Regents Report: 2008 Items Revisited, Campus Safety Discussed

SOCORRO, N.M. July 21, 2010 – The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents met in special session Friday, July 16, to reconsider action from 2008 that was voided by an opinion of the Attorney General.

The Regents officially approved several construction contracts that had been approved during two emergency meetings during the summer of 2008. Those projects included construction of an engineering lab building north of Workman Center, soil stabilization work near Jones Hall and Kelly Building renovation.

The Attorney General’s opinion stated that Tech did not give ample notice for those two meetings and that those meetings did not qualify as “emergency” meetings.

Regent President Ann Murphy Daily said, “We want complete transparency and we want to comply with all aspects of the law.”
University President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said the administration has taken steps to assure that the intent of the Open Meetings Act is always followed for providing public notice about all board meetings.

The Regents and administrators also discussed campus safety, in light of recent incidents, most notably an attack on a post-doctoral researcher who was walking home near campus.

Marquez and campus police Chief Billy Romero have met with city officials and law enforcement leaders to improve communications, coordinate patrols, inform students of services available to them and, generally speaking, improve safety. Romero said he has also established monthly meetings with local law enforcement officials.

Lopez said that crime statistics show that the city and the campus have experienced fewer assaults in recent years.

“But this incident was very egregious,” he said.

Regent Jerry Armijo, who is also the attorney for the City of Socorro, said he called a meeting with the mayor and other city leaders to discuss student safety and city-university relations.

“As a Regent, I impressed upon them our concerns for student safety, so we can tell parents who are bringing their children to campus that they will have a safe experience on campus,” he said. “There was some discussion that some of these problems are not the city’s responsibility and Tech needs to address them, but there was also the recognition that the city can do things better. The end point is that we need to collaborate.”

Gerity also reported that the victim of the assault in May had visited top administrators in Brown Hall in recent weeks. Gerity said the victim was upbeat and positive about the response she received from the university.

“Everyone was touched by her,” he said.

In other action items:

  • The Regents also approved emeritus status for Dr. David Johnson, who retired as Earth science professor and Dean of the Graduate Studies office.
  • The Regents approved an annuity for the President, paid by the New Mexico Tech Foundation.

All other items on the agenda were informational only.

  • For the first time in university history, the Board was presented with a list of graduates, but was not asked for approval. Under a new policy adopted in May by the Board, the President has continual vested authority to approve graduates, as presented by the Faculty Senate. The Regents were presented with 14 graduates who had earned their degrees in July 2010.
  • Vice President of Finance Lonnie Marquez reported that the hot water loop construction project is proceeding without any major glitches. The schedule has been re-arranged somewhat, but the project is expected to be completed within the allotted 12 months.
  • Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Peter Gerity reported that Tech has submitted a proposal for a Title V funding from the U.S. Department of Education for the undergraduate programs.

Tech received a Title V grant for the graduate programs in 2009. If successful, the new grant will provide $3.2  million  to expand living-learning communities, to launch a faculty development center for innovative teaching strategies and to expand Smart Classroom technologies on campus for undergraduate students.

  • * President Lopez reported that Tech hosted a visit from U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Howard Douglas. Lopez said he received a lengthy letter from Douglas thanking him for Tech’s work in advancing relations with the Sudan.

Douglas wrote that he’d like to see New Mexico Tech continue to help the war-torn nation develop its mineral resources and oil-and-gas reserves.

  • Lopez also presented a brief financial status report. He said the overall financial condition of the state remains very weak and that state-supported universities could see more budget cuts in January.
  • “We are restraining expenditures to maintain balances in anticipation of further cuts,” he said.
  • Lopez also reported on the five-year capital plan, which includes six priorities. The “wish list” includes, in order, 1. Bureau of Geology construction, 2. A new Wellness Center, 3. A new Chemistry and Materials Engineering facility, 4. Brown Hall renovations, 5. Research Facility matching funds and 6. Geothermal District Heating system.
  • After an executive session, the Board announced that it was sustaining the President’s action regarding an employee grievance and took no action on a student complaint.
  •  The Board took no action on the agenda item related to the agreement between the university and the New Mexico Tech Foundation. That item will be on the agenda at a future meeting.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech