A proposal that had caused alarm at the Roswell branch of Eastern New Mexico University has been approved by regents on a trial basis.
The unanimous vote regarding systemwide positions with authority on all campuses occurred during the Wednesday meeting of the regents in Santa Fe, according to Dr. John Madden, president of ENMU-Roswell.
Madden chose not to comment about the regents’ decision. But he did talk briefly about the issue during a meeting of the ENMU-R Branch Community College Board the day before the regents’ meeting.
“There have been two meetings (about the systemwide positions),” he said. “They have both been very positive.”
He explained to board members that he did not feel he was able legally to divulge too much about the topic, given that the ENMU-R board had not placed the item on its agenda, but he said that ENMU-R and ENMU leaders had met a couple of times and that ENMU-R had put together a plan about how the implementation might proceed.
The original proposal made by Elwell in mid-November caused concern and controversy at the Roswell campus.
Members of its Branch Community College Board and the board of directors of the ENMU-R Foundation, as well as ENMU-R senior administrators, voiced their anxiety about the unknown impacts of such a move during meetings. The board also forwarded to regents a written request for a study about the proposal.
Regents had tabled the proposal to give university leaders a chance to discuss the situation further; and, in response to concerns on the Roswell campus, Elwell presided over a Nov. 17 campus meeting of ENMU-R employees where he answered numerous questions that had been submitted anonymously about whether the change would mean budget cuts or usurpation, job eliminations or department consolidations that would hurt the local university.
Elwell stressed at that time that he was talking about oversight, not dominance.
“Takeover is when we say, we are going to run the Roswell campus. … We couldn’t do that by state statute and law,” he said during the campus meeting.
The proposal approved Wednesday by the regents approves three executive-level systemwide positions for human resources, business affairs and integrated technology.
But there will be a 90-day evaluation period to see whether ENMU-R will replace the vacant positions in those areas on its campus or whether they will eliminate them or create lower-level positions, allowing the ENMU systemwide positions to hold the top posts.
The three positions — a chief information officer and vice president of technology position, a vice president for business affairs and a vice president for human resources — have existed and have been filled for a while. But the human affairs and business affairs executives did not have oversight or authority over any campus but Portales. The chief information officer and vice president for technology did oversee those functions at both Portales and the Ruidoso branch.
At the Wednesday meeting in Roswell, Vice President for Business Affairs Scott Smart said that, should the regents approve the proposal, he intended to spend two days in Roswell and two days in Portales, with Fridays open for whatever travel or work is necessary.
“I view it as a coordination effort,” he said. “I think we were talking about state finances a second ago. I suspect in the next 20 to 30 years that New Mexico is going to realize exactly what I saw earlier in my career in Michigan. State funding is going to go one direction and one direction only, I believe, and it is not up, so I think any way we can work together collectively, the three campuses, to coordinate our efforts and to save money any way, shape or form, I think we should do that.”
If the sharing of senior administrators will work , it could save ENMU-R more than $340,000 a year in salary and benefits, according to Elwell, who added that any savings would be used by the ENMU-R campus.
Since becoming the new president of ENMU in July, Elwell has discussed several ideas about creating a more unified system that he said would provide better service to students as well as result in cost reductions.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.