Regent Branch and Board President Rosario “Chayo” Garcia violated parliamentary procedure, moving for a vote to approve a name change for the institution. The name change recommendation, states the agenda, is to be made by the “Academic Affairs Committee” (President’s Report, III.2). The declared Chair of the “Academic Affairs Committee” is stated as Regent Michael Branch, whose term expired on December 31, 2014. Regent Branch introduced the motion for the institutional name change. This motion was then voted upon. This motion and vote were both before the approval of the “Academic Affairs Committee.” Indeed, the committee, which was stated to be the recommender of an institutional name change, has yet to be voted into existence.
In addition, the vote count to approve a name change for the educational institution from Northern New Mexico College to Northern New Mexico University included Regents Branch and Herrera, whose terms expired on December 21, 2014. The vote also excluded Regent Martinez who was confronted with a forced resignation before the meeting (Regent Martinez has not resigned). And Regent President Garcia did not cast a vote. Thus, the name change to University violated parliamentary procedure in at least three ways. The vote to approve the misleading name change for the educational institution from Northern New Mexico College to Northern New Mexico University was accomplished with only one vote of a non-expired Board member—that of Regent Kevin Powers.
The responsibility to push through the NNMC Regents’ invalid voting procedures to secure a misleading name change will soon be New Mexico Senator Carlos Cisneros’. Senator Cisneros is sponsoring SB-603 endorsing the name change “for common convenience.” Of course, the name change by Barcelo and Branch is designed for common misunderstanding. See SB-603 at http://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/15%20Regular/bills/senate/SB0603.pdf
Comments and/or concerns regarding SB-603 can be communicated to Senator Carlos Cisneros by phone at: (505) 670-5610 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The NNMC name change is purposefully misleading, an act of false advertising that will jeopardize the college as an institution. Under the present leadership, NNMC has not attained a Status Change to University. While the NNMC President Barcelo and VP Serna have quietly admitted that the name change is not meant to indicate a Status Change to University, it is clear the NNMC Administration’s intention is to mislead students, parents, funders, and the public.
In fact, the press release from the NNMC Administration regarding the name change is titled: “Northern New Mexico College becomes University” (January 27, 2015). [i] We note the deliberately misleading language: “Northern New Mexico College becomes a University,” versus the accurate: One non-expired Regent at Northern New Mexico College voted to rename the institution despite its not attaining or qualifying for University Status by any measure, according to the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED), the North Central Higher Learning Committee, the official accreditation agency, or the NM Legislature.
What is University Status? Several institutions in New Mexico have worked hard to serve students and communities to attain University Status: The NM Higher Education Department has oversight of all public universities and colleges—these include three research universities, four comprehensive universities, ten branch community colleges, seven independent community colleges, and three special schools.[ii]
In order to attain University Status, institutions must offer graduate education (Northern does not), must employ a higher ratio of full-time PhD professors and Administrators (Northern’s faculty is 67-70% adjunct/part-time with a fraction holding PhDs, and several of the Northern “Executive Team” do not have degrees past Bachelor’s level, or commiserate with their responsibilities), and Northern must seek and obtain Status Change to University through the NMHED and the accreditation agency. There are several more criteria for an institutional Status Change and for this reason a proposal for Status Change to become a University is long-planned, long-sought, and long worked toward. Northern has not fulfilled any of the steps that would allow a Status Change to University and Northern does not qualify for a change to University Status by any measure.
What has prompted Barcelo’s push for a name change? After the Faculty Senate and the Student Senate voted “No Confidence” in Barcelo and her “Executive Team” last April, Barcelo went on attack, leading to the loss of over a quarter of the full-time faculty and the Directors of critical programs at both the El Rito campus and the Espanola campus. Some faculty and staffers were released via retaliatory non-renewals, others chose resignation.[iii] Local and national media covered the continued decline of Northern New Mexico College under Barcelo, and the college’s name became synonymous with incompetence, mismanagement, and practices of retaliation and favoritism.[iv]
In addition to running from the reputation that Barcelo’s Administration has earned after four disastrous years, NNMC Administrators and Regents aim to capitalize on false advertising. In an article in The Rio Grande Sun (February 19, 2015), Regent Branch explained that “although the name change does not guarantee an easier accreditation process... it will make it easier ...to obtain ...grants …more legitimacy.” Changing the college’s name, explained regent Branch, “improves the status” and will make for “a more impactful [sic] diploma.”
