Almost half of governing boards at UNM, NMSU would be elected
The biggest changes, contained in one amendment, would be the nonpartisan elections of three regents at UNM and three others at New Mexico State University.
For the first time, both of those universities also would have a faculty member on their boards of regents.
The other proposed amendment would alter the selection process for all other regents at the seven 4-year colleges and universities in New Mexico.
Those regents would continue to be appointed by the governor, but candidates first would be screened and narrowed to finalists by a newly created nominating commission.
Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, is the main sponsor of the proposed amendments, but legislators from both parties also are backing his bills.
Steinborn, above, said the forced resignation and $453,000 buyout last fall of former New Mexico State president Barbara Couture helped motivate him to introduce the bills.
Still, he said, the bigger issue was that New Mexico has a history of regent appointments being doled out by governors as political plums.
“It’s time we take the politics out of our universities and increase the accountability, public involvement and quality of them to make them work better for our kids and our future,” Steinborn said.
Cosponsors of the bills include Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, right, and Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview.
Soules, a teacher in a gifted program at Oñate High School, said he liked the idea of having a mix of elected and appointed regents at UNM and New Mexico State. This would provide a chance for greater public involvement while keeping the governor involved in regent selections at the state’s two largest universities.
If the Legislature approves the two constitutional amendments, they would go to the voters in November 2014. Here are key elements of the two proposals:
House Joint Resolution 8
It would establish the regent nominating commission to screen candidates for regent seats and recommend finalists to the governor, except in the cases of the elected regents at UNM and New Mexico State.
Currently, the governor has constitutional authority to appoint all regents as she sees fit, without any involvement from an independent nominating board.
The regent nominating commission would offer recommendations for appointments to the governing boards of UNM, New Mexico State, New Mexico Tech, Western New Mexico, Eastern New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands.
It also would nominate regents for the New Mexico Military Institute, the School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind.
House Joint Resolution 9
This proposal contains numerous changes for the governing boards of UNM and New Mexico State University.
For starters, the New Mexico State Board of Regents would be expanded from five members to seven, the same number as at UNM.
Three regents at each of the two schools would be elected. The races would be similar to those for school boards in that candidates would not be affiliated with any political party.
Voters in each of the state’s three congressional districts would elect a regent for the two universities. This is a change from Steinborn’s original plan, which called for statewide elections.
Two regents at UNM and two at New Mexico State would be appointed by the governor. If the amendment for the nominating commission wins approval, the screening process would apply to these selections.
A faculty regent would selected by the governor for each school, based on the recommendations of the respective faculties. The faculty regent would serve one 4-year term.
The student regent at UNM and New Mexico State would be selected by the other regents, based on recommendation of the student bodies.
Other regent terms would be reduced from six years to four years. Limits of two terms also would be established by the amendment.
Steinborn said he hoped the bills would generate wide public discussion. But, he said, he was not introducing the measures simply to spark debate. He said he believed both could win approval and would fight to make that happen.