University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes addressed questions about staff retention, enrollment and safety during the hour long employee town hall on August 5. The event was held in the Student Union Building and live-streamed on Facebook. Of the 9 questions asked, the most prevalent concern was focused around retention rates.
One of the issues addressed during the town hall was staff at UNM quitting their jobs when they are dissatisfied.
“When staff are unhappy at their job, they just leave,” said Mary Clark, Sustainability Manager of Facilities Management. “Sometimes that’s caused by having a manager who is not trained properly in disciplinary actions or in encouraging and promoting faculty,” she added.
Clark then directly asked Dorothy Anderson — vice president of Human Resources and panelist at the event — how she planned on making HR more responsive to staff complaints. Anderson said HR recently engaged in an agreement with Facilities Management to create a position in both departments which will serve as an ambassador for department-specific issues in order to develop more appropriate training.
Alejandro Mendiaz, El Centro student program specialist, asked the panel about the retention of young professionals at UNM. Mendiaz said that although he and his colleagues enjoy their jobs, they often feel “left out or underappreciated and definitely underfunded,” leading many to leave the University in pursuit of a private sector job.
James Holloway, UNM provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, said he spoke to UNM leadership about the issues of resources and retention before he was appointed to his position.
“We have to acknowledge that we’ve gone through 10 hard years, during which these challenges of retention were exacerbated by the availability of funding and resources,” Holloway said, adding that “we know we have to work on that.”
Brandi Stone, the interim director of African American Student Services, highlighted that the student program specialists were excluded in the most recent advisor compensation study. Some student program specialists are not paid as much as advisors despite their grade. Brandi said Anderson said the issue may not have been brought to HR’s attention, but it is something they can look into. Anderson added that HR is planning on conducting a compensation request for proposal anticipated to start in September 2019 and completed in July 2020. This will study UNM’s pay practices.
Karen Gardner, program planning manager for the Department of Arts and Sciences, asked what has been done by the task force assembled last year to raise undergraduate enrollment. Holloway said recommendations like having increased communication with prospective students and parents have already been implemented and this fall a new enrollment management committee would start. Holloway also announced that Dan Garcia was hired as vice president for Enrollment Management and would begin his position on Sept. 2. This information was not previously public knowledge.
Karen Ann Smith, research facilities director of the Department of Chemistry, asked when the University would be replacing the pipes failing in UNM’s Clark Hall and are “about to fail” in PAIS, referring to the CPVC drain pipes. Smith said there has been discussion involving administration since 2017 and that research is being stifled because “several labs in Clark cannot be used because the drain pipes are broken.”
In response, Stokes assured Smith that the pipes would be replaced and the Provost would work with the necessary departments, though no concrete timeline for this was given.
“The last thing we want is our faculty to be unable to do their work because of these issues,” Stokes said.
Concerns over safety reared towards the end of the town hall. Stokes said one way the University plans on combating crime is having an increase of 6 new officers and convening a new campus security task force. When a live-stream viewer asked Stokes about the possible fence around campus, Stokes reiterated that the issue has not yet been decided upon.
“That study is invaluable to us, but at this point, this is among the many things I would expect the campus security task force to look at,” Stokes said. “We’ll see where it goes.”
The issue of gun violence also arose during the town hall, as this event came just two days after the shooting in El Paso that targeted Latino people. Armando Bustamante, El Centro Student program specialist, asked what specifically the University will do right now to reassure Latino communities that they are safe at UNM.
Stokes said in addition to putting out a statement she will meet with Dr. Assata Zerai, vice president for Equity and Inclusion, and other leaders to discuss necessary initiatives on campus. These initiatives will be geared towards figuring out how to assure UNM’s support for minority communities.
Greg Gomez, an employee of the Informational Technology department, asked for updates on the redesign of the UNM seal. In 2016 the Board of Regents passed recommendations to begin the process of changing it after Native American groups on campus criticized UNM for having a frontiersman and conquistador on the seal of a diverse campus. However, the seal has remained unchanged.
“A call is going out very shortly for suggested designs of the new seal, and we will be meeting by the beginning of September,” Zerai said.
Alyssa Martinez is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amart4447.