Going through my research I thought to write an article about the former president of UNM during my tenure there. Richard Peck, or Dr. Richard Peck as he or one of his flunkies would call him. The Strangelovian atmosphere of New Mexico continues with the CEO of the university named Dick Peck, who became president in 1990.
So his Dr. comes from his degree in the English Department. His most famous book is “Something for Joey,” a sappy tear jerker teen novel about a kid with leukemia and his brother who goes on to win the Heisman Trophy because he did it for his brother Joey. It was turned into a tv miniseries.
So what kind of man was Peck? Well, asshole can come close to it, although this would not be a proper academic term to describe him. One could write many pages about his whole tenure. For now I will focus on a few aspects of this man, with some articles from my archive.
Back in 1996 he urged Congress to rescind cuts in federal research dollars. Congress and the Clinton administration were proposing cuts of 20 percent in federal research funds. He spoke this at a forum that included Senator Jeff Bingaman and the presidents of Yale and Michigan State. As quoted in the Albuquerque Tribune that year, Peck said “federal dollars help fuel the crucial technology transfer at universities: the transfer of knowledge and ideas from teacher to student.” That word again, technology transfer. What they don’t mention is that technology transfer is really about siphoning public resources to private profit-based interests. As I pointed out earlier (https://elloborojo.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/increase-in-federal-research-dollars-at-unm-in-the-1990s/) Peck’s tenure saw the vast increase in federal research dollars at UNM. Other universities saw the direction of the time. The speakers at the forum also stated “the federal government is the only one in the position to underwrite long-term research, something that private companies — driven by competition and the need for quick results — just can’t do.” Yep, private companies don’t want to risk their money, so they will have the public do it for them.
Peck stated that federal funding was important to UNM because that year UNM received almost as much from “external” sources as from the state. These “external” sources are the federal government, foundations, and corporations.
Time for some numbers again,and following the money:
In 1996 UNM had a budget of $950 million, of which $220 million was from the state of New Mexico, and $197 was from “external” funds. UNM’s external funding rose 120 percent since 1991, from $84 million to $197 million.
Peck said that without the federal funds UNM would shrink from a university to, god forbid, a liberal arts college. The solution, Peck said, was find ways to cut entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid to have more money for research funding. (1)
Now we have discussed where the vast amounts of this research money goes, to the military, and products for private corporations. So Peck wants to cut aid to the poor and elderly so that universities can get more money developing weapons of war and help multinationals make big profits. Is this guy an asshole or what?
Around that time the Progressive Student Alliance, an activist group at UNM, was always targeting Peck for many things around UNM. He gave his views on the structure of the university as an authoritarian one, when he told a group of students protesting tuition hikes and the lack of student representation in these decisions, “There is a division of labor here you don’t seem to appreciate. You (students) attend classes, we (administrators) make the policies.”(2) He also called them a “splinter group” too. Yep, this guy is an asshole.
In 1998 Peck retired after eight years. An article in the short-lived Albuquerque Business Times that year gives an assessment of Peck’s term. Now the article is mostly a fluff piece; it describes him as “open and cordial” twice, in the introduction paragraph and in the conclusion. Many students, staff and faculty would differ on this description. But the article gives some interesting information.
It repeats on the increase in research grants received by UNM reported above. It also states UNM’s operating budget increased from nearly $500 million in 89-90 to $942.9 million in 97-98. There were six fully funded and four partially funded endowed chairs at the university at the end of his term, most of them geared toward corporate interests. (3) Surprise, surprise.
There were many buildings built at UNM during Peck’s tenure. Peck pointed out that many of the “capital improvements,” as they are called, were funded through general obligation bonds and the university’s own bond programs, both separate from funding from the state legislature. He also makes mention of funds from those “external sources,” the federal government, foundations, and corporations. I remember a staff union member was quoted about Peck during his retirement that it was unlikely that any buildings would be named after him.
Even after his retirement he still showed what a corporate shill he was. In 1998 to 1999 he “wrote” the book “The New Mexico Experience, 1598-1998, The Confluence of Cultures.” It came out for the states Cuarto Centenario, the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. I put wrote in quotes, for Peck admitted that the book was not a true history because he was not a historian but only gathered stories for the book. He also admitted that all the historical research was done by two students, Ellen Cain and Richard Flint, whose names did not appear on the cover but only in the acknowledgements page. Also, along with not being a true history book this coffee table book was full of many misplaced and off-centered photos. And last but not least, the back of the book is chock full of full-page advertisements for corporations doing business in the state. So if you actually paid the full $60 price for the book you also get pages of advertising with it too, quite the New Mexico experience. A state senator even introduced a memorial to make this atrocity of a book “the state book.” (4) Thankfully it didn’t go far and saved the state the embarrassment.
So there it is, Richard Peck, former president and corporate shill. Of course other presidents were no better or worse. But it helps to have a figure of authority who is more blatant about their stoogeness to power than those who try to pretend they’re not and still stooge to power. So here’s to you Mr. Peck.
1. MacPherson, Karen. “Research Would Wither Without Federal Help, UNM Boss Says.” Albuquerque Tribune. June 19, 1996. Evening Edition, Pg. A9.
2. McKay, Dan. “Peck, ‘Splinter Group’ Discuss Meeting.” Daily Lobo (UNM). March 5, 1996
3. The list of these chairs include: Fully funded: Carruthers Chair in General Honors, obtained through efforts of Peck in getting funding through Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad; Associated General Contractors Chair in Construction Management and Engineering; the Flinn Chair in Adult Cardiology; the Microelectronics Chair; the New Mexico Bankers Chair; and the PNM Chair. Partially funded: Desantis Chair in Pharmacy; Karelitz Chair in Law; S.C.B. Technology Chair; Ross Brown Chair in Biology.
-Roberts, Dennis W. “Dr. Richard Peck Ends Eight Years As UNM President.” Albuquerque Business Times. September 11-25, 1998. Pg. 3, 9.
4. Steinberg, David. “Peck’s ‘history’ raises Roundhouse ruckus.” Albuquerque Journal. February 14, 1999 (Sunday). Section: Books, Pg. F6.