Commentary: (Santa Fe) In a major stride forward in the reform of New Mexico’s higher education university leadership system, the Senate Rules committee on Monday unanimously approved Senate Resolution 1.
Senate Joint Resolution 1, a proposed constitutional amendment, calls for the creation of “nominating committees” for our universities that would interview and recommend the best candidates to be considered for appointment by the Governor for serving as a regent.
If passed by the voters on the November ballot, nominating committees would be set up for each of the schools included in Article 12 of the New Mexico constitution, which includes UNM, NMSU, NMIMT, WNMU, ENMU, NMHU, NMMI, the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind. The Governor would then select regents based upon the recommendations of the nominating committee.
According to a Michigan State University study comparing higher education regent selection processes and university outcomes, universities that had qualification or vetting processes for their regents had better student outcomes.
The study also found that three of the top five performing schools measured have qualification requirements for their regent positions, compared to none for the bottom five performing schools including New Mexico. Several of these top performing schools have “Nominating Councils” to make recommendations regarding qualified potential regents.
Dem. Senator Jeff Steinborn, the sponsor of the resolution, says that reform is long overdue. “Never has it been more critical that we help New Mexico universities be the best they can be to respond to the needs of our state and help create jobs for our next generation. These nominating commissions would ensure that we pick our best and brightest to run our universities, and we should embrace this positive step forward. “
Legislation co-sponsor, Repub. Mark Moores added “This is not about politics. This is about putting our institutions of higher education in the best hands. With nominating committees in place, we will be able to complete more thorough, bipartisan searches and find the most qualified candidates to fill these important roles. ”
If the resolution passes the legislature, it would go on the General Election ballot in November, giving voters will the choice of establishing the Regent nominating committees.