Full disclosure here, I have moved back to Albuquerque, so have been covering the news here a bit more, even though I try to stay away. One thing that is happening now is another presidential search at UNM. It seems the last president, Robert Frank, which I have written about before, did not work out for the Regents, and UNM cannot seem to hold on to its CEO’s. Here I will examine this and look at the prospects for the next presidential search.
I wrote before about the presidential search process, and in particular the one that chose Robert Frank. I predicted he would win for being not a token minority and for his antagonistic stance against faculty as his previous university. This prediction came real, as Frank was nominated for the regents.
By all accounts before it seems that Frank and the Regents were getting along fine at UNM. In 2013 the regents paid Frank a bonus with his $360,000-plus salary, due to increased graduation and retention rates. But in early September 2016 Frank announced that he would not renew his contract and would end his term in May 2017, when his contract ended. But the Regents accepted his resignation early, and he ended his term in December 2016. One of his provosts, Chaouki Abdullah, became interim president.
Before this, Frank had his retirement planned out. The Regents offered him a $350,000 job at the Health Sciences Center in a new position specifically created for him. This was a time of large state budget cuts, but they were willing to throw money at an administrator. It can also be related to the recent action that put the Health Sciences Center more under direct control of the Regents.
There was other signs of tension when in November 11, 2016 an internal audit was done against Frank. It was about Frank over-reimbursing the university for expenses, $5,500 of $227,000 spent. There were other reports around this time of missing money at UNM, and as Frank paid the money back, it was a tempest in the teapot in the bigger scheme of things.
There was another outside review by attorney Alice Kilborn that found that Frank created a hostile work environment. It found that Frank was “impatient, bitingly sarcastic, condescending, and rude to members of his office staff and to other individuals within the university.” The 10-page report also said Frank was short-tempered and bad mannered. The methodology was put into question, as they talked to eight faculty and staff, out of 1,250 faculty and 3,000 staff. But the Regents before this also hired Frank a job coach to help improve his communications skills. The local media hinted at these conflicts with Frank and the Regents as a reason for his early dismissal. There was also conflicts with Gov. Susana Martinez and her staff hinted at.
The career of Robert Frank, as other recent presidents at UNM, show the real power in the university resides within the regents, who have absolute control on the university and has the president serve at its whim. The president before Frank, Louis Caldera, was also fired early after reported conflicts with the Regents.But this is a conflict within the ruling elites. Frank does not have the concerns of the common people at heart. In fact, the Journal in an editorial praising Frank for his accomplishments listed one of them as his increase in public-private tech transfer at UNM and support for entrepreneurship, both of which were “essential for UNM to become a more competitive university.” In other words, serving business interests.
In all cases, the Regents spent huge sums of money to conduct the search and to hire the president. I have talked about the importance to the university president before, and that many people are unaware that it is written in law that the Regents have sole authority to choose the president. Yet they will put on this facade that the Presidential Search is an open process where the community has a say in choosing the president. What will be interesting as this process goes forward is showing how it exposes the power over the corporate university.