Proposed "Academic And Student Affairs Committee" Violates NM Constitution, Open Meetings Act, NNMC Faculty Policies, and Shared Governance
At the Thursday, March 26th Board of Regents meeting, the Board will vote on a proposal for an “Academic and Student Affairs Committee,” authored by ex-Regent Michael Branch (who also named himself the Chair of the Committee in the proposal, see full proposal above). The “Academic and Student Affairs Committee,” if approved, would erode the governing function of the Board of Regents in violation of the New Mexico State Constitution and would destroy all semblance of shared governance jeopardizing the College’s accreditation.
As proposed, all activities of the entire college would be funneled through the “Academic and Student Affairs Committee.” The Committee would function as a screen, controlling what the Board of Regents itself is allowed to see, hear, and deliberate upon. In addition, the Committee would completely negate any action the faculty takes (there is no faculty member of this committee), as any actions would require approval by the Committee before it goes to the Board. Indeed, the Committee has the power to remove or revise anything proposed by faculty and substitute their own version.
It is abundantly clear that by standards of shared governance—as measured by Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), the college’s accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) that such a Committee would violate basic standards of shared governance. The Committee is specifically designed to erode shared governance, making the role of the faculty, faculty committees and the Faculty Senate obsolete. Such a move is likely a violation of AQIP standards, our accreditation requirements from the Higher Learning Commission, and the guidelines of the AAUP. Power over curriculum, teaching, research, programs and degree decisions would—by virtue of the Committee—be given to four people: two Board members, Provost Pedro Martinez, and one “at large member” to be appointed by the Board of Regents.
We might notice two key things about the design of the four person Committee:
1) The “at large member” would be appointed by the Board and given the power to govern every aspect of the college. As we are aware, per the New Mexico Constitution, the New Mexico State Governor is charged with appointing Regents to govern Northern New Mexico College. The proposed “Academic and Student Affairs Committee” would thus create an extra-legal appointment by the NNMC Board. This would circumvent the power to appoint that is granted to the State Governor in the NM State Constitution.
2) Ex-Regent Michael Branch has also designed the Committee so that it has only two Regents—a clear attempt at preventing a quorum, which is subject to the Open Meetings Act. The “Academic and Student Affairs” Committee is designed specifically in violation the Open Meetings Act. However, the NM Attorney General has stated that “even a non-statutory body appointed by a public body may constitute a ‘policymaking’ body subject to the Act.” [i]
This would most certainly be the case, much to the dismay of ex-Regent Branch, as the Committee “attends to students’ concerns about matters such as tuition, fees; financial aid, admissions, retention, student success and graduation requirements, faculty teaching and advisement; student life, student conduct and housing rules and staff support and services.” Further, the “Academic and Student Affairs Committee” proposal explains: the four person Committee will both “approve and recommend” strategic plans, mission statements, budgets, development or cancellation of academic programs, establishment of colleges, departments, institutes and programs. The proposed Committee will both “approve and recommend” changes to policies and procedures for faculty and students, changes to enrollment management, graduation standards, and even intellectual property rights of faculty and students.
Given the power granted to the four person “Academic and Student Affairs Committee,” we may ask why have a governing Board of Regents at all?
The NNMC Study Group encourages the Board of Regents to vote no on the proposed “Academic and Student Affairs Committee,” as its adoption will violate the NM State Constitution and jeopardize the college’s accreditation.
We recommend that the members of the Board of Regents research issues of the Constitutional powers and responsibilities granted the Regents, the requirements of the Open Meeting Act, and the principles of shared governance as required by AQIP, HLC—our accreditation agency, and the AAUP.
The Regents should note that the AAUP is currently investigating Northern New Mexico College for violations of shared governance (as reported in both The Journal and the Rio Grande Sun in 2014).
[i] “Open Meetings Act Guide 2015,” New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, pg. 9. https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=bm1hZy5nb3Z8dGVzdC1ubWFnfGd4OjdkYjUwMTgyNGQyNzljMw
Northern New Mexico College has filed a lawsuit against Monument, LLC, their own student housing developer. Northern agreed to pay over $978,000 in 2013 and 2014 for the development of a dorm project at the Española campus of NNMC.
Records from 2014 show the VP of Finance’s Office signed off on invoices sent by Monument, internally scheduling them for payment. However, as the months passed, by late 2014 invoices and statements sent by Monument showed NNMC behind in payments by hundreds of thousands dollars and incurring thousands in finance charges.[i]
The Rio Grande Sun covered the dormitory project, with a particularly shocking story of how the college had “borrowed” $200,000 from the alumni scholarship fund (The Northern Foundation) to pay Monument. Indeed the college “forgot” to pay back the Foundation (a 501c3 non-profit organization) until contacted by reporters. [ii]
In 2014, the New Mexico State Auditor reported that NNMC violated NM State Statute by “expending funds on capital projects before required approval.” The Monument dorm deal struck between NNMC and Monument (a project led by the Head Basketball Coach, Contractor Ryan Cordova) violated State Statute 21-1-21 (article 12, Section 11), which reads:
“[N]o expenditure shall be made by any state educational institution confirmed by Article 12, Section 11 of the state constitution for the purchase of real property or the construction of buildings or other major structures or for major remodeling projects without prior approval of the proposed purchase or construction or remodeling by the board of educational finance and the state board.”[iii]
Northern’s President Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo and four members of the NNMC Board of Regents flagrantly violated the New Mexico State Statute.
