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NMSU faculty cautiously optimistic about administrative changes

Faculty members are hopeful after recent university administrative changes. Before the spring 2022 semester began, NMSU President John Floros resigned from his position on Jan. 7. A few weeks later on Jan. 21, Provost Carol Parker was terminated from her position by the university after being on paid administrative leave since Nov. 9.

Both positions have been the subject of much debate since the NMSU faculty senate passed a resolution of no confidence in the president and provost last fall on Sept. 28, in addition to a student protest on Nov. 16 that had dozens of students chanting for the removal of President Floros and Provost Parker.

Former NMSU president, John Floros (Photo courtesy of NMSU)

The resolution listed several complaints against the pair including misappropriation of university funds, unethical hiring and promotion processes, mistrust of central administration, and more. In addition to requesting the removal of John Floros and Carol Parker from their respective positions, it also requested that the university promise to not repeat a similar “bloated administrative structure” with both a chancellor and a president.

Former NMSU provost, Carol Parker. (Photo courtesy of NMSU)

“When the position was announced, it was for one person to serve as president/chancellor. And the former board of regents, who are not the current board of regents, made the decision that they wanted to hire a chancellor for the system and a president for the main campus. I thought that was not a prudent use of resources at all,” said NMSU geography professor Christopher Brown, who served as the head of the faculty senate from May 2016 to May 2018. Brown was strongly opposed to the initial decision to hire a chancellor and a president and is in favor of reverting to the former administrative structure, which had only a chancellor.

“I think eliminating a very high paid administrative position at that level is a logical and good decision,” Brown said regarding the stepping down of Floros as president.

“I’m feeling pretty optimistic about things. I like most of the reorganization that the university is doing administratively. The chancellor is meeting with the faculty senate on a monthly basis now and we are much more likely to have the ear of the chancellor, which is great because the faculty collectively have been here the longest.”

Prior to the appointment of President Floros, the university ran under the sole leadership of the chancellor. That role was changed in May 2018 after Chancellor Garrey Carruthers was replaced by the new hirings of both Chancellor Dan Arvizu and President Floros. This was a major point of contention for faculty and students alike as there was a popular belief that having these two leadership positions instead of one was a misuse of university funds, especially considering these are two of the highest paid positions at the university with the chancellor and president reportedly drawing annual salaries of $500,000 and $450,000 respectively.

Floros is still earning $450,000 while on sabbatical following his decision to step down as president. “I don’t think the university had too many options … It is what it is,” said history professor and faculty senate member Jamie Bronstein, when asked about Floros’ earnings. Bronstein is a submitting sponsor of the resolution of no-confidence and has been very vocal in requesting the removal of Floros and Parker.

It remains to be seen if Floros will return to the university staff following his year-long sabbatical. Chancellor Arvizu will effectively take on the work of president in addition to his current role — akin to the prior administrative structure.

Bronstein said one of her major issues with the administration was its lack of communication with faculty. However, since Floros resigned, she claims that the central administration has improved in this regard. “I’m feeling pretty optimistic about things. I like most of the reorganization that the university is doing administratively. The chancellor is meeting with the faculty senate on a monthly basis now and we are much more likely to have the ear of the chancellor, which is great because the faculty collectively have been here the longest.”

When asked about her confidence in Chancellor Arvizu in his new leadership role, Bronstein said, “I have confidence in the collective that is being put together to run the university.”

Chancellor Arvizu speaks to student protesters outside of Hadley Hall Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. On Feb. 4, 2022, the chancellor released a summary of an internal audit that addresses many of the students’ complaints, as well as concerns raised in the faculty senate’s resolution of no-confidence. (Photo by Javier Gallegos/Kokopelli)

Both Bronstein and Brown mentioned they are concerned with the current lack of a permanent provost and hope the position is filled quickly. The complaints alleged against former Provost Parker revolved around her decisions regarding funds and broader university matters. Brown questioned her handling of the recent merger of the College of Education, the College of Health and Social Services and the Department of Sociology into the new College of Health, Education, and Social Transformation. “The manner by which the provost moved that merger forward was not consistent with administrative rules and procedures for that type of merger,” Brown said.

Furthermore, Bronstein and Brown both implied the vote of no confidence passed last semester was a cause for recent changes in administrative leadership. Chancellor Arvizu has downplayed such speculation and Floros did not make mention of the resolution in his departure letter to NMSU faculty and staff.

On Feb. 4, Chancellor Arvizu directly responded to issues regarding the administration by emailing an executive summary of an internal audit of the faculty senate’s resolution to all faculty, staff and students. Arvizu said, “I want to share that the findings of this audit do not substantiate many of the allegations leveled, especially the most egregious allegations.”

The audit did identify some instances of “non-compliance with NMSU procedures,” including a few of the key points made in the faculty senate’s resolution. For example, the audit did substantiate “unethical hiring and promotion practices” regarding a graduate faculty fellow/interim associate dean position, and “partially substantiated” the claim of “deliberate circumvention of due process in relation to the faculty and human resources/employee and labor relations process.”

The audit found the allegation that there is an “exorbitant number” of administrative positions at NMSU to be unsubstantiated. 

Recommendations and management responses to all specific allegations made in the faculty senate’s resolution are included in the audit summary, and Audit Services observed various “opportunities of improvement.”

The last finding contained in the audit stated the following: “Audit Services found that Additional Systemic Impacts to be substantiated, which is incumbent on all to resolve. The lack of trust and adversity may result in potential financial loss and reputational harm to the University.”

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