Unions, salaries, tuition, campus safety and ethics were all topics University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes discussed at a presentation on Friday, April 26.
Stokes was joined by a panel of five people on her left: Dorothy Anderson vice president of human resources; Craig White, interim senior vice president of the Anderson School of Management; Mike Richards, vice chancellor for clinical affairs; Scott Sander, deputy counsel for health sciences; Rich Wood, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.
Stokes’ live-streamed event, was delivered in the Student Union Building Ballroom A. Stokes invited audience members to ask questions after delivering her 20 minute speech. In a room with about 30 people, seven UNM staff and faculty members asked questions.
Stokes kicked off the event with an update about open positions in UNM’s administration. She said she would soon meet with the four finalists interviewing for the Vice President position in the Division of Equity and Inclusion.
In addition, Stokes said the University is seeking to fill a position for Vice Provost for Enrollment Management.
“That position is going to be critical for us — as you know our enrollments are constantly a challenge in a state that is demographically not growing,” Stokes said.
According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, Albuquerque’s population grew by .82% between 2012 and 2017, according to data compiled by Google from the U.S. Census Bureau. Albuquerque’s stable population growth is reflective of the Land of Enchantment overall.
In 2018, the Las Cruces Sun News reported that New Mexico ranks 40 out of 50 in terms of growth “during a 12-month period.” Nevada and Idaho were the two fastest growing states, according to the article.
The UNM Spring 2019 Official Enrollment Report for the Albuquerque campus found a 7% decrease in student enrollment — over the course of 5 years, there has been almost a 14% decrease. In 2018, the decrease in enrollment has cost the University nearly $10 million from student fees and tuition losses, as reported by the Daily Lobo.
The Board of Regents reconvened on April 22 after scrapping their last meeting due to a last-minute letter calling for a 4% salary increase for all employees at secondary and higher education institutions at the behest of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The Budget Leadership Team’s solution, approved in a 6-1 vote by the Regents, resulted in a 3.1% tuition increase for both undergraduate and graduate students. The plan resulted in a 3% increase in compensation for staff, which was below the state-mandated level.
“Even with what we did — approve a 3.1% tuition increase — our students and our faculty were firmly supportive of that even knowing that it represents a continuing hardship for families that are trying to afford a college education,” Stokes said. She added that the University had to dip into reserves and cut department's budgets by 1.5% despite the tuition increase.
Stokes said the University will ask for a supplemental appropriation from the New Mexico Legislature in the next session to give faculty and staff an additional 1% salary increase.
The 3% salary increases, Stokes said, will begin effectively July 1, 2019. The salary increase will also affect employees making minimum wage — their wages will increase to $9 per hour, also effective July 1, according to Stokes’ presentation.
There is also a merit component to the raises. A Weekly Communiqué sent to all employees and students from the Office of the Provost on April 25 read, “faculty and staff with satisfactory performance reviews will receive a 3% raise in compensation by July 1.”
“If you get an unsatisfactory, then you’re not eligible for compensation,” Wood said at the town hall. “It’s a way to make sure we’re not rewarding people who are not doing their work.”
It's unclear if the President's office would also receive the salary increase. The Daily Lobo requested comment on the matter after Stokes' event and, as of the publication of this article, the President's office has yet to respond.
Stokes said she recognizes the right for staff and faculty to unionize, but she reiterated the importance of information when it comes to unionizing.
“If the faculty voted in favor (of unionizing) — we will absolutely and fully respect that decision,” Stokes said.
However, with the University's hiring of labor firm Jackson Lewis, a labor firm accused of malpractice and illegal behavior, some union supporters see this as a hostile stance toward collective bargaining.
The Daily Lobo reported that the University’s cap with the labor firm is $60,000.
Stokes said the University must collaborate with local authorities due to the location of campus to make a difference in crime.
“We’re working closely with the city task force on auto theft — I admit we still have additional work to be done, but we are focused on this issue and continue to be focused on it,” Stokes said.
Stokes said she wants to change the image of the campus.
“We need to do something related to perceptions of our campus. We are often scrutinized and presumed to be engaged in bad behavior,” Stokes said.
Stokes said she wants to start a regular ethics training, detect and catch issues and have a new look at all levels.
Stokes said she hopes this can be fully launched for the fall 2019 semester.
On the issue of ethics, Stokes told the Daily Lobo in the fall of 2018 that she would address the questions about ethical leadership “a little bit later.”
Jessamyn Lovell , a senior lecturer in the art department said she wished the President would have elaborated more on the union aspect of the town hall such as divulging the cost of the contract between UNM and Jackson Lewis.
Rosa Isela Cervantes , the director of El Centro de la Raza, said there was information in the town hall that she already knew.
“I think it was important to review those things — I didn’t learn anything new,” Cervantes said.
Cervantes said she would have liked to have seen more information relating to staff and enrollment for the 2019-2020 year.
“I would have liked to have seen some ideas for this upcoming year and we did talk a little bit about that, but maybe even thinking about what she’s thinking about would be some priorities for next year,” Cervantes said.
Anthony Jackson is the photo editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.