers said that she feels the Regents need to look at the intersections between race and gender, using the example of how women are paid less than men, but women of color make less than white women.
She called Clifford’s comments “insensitive to what we’re trying to do as a university.”
The Regents approved the athletic department’s request for $1.5 million in additional money from the State Legislature in the upcoming session, as well as $6.8 million in research and public service projects for the UNM Health Science Center.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @goeldfinger.