KRWG

Goodman: Some Thoughts On Leadership At NMSU Las Cruces

Aug 27, 2017

Credit NMSU Chancellor Dr. Garrey Carruthers

Commentary: Sometimes we change our minds about people; or the people change. Or both.

I knew Garrey Carruthers slightly in the 1970's. He was a business professor and chaired the State Republican Party. I was an antiwar rabble-rouser, then a reporter. We didn't particularly hit it off. 

I lived elsewhere when he was governor. After I returned to Las Cruces, and he sought the NMSU Presidency, I wrote against choosing him. Nothing personal. He'd apologized for Big Tobacco, and was sticking his head in the sand about global warming; and he'd likely stress corporate and military stuff rather than arts and sciences. 

Soon after he got the job he appeared on my radio show. We talked for an hour. Agreed about some things and disagreed about others; but collegially and somewhat candidly.

Later, someone at Corbett Center overreacted to students protesting the National Security Agency. Alan Dicker held a sign pointing at the NSA recruiting table reading, “If you want to work for Big Brother, apply here. The next day, another student dropped a copy of Orwell's 1984 on NSA's table outdoors. Both students were arrested. Which I thought violated their free speech rights.

Representing the students, Mike Lilley and I contacted Assistant General Counsel Lisa Warren. We said that we could and would sue, and spend a lot of everyone's time and NMSU's money litigating what seemed to us an obvious violation. Or University and students could collaborate on rewriting the campus free speech rules and educating staff on the law. 

NMSU (Carruthers) agreed. As I wrote then, the resulting Free Speech Task Force was a delightful, cooperative experience. If you'd walked in during a meeting, you would have had a hard time figuring out which half of the members the University had appointed and which the students had appointed. If NMSU Police Chief Stephen Lopez saw a way we should state a free-speech right more clearly, he said so. If I saw something that was good for free speech, but might have negative side-effects on NMSU, I pointed out the problem. 

Carruthers backed us wholeheartedly, helping shepherd the new policy through the administrative process, including Regents' approval. 

It's been a tough time to preside over a public university. Dwindling funds and a short-sighted governor have exacerbated problems most colleges and universities are facing. I lack sufficient knowledge to assess Dr. Carruthers's performance in detail; I've heard things anecdotally. I like his readiness to jump into a frank discussion with people, whether they agree with him or not. He has substantial relevant experience, as NMSU student, professor, dean, and now Prexy. He's likely a fine fund-raiser, with varied contacts; and his openness to discussion probably means he can not only raise funds from wealthy conservatives and corporations but from more progressive entities.

So, why didn't the Regents decide not to renew his contract? Ageism? Can't be poor performance. Sure ain't because they want someone more liberal-arts oriented. The Regents likely don't share my view that, except for the Ameresco energy services contract, NMSU has been lousy on environmental matters. 

Or did Susana Martinez get her appointed board to slap Carruthers down because he'd spoken up for NMSU when she was having a hissy fit and not funding universities? (Yo, that's his job!) Or has she whispered she'd like a highly-paid gig after 2018, increasing her state retirement benefits?

Hope not. Unlike Carruthers, she can't get along with people who aren't obedient; she holds petty grudges and acts on them; she has no experience teaching at or running a university; and she's screwed up her current job six ways from Sunday.