Board of Regents special meeting passes plethora of approvals

The University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents had an exceptionally long list of action items and passed nearly everything in a virtual meeting that lasted over three hours on Aug. 19. The only item that didn’t pass was the sale of the Student Family Housing property to the Central New Mexico Community College.

The concern for many on the Board of Regents was the value cost of the SFH property, which was estimated to be $1,090,000 in proportion to the size and location of the land. The 13-acre property currently sits tucked east of CNM’s main campus, also near UNM’s south campus. Ultimately, Regents Jack Fortner, Randy Ko, William Payne and Doug Brown voted against passing the item so the Board could spend more time to consider it.

The issue of the land also brought up the concern that the University has no current plans to replace Student Family Housing, which shut down in May. UNM’s real estate director Tom Neale said the prospect is “just too expensive and the economics don’t work at this point in time.” However, Fortner said family housing should be a part of UNM’s academic mission, and a majority of the other regents agreed that the issue should be discussed; Brown said this topic, which was a separate discussion from the concern of selling the land, would be brought up in the future.

Over a third of the meeting was dedicated solely to reviewing new requests and expansion requests for UNM’s Research and Public Service Projects (RPSP) on main campus and the Health Sciences Center for the fiscal year 2023 (FY23) with UNM’s Chief Government Relations Officer Barbara Damron; the Board passed the action item unanimously. The total FY23 RPSP requests add up to $63,899,140; the new RPSPs account for approximately $1.2 million, the expanded RPSPs account for about $28.6 million with almost $10.5 million specifically allocated for expansions and the flat RPSPs account for just over $34 million.

The most expensive RPSP requests came from Project ECHO, who requested $4 million on top of their current funding of $2,537,500, UNM Athletics, who requested a $2 million expansion in addition to their initial funding of $4,188,600, and the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, who requested an expansion of $1,723,000 on top of their current funding of $5,541,600. Other requests range from ethnic centers, education programs, health centers and more; the full list of the 20 total RPSP requests can be found online

The RPSPs will move to the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED) next month and Damron said they “have many more steps to go before we see where any of this money lands.”

Another action topic at the meeting that was unanimously passed was the approval for the New Mexico Mutual Champions Training Center, which is estimated to cost $4,380,978. This 11,312 gross-square-foot training center will be specifically for student athletes, who have been working out of a 7,200 net-square-foot outdoor tent. While the focus is especially on UNM’s Olympic sports, UNM Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez said athletes from all sports are allowed in the area. Nuñez also said the area will help address the existing Title IX inequities.

“This is going to have all of our student athletes working under one roof for the first time ever,” Nuñez said.

All capital project approvals on the agenda also unanimously passed, which included approvals for an increase in funding on the UNM Taos College Pathways to Careers Center project, the beginning of a three-part project to repair and modify the Student Residence Center stairwells, the addition of security turnstiles with card-swipe assets and asset tracking gates as well as new security and information desks at Zimmerman Library, and the renovation of the restrooms located in the basement of the Center for the Arts.

The additional security to Zimmerman brought up a conversation about who is accessing campus buildings; Lisa Marbury, Assistant Vice President of Campus Environments and Facilities, said the University Libraries reported an increasing number of security incidents in the past five years. After a question from Regent Sandra Begay on if this security initiative would go beyond just Zimmerman on campus, Marbury said a possible future plan would be to require card access to all UNM buildings if funding could be figured out.

“We’re a public university and we’ve always maintained an open campus where the public is free to roam but I think that the realities of modern life are such that we really have to channel that and control that much more aggressively than ever before, unfortunately,” Brown said.

In addition, the approval of the FY21 fourth quarter submission to NMHED for the enhanced fiscal oversight program concerning UNM Athletics’ financial status was unanimously passed by the Board. Notably, Athletics paid off FY20’s accumulated debts of $1,627,657 and carried a positive $1,404,313 in June.

Some of the quicker action items that unanimously passed at the meeting included the submission of the NMHED, Institutional Finance Division, Quarterly Financial Actions Report and Certification; the addition of a Cerner Electronic Medical Record Pediatric Oncology module; the annual renewal of the Maui High Performance Computing Center; and the approval to purchase a specific property for UNM Hospitals. The amended and restated bylaws for the Lobo Development Corporation were also passed along with two new member approvals on the UNM Hospital Board of Trustees — Judge Monica Zamora and Dr. Davin Quinn.

The Board spent about 40 minutes at the end of the meeting in executive session, which is closed to the public, tackling two discussion items: “the purchase, acquisition or disposal of real property or water rights” and “matters subject to attorney-client privilege pertaining to threatened or pending litigation.”

The public comment that took place at the start of the meeting was largely ruled by graduate students who discussed the recent ruling by the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board that gives the United Graduate Workers of UNM the right to unionize as well as members of the Committee of Interns and Residents, who are fighting for better benefits as physicians at UNM.

Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @fabflutist2716