In November, the Sun-News took the rare step of publishing a front-page column expressing our frustration with the appalling lack of transparency by New Mexico State University regents and top administrators in the handling of the separation agreement with former President Barbara Couture. The headline was "NMSU spins its own version of the truth."
We were far from alone. The protests were loud and sustained, coming from far and wide. Lawmakers in Santa Fe have introduced legislation to prohibit the kind of golden parachute given to Couture upon her departure (since tabled). And, there was legitimate fear at the time that voter frustration could endanger a pending bond issue (since passed).
Now, it looks like the regents may have finally gotten the message.
At 7 a.m. March 11, the NMSU Board of Regents will hold an open budget session in the Regents Room of the Educational Services Center on campus. The session will be webcast at http://panopto.nmsu.edu/bor/.
It is anticipated that a tuition hike will be among the items up for consideration. The fact that a tuition hike would be debated in public may not seem like a big deal, but it represents a major departure from what has been standard operating procedure.
In the past, regents would hold all discussions on the budget and tuition increases behind closed doors. Once they had hammered out their differences, an intentionally ambiguous agenda item would be placed for the next meeting, where the hikes would be passed without discussion save for a well-rehearsed defense of the action.
Students wouldn't learn that their costs had gone up until after the deed was done.
Those who attend the 7 a.m. work session will not be able to participate, but can comment at the public meeting that will follow at 9 a.m.
The decision to open the budget workshop follows an announcement a couple of months ago that NMSU will be open and transparent in the selection process for a new president, bringing all of the finalists to campus and making them available for public sessions.
NMSU regents have paid lip service to openness and transparency in the past, but have fallen woefully short of meeting those goals. It is our hope that these positive changes represent a new way of doing business at the university, and not merely a temporary reaction to the anger of last November.
Las Cruces Sun-News, March 3