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