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ENMU-R board asks for joint study about positions

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Four of five ENMU-R Branch Community College Board members discuss a motion Wednesday that asks Portales to collaborate and jointly study the impact to the Roswell campus of three systemwide administrative positions. From left are Cla Avery, Chair Eloise Blake, Mireya Trujillo and Patricia Parsons. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Citing a lack of clarity and continued anxiety among staff and faculty at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell, the ENMU-R Branch Community College Board has asked the university system regents to approve a joint study about how a proposal introduced last month will affect the local university.

“We are asking, behind it all, don’t do anything,” said Eloise Blake, chair of the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Branch Community College board during a Wednesday meeting about a decision pending before the ENMU Board of Regents concerning three systemwide administrator positions. “Let’s keep looking at this before we make any decisions yea or nay.” (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Four of five Community College Board members attended the Wednesday afternoon meeting, and all four voted to approve a motion suggested by Chair Eloise Blake.

That motion calls for collaboration and study between the flagship Eastern New Mexico University campus in Portales and the Roswell campus to determine the effects on the Roswell campus of a proposal before the regents to create three system administrative positions with authority on all three ENMU campuses, including the one in Ruidoso.

“By doing this, we are saying we are not fine with this,” said board member Patricia Parsons. “We want to be part of the conversation.”

Their vote is anticipation of a Friday afternoon meeting of the ENMU Board of Regents in Portales. On the agenda at this time is further consideration of whether to make three senior administrator positions—vice president of business affairs, vice president of integrated technology and information and vice president of human relations—systemwide positions that would have oversight of those functions on all three campuses.

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People in Portales already hold the three positions, but the human relations and business affairs positions do not have oversight or supervisory authority on the other campuses. The integrated technology vice president does exercise authority over the Ruidoso campus, but not the Roswell branch.

A prior Nov. 14 Board of Regents meeting considered the matter, but the issue was tabled after discussions that included ENMU-R President Dr. John Madden and ENMU-R board members expressing their concerns while participating in the meeting by conference call.

The upset over the situation was enough to prompt ENMU President Dr. Jeff Elwell and the three ENMU administrators in the questioned positions to arrive on campus Nov. 17 to meet with ENMU-R faculty and staff.

Elwell, in answering many of the 52 anonymous questions provided him on that day, sought to reassure the local campus that oversight did not mean an intent to take over campus operations, fire personnel or usurp ENMU-R budgets.

Elwell did not participate in Tuesday’s meeting of the Roswell board and was said to be in meetings in Santa Fe during the day.

Blake said she thought many concerns still existed.

“My feeling is that we need further study before we can say yea or no or nay on this approval. We have a lot of staff people here who are very concerned about what difference this is going to make. I think that I am personally very concerned. I don’t know what difference it is going to make,” said Blake. “So the summary on this agenda item is that we are going to request further study of the proposal for system-level officers and the impact on operations and finances at ENMU-R. … We are asking, behind it all, don’t do anything. Let’s keep looking at this before we make any decisions yea or nay.”

Some examples of issues that have not been clarified or that remain a concern, Madden and board members said, are whether ENMU-R budgets would continue to be formulated by the local personnel, who, they said, understand the needs of the local campus, or be done primarily by Portales staff; whether Roswell would be able to fill a vacant human relations director position; and whether instituting the same version of software already used in Portales and Ruidoso but not by Roswell would cost a great deal of money that might not be worth it in the long-term.

“I really fell like I represent a group of people that I can’t  do a very good job representing because I don’t have the information to do that,” said Parsons. “I’ve always felt that I was honest and fair and forthright, and I don’t feel like that right now because I don’t have the information to do my job.”

Board member Mireya Trujillo also expressed support for the motion, saying that the campus needed further clarification and that collaboration was warranted, while new member Cla Avery asked how much a study would cost.

Cost, said Madden, would depend on whether the study were done by a third-party or by internal staff, and who would conduct the study would have to be decided after regents discussed the motion, should it choose to consider it at their upcoming meeting.

“I appreciate what you are doing as a board,” said Madden. “But the reality is, whether this goes forward or not, remains to be seen. We have to do something to reduce the anxiety. It is at a fever-pitch and people literally are asking me, what is going to happen, and my response is, I don’t know. And that is not a good response.”

During the Nov. 17 meeting with Roswell staff, Elwell had said that the human resources position at ENMU-R could be filled and that he was prepared to say that ENMU-R could keep its own version of the software in question. But Madden and board members indicated that they have heard different responses at different times by Portales staff.

Elwell also had indicated during the initial Board of Regents discussions about the system position that he had the authority to make that decision without board approval, but had decided to involve the regents to keep them informed and gather input.

If the regents decide not to consider the proposal at their meeting, the board requested that Madden present it at the meeting during his remarks to the group, which Madden agreed to do.

In another action item, the board approved changes to the university’s professional pilot training program.

After receiving approval for two parts of the Federal Aviation Administration application, with two more remaining to be reviewed, the program is now considered more viable commercially for students, university officials said. Students earning the degree would be able to obtain jobs as pilots of freight or cargo planes, they said.

As a result, the program is being reconfigured into an associate of applied science program, a more workforce-oriented program than the previous associate of science program, which was suited for students transferring to a bachelor’s degree program.

Fees and certificates associated with that program also were approved by board members.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.