Notes from Feb. 2000 Regents Meeting


by George Zamora

SOCORRO -- The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents recently was given a summary of how some of the legislative actions taken at the recently concluded 30-day session of the state legislature will affect the state-supported research university.

During the board's February 21 meeting, held at the school's Macey Conference Center, New Mexico Tech President Daniel H. López announced that New Mexico lawmakers had approved a three percent salary increase for faculty and staff at all of the state's public universities.

The formula funding for state-funded universities also was approved at almost 100 percent, López pointed out, with the only exception being slight percentage decrease waivers for graduate student tuition.

The New Mexico State Legislature also agreed to allow state government to assume added responsibility to help its colleges and universities pay some of the escalating costs associated with risk management premiums.

The General Appropriations Act, or House Bill 2, which will more than likely not be signed into law, included an outlay of $200,000 as seed funding to start an Information Technology Center on campus; $50,000 in support of distance education; and funding to reduce tuition for off-campus students who currently are charged 150 percent of regular tuition for classes taken through Tech's distance education program.

Tech President López also informed the regents that the Capital Outlay Bill, which includes full funding for two priority projects at New Mexico Tech--$2.8 million for completing the Cramer Hall renovation and $3.2 million to begin designing and constructing the first phase of a new Student Services Building--had stalled on the Senate side of the legislature, but would be reintroduced during a special session later this spring.

The deadlocked Capital Outlay Bill also includes $450,000 for a new financial system, $250,000 for infrastructure, and $50,000 for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance renovations on the New Mexico Tech campus.

López also added that a revised formula which was approved by the state legislature would make available up to nine percent more funding for building renewals and replacements on state university campuses.

In other announcements, the Tech president also told regents that student enrollment this spring semester at New Mexico Tech was up about three percent over last year. Credit hours being taken by undergraduates also increased three percent this semester, he said, while graduate credit hours were up about five percent.

Preliminary projections for enrollment in the upcoming fall semester seem to point to a modest increase in incoming Tech freshmen and transfer students, López added.

After being informed once again of the schedule which has been drawn up for public forums to address the pros and cons of changing New Mexico Tech's official name, the regents discussed general ground rules and formats which should be implemented at the hearings.

The regents concurred on providing specific time limits on oral presentations by individuals who want to speak at the "name change" hearings. The time limits are to be determined by the number of persons wishing to speak.

In order to more accurately assess the number of people who will be making oral presentations, the regents suggested requiring presenters to sign up in advance, and if they wish, to also submit additional written comments for consideration.

The first of three scheduled hearings on the New Mexico Tech name change issue is set for Monday, March 27, at 5 p.m. at the New Mexico Tech Library, room 212.

In another report given to the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents, Carl J. Popp, Tech's vice president for academic affairs, gave the regents an update of efforts being made by his office and other departments at Tech to increase retention and five-year graduation rates of students--one of the university's specific goals as expressed in its Strategic Plan.

In other matters deliberated during the meeting, the Tech Board of Regents also heard from Ted Ellinger, Tech's director of human resources, on various merit-based pay incentive programs which are employed by universities in New Mexico and other higher education institutes throughout the country.

The regents agreed that the topic of perhaps implementing a merit-based incentive compensation plan for all Tech employees should be addressed at the board's retreat weekend meeting later this year.

In one of several official actions taken during this month's meeting, the New Mexico Tech Board of Regents unanimously approved granting degrees to 77 undergraduate and graduate students who completed their degree requirements in December, at the end of last year's fall semester.

In addition, the regents approved the professional appointment of Siddharth Pandey to the full-time, tenure track position of assistant professor of chemistry at New Mexico Tech.

And, as is done on a yearly basis, the regents also approved a resolution which waives board members's rights to access classified information that might be disclosed in connection with classified sponsored research contracts the university maintains.

During the board meeting, the Board of Regents also were given a detailed financial summary report of the university's budget after the first six months of the fiscal year by W. Dennis "Denny" Peterson, Tech's vice president for administration and finance.