In July 2014, the college’s request for a revenue bond to finance the $16 million no-bid dorm project was rejected by the New Mexico Board of Finance.[iv] The rejection by the Board of Finance was covered by The Journal, which noted that according to "Ricky Serna, Northern’s vice president for advancement… the college isn’t giving up on its goal to construct dorms in time for the 2015-16 school year. He said in an email to The Journal, the college is looking at other options for funding, including ‘a public-private partnership or a privately developed building near the College campus.’ The project ‘remains a priority for the College,’ he wrote."[v]
NNMC violated NM State Statute by initiating unauthorized capital projects and expenditures, it raided the Northern Foundation, a non-profit 501c3 (whose Treasurer, Liddie Martinez, is the aunt of VP Ricky Serna), then due to its fiscal instability and malfeasance, the college fell months behind in payments to Monument by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
What’s the plan now? The Barcelo Administration hopes to delay or even avoid payment of $650,000. And it continues to promise dorms as it recruits out-of-state and out-of-country athletes. The story will continue to develop.
[i] Original contracts signed between NNMC and Monument, LLC along with samples of invoices available at: http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/monument-llc.html
[ii] Stories ran on 7/24/2014 and 9/6/2014--the latter discussing the raid of the alumni fund. Transcripts of stories available at (scroll to 7/24 and 9/6): http://thenorthernissue.org/
[iii] Violations regarding agreements with Monument, LLC on pg. 55 of 2014 New Mexico State Audit. Available at: http://www.saonm.org/audit_reports/detail/8920
[iv] See full report on NM Board of Finance here: http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/blog/nnmc-dorms-indefinite-hold
[v] “Plan by Northern to Build Dorms Hits a Major Hurdle,” 25 July 2014. http://www.abqjournal.com/435078/news/plan-by-northern-to-build-dorms-hits-a-major-hurdle.html
The costly and misleading Name Change Bill (SB-603), which would change Northern New Mexico College's name to Northern New Mexico University, has invited much needed scrutiny to the general state of affairs at NNMC. The NNMC Study Group appreciates the dialogue and information-sharing that has been the result of the SB-603. The scrutiny at the Senate Public Affairs Committee explored the precipitous drops in enrollment at the college, fiscal mismanagement at the college, federal grant violations at the college, the possible motives of a name change, and the violations of NM State Statutes and the NM Constitution in declaring a name change (full SPAC session on SB-603 available, parts 1-8). Senator Ivey-Soto's questions below left.
Further, during his confirmation hearing, incoming Regent Damian Martinez received a "do pass" from the NM Senate Rules Committee. He would be later confirmed unanimously by the NM Senate. When asked about SB-603, the NNMC Name Change Bill, Regent Damian Martinez (a practicing attorney) agreed that the proper procedure had not been followed, and he concluded, "Until it's been properly changed, its name is Northern New Mexico COLLEGE." Regent Damian Martinez's comments on SB-603 Name Change Bill below right.
SB-603, the NNMC Name Change Bill, is scheduled to be heard at the full Senate Floor. You may contact Senator Carlos Cisneros and NM Senators to oppose SB-603. Contact information below.
Phone at Senator Cisneros at: (505) 670-5610 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Senators by email (cut and paste) to oppose Name Change Bill SB-603:
SENATE GOP -- email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
SENATE DEMS -- email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Joseph@cervanteslawnm.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, HCM260@gmail.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
NNMC President Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo, NNMC Administrators and Regents have requested a misleading and costly name change. They have submitted a report to the legislative Finance Committee saying this name change “costs nothing.” The name change is meaningless—NNMC has not attained University Status. The name change will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in waste, re-branding and remodeling.[i]
Every cent of waste in promotional materials, signage, uniforms, logos—every cent of false advertising and meaningless re-branding will be borne by tax payers and students, who will be subject to yet another tuition hike this Spring.
The NNMC Study group notes that the no-bid contracts for remodeling and signage have previous gone to NNMC Basketball Coach Ryan Cordova’s family business, Blue Sky Builders.[ii] We also note that much of the Northern New Mexico College promotional merchandise (that would need to be destroyed and replaced) has been paid for with Federal and State grant dollars. For instance, tens of thousands of dollars of branded Northern New Mexico College jumpdrives, water-bottles, t-shirts, lanyards, literature, stationary, business cards, pamphlets, brochures, notebooks, etc. have been paid for with Federal grants (for instance the Title V-Exito Grant). Such grants are meant to provide direct services to aid in student success.
NNMC has released a guide to destroying publications, pamphlets, marketing and promotional merchandise.[iii] The additional cost of building signage, canvas panels, and remodeling has yet to be calculated. If the misleading and costly name change is allowed to go forward, the massive costs borne by students and tax payers, and re-branding will again drain Federal grant dollars away from student support and instruction.
Currently, eight New Mexico Senators on the Public Affairs Committee are considering SB-603, which is the NNMC name change bill. The Public Affairs Committee will meet today--Thursday, March 5th at 1:30PM. Please contact your Senators below to urge a NO VOTE on SB-603:
[i] See more on the misleading name change at: http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/blog/nnmc-has-not-attained-university-status
[ii] Invoices showing the contracts funneled to Blue Sky Builders available at: http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/blue-sky-builders--ryan-cordova.html More information on the web of connections between Basketball Coach Ryan Cordova, Administrators, and costly no bid contacts here: http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/blog/nnmc-students-scrooged-as-administrators-raise-tuition-to-line-their-own-pockets
[iii] Although the name change has not been approved by the New Mexico Legislature and the college has not achieved a Status Change to University, the NNMC Administration released the following instructions to staff and faculty in February: http://nnmc.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/NNMU_TransitionalBrandGuide_Feb2015.pdf
New Mexico Legislature on SB-603 NNMC Name Change Bill
Parts 1-8, featuring NNMC President Nancy "Rusty" Barcelo, VP Domingo Sanchez, VP Ricky Serna, and the Public Affairs Committee of the NM Senate.
Feb NNMC Regents Agenda