Thus, changing the name without attaining actual University Status is designed to create the misperception that the college is something it is not—Branch is clear that the effort is designed to deceive for the purpose of financial gain. The college will hike tuition—it’s now a University!—and the college will hope to mislead granting agencies and partners by trading on the “legitimacy” gained by claiming a fait accompli. As the NNMC press release reads, “Northern New Mexico College becomes University” (January 27, 2015). In an article published by The Journal North, Barcelo “added that it would help the institution be regarded with equal status as other state institutions, such as Western New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands.”
Yet, NNMC is not equal in Status to these institutions—indeed under Barcelo’s leadership, several programs have been cut, course offerings have fallen drastically, once healthy certificate and A.A. programs have been reduced to “continuing education” non-degree granting courses, and enrollment has fallen precipitously. But Barcelo’s hope is that a change of name/brand will give the false impression that Northern has become a University.[v]
In The Rio Grande Sun article, NNMC President Barcelo admits that “the move only changes the name of Northern and does not provide it university status,” adding “in the far future Northern administrators will strive to achieve university status.” Imagine, giving yourself credentials when you are certain you will not achieve those credentials until later… “in the far future.” Would NNMC students add the B.A. or R.N. to the end of their names if they thought they might strive to achieve those credentials later “in the far future?” Would we seek the expertise of an M.D., using those credentials, though they would not strive to complete education and training until sometime in “the far future?” What would we think of someone calling themselves "Sergeant" if they haven't earned the stripes? Will we allow Barcelo and Branch to disseminate complete falsehood, in the hopes no one is paying close attention? Do we want NNMC to be the only institution of higher education in New Mexico whose institutional name does not match its actual Status?
Such misrepresentation opens NNMC and the State of New Mexico to costly lawsuits that have been filed across the country against colleges who use deceptive marketing schemes. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Education has increased penalties for higher education institutions that draw on federal financial aid while misrepresenting programming, accreditation, graduation rates, and the quality and reputation of academic programs. Further, such misrepresentation damages NNMC's legitimacy, reputation, and its relationships with peer institutions.
With conscientious and careful leadership, perhaps NNMC could attain University Status. Under the Barcelo Administration, no such thing has occurred. NNMC President Barcelo herself predicts that only “in the far future Northern administrators will strive to achieve university status.”
In the meantime, Barcelo and Branch are asking the NM Legislature to pass SB-603, a misleading and costly name change. Every cent of false advertising and meaningless re-branding will be borne by tax payers and students, who are subject to yet another tuition hike after the February NNMC Board of Regents meeting.
[i] “Northern New Mexico College is now a university,” T.S. Last (January 28, 2015) http://www.abqjournal.com/532997/abqnewsseeker/northern-new-mexico-college-is-now-a-university.html [ii] New Mexico Higher Education Department Report, showing NNMC’s status as a two- and four-year college. http://www.cpec.ca.gov/CompleteReports/ExternalDocuments/New_Mexico_Condition_HE_2005-2006.pdf
[iii] See “Faces of Those We’ve Lost,” http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/blog/faces-of-those-we-have-lost and “Rash of resignations Plagues Northern New Mexico College,” The Rio Grande Sun, Ralph Chapoco (July 10, 2014) http://thenorthernissue.org/2014/07/09/a-rash-of-resignations-at-northern-new-mexico-college/
[iv] See “The academic equivalent of a corporate campaign,” The AAUP Academe Blog, Jonathan Rees (January 14, 2015) http://academeblog.org/2015/01/14/the-academic-equivalent-of-a-corporate-campaign/
and the link to a sampling of the media coverage in AAUP’s Academe Blog, Inside Higher Ed, The Journal North, New Mexico Watchdog, The Rio Grande Sun, The Santa Fe New Mexican, and the University Herald: http://www.nnmcstudygroup.org/media.html [v] “Northern New Mexico College is now a university,” T.S. Last (January 28, 2015) http://www.abqjournal.com/532997/abqnewsseeker/northern-new-mexico-college-is-now-a-university.html