UNM Faculty Calls Out Schmidly
Money troubles and staff relations come to a head at a charged meeting
By Marisa Demarco
History professor Jane Slaughter is concerned about the University of New Mexico's ability to keep faculty and offer the necessary menu of courses to students. "The fact that our faculty are being wooed by others is only half of the story," she says. "Besides receiving the offers, faculty are also accepting them."
This line was greeted with one of many rowdy rounds of applause at the meeting attended by an overflow crowd of about 450 faculty members on Wednesday, April 30. A petition was circulated calling for President David Schmidly to address the "centralization and unfettered control of University finances, which has negatively impacted research, teaching and the general welfare without input and action by the faculty."
Schmidly said in an interview that the petition's description of university money management isn't a fair assessment. "But given the way things have been explained and presented to them, I can understand why they would have reached that conclusion.”
The issue that's really got everyone worked up, says Faculty Senate President Jacqueline Hood, regards research funding. The research office has been running at a deficit for three years, she says. "We don't know how much that deficit is. There's been some figures bandied about," she says. An audit of the research office has not been released publicly because it isn't complete. "However, actions are being taken on this incomplete audit," Hood says. "What they decided to do was take back 18 months of research overhead money from the colleges.” That's money, says Hood, people use to hire faculty.
Slaughter also expressed interest in knowing more about the deficits at the general faculty meeting. "Why are we over and over again asked to loan funds to help correct some other unit's mistakes?"
If the amount of legislative money the University receives has increased, if enrollment's up and if tuition continues to climb as Schmidly guarantees it will, why is UNM in a financial crunch? Schmidly says it isn't. "I don't think it has financial woes as much as it has problems deploying its resources," he says.
The teachers passed two resolutions, one demanding the faculty be involved in budget decision-making and one calling for Schmidly to recount upper administrative salaries as the number of administrators has increased during Schmidly's year at UNM. The exact salary numbers are being debated, which is why the faculty passed the second resolution.
A few extra million for administrators is a big deal, says Hood. Even though there's a $2 billion operating budget at UNM, only about $276 million is available for instruction. A large portion of the $276 million goes to Health Sciences, Hood says. "There's not that much in the colleges for teaching, faculty salaries, staff and all that stuff. A few million dollars? That's huge. To take back even a million dollars is big."
Schmidly defended his choice to add administrators at the meeting, saying he hired one vice president to oversee enrollment and one to examine issues of diversity at UNM. Another was hired to help run the branch campus in Rio Rancho.
Schmidly says he will be able to help faculty members get the money they need to run their departments. "The biggest problem we have is that we take short-term approaches to addressing these issues—using simple Band-Aids as opposed to long-term strategy." That’s what he'll be working to fix this year, he says. "We're going to have at least a five-year horizon with regard to our resources and our budgets. I think that will help the faculty to see how you can't solve these problems in one year."
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