Regents Minutes - November 2011
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Board of Regents
1:30 p.m., November 21, 2011
Embassy Suites Hotel
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The New Mexico Tech Board of Regents convened at 1:30 p.m., with Chairman Richard N. Carpenter presiding. Other Board members present were Regent Jerry Armijo, Regent Deborah Peacock, Regent Abe Silver, Jr. and Student Regent Omar Soliman. University administrators, staff, and guests who were also present included:
Daniel H. López
Robert L. Lucero
1. Proof of Meeting Notice: The meeting was called to order at 1:36 p.m. by Board of Regents Chairman Richard Carpenter, after the board confirmed that proper public notice had been given through newspaper ads and emails sent to media outlets. In an opening remark, Regent Abe Silver Jr. announced that from now on, the Board would receive reports from meetings of the New Mexico Tech Research Foundation, which had met at 9 a.m., also at the Embassy Suites. President Daniel H. López suggested that reports be provided on a quarterly basis.
2. Approval of Agenda: The agenda was approved on a motion by Regent Silver and seconded by Regent Jerry Armijo. Chairman Carpenter announced that there would be an executive session.
3. Minutes: The Minutes of the September 23, 2011 meeting were approved with one change by Chairman Carpenter: The fourth line under Item 3, where “resolution” was followed by a period should read: “resolution, copy of the bond issue attached as mailed out is included.” Regent Armijo moved to approve the Minutes of September 23, 2011 as amended. Regent Deborah Peacock seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
Chairman Carpenter called on President López for announcements, who in turn deferred to Melissa Jaramillo-Fleming for enrollment updates. Jaramillo-Fleming asked Mike Kloeppel, Director of Admission, to give the report.
Enrollment Updates: Paid admissions are down by three from 28 to 25 compared to this time a year ago, Kloeppel reported. Through today, New Mexico Tech has had more than 500 visits from individuals and groups, and has increased its marketing efforts this year to over 150,000 email contacts and 100,000 pieces of mail. Both President López and Kloeppel said there was no cause for concern, and that the numbers should balance out by February or March 2012 when applications and requests for financial aid tend to peak.
Formula Funding: By way of introduction, Dr. López noted that enrollment will be less important under the new funding formula – “but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to keep those numbers up.” The current funding formula has been in place for the past eight to 10 years, and is based on the original funding formula concept of headcounts and FTEs. The formula itself is a complex matrix that nets a unit value. Legislative appropriations were based on the unit value times the number of units, according to the types of disciplines and student grade levels. For example, said López, an engineering unit is worth more than one in the humanities. The proposed new formula moves away from sheer numbers to outcomes based on three concepts:
- Closing the achievement gap
- Improve completion rates
- Diminished credit will be given for a student who does not complete a course, something the University will address to maintain the quality of its courses by ensuring courses are not “watered down” just to increase completion rates. Graduation and persistence rates also are part of the measure.
- Prepare students to meet future workforce demands (matching degree offerings with workforce forecasts).
The proposed new formula should be less complex; however, the methodology still is cumbersome, said López, adding that while he is not a big fan of the formula itself, he is a fan of its objectives. Overall, the new formula should be helpful to New Mexico Tech and its mission in that it assesses a higher value to STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math).
Other funding issues: López noted that on Nov. 17, he and his colleagues met with the Secretary of Higher Education for two and a half hours in Santa Fe on the issue of whether to fund both the two-year and four-year schools through a single formula, which will be determined during the 2012 Legislative session. The President said he will deliver one more presentation on the budget in December, and that Executive Assistant Lala Garcia will notify members when a date is set. Regent Deborah Peacock thanked López for his involvement in the funding formula effort; in turn, López credited VPAF Lonnie Marquez for crunching the numbers. In response to a question from Regent Armijo, López said his cohorts at the other four-year schools are on board; the only outstanding issue is to agree that last year’s budget provide the base for next year’s budget. He noted that several of the universities lost funding last year, but he believed a consensus was possible. With a base budget equal to last year’s appropriation, López said that any incentive portion of the new budget should be based on new money. The issue of an incentive fund may have to be worked out during the session itself, he said in response to a question from Chairman Carpenter on whether HED had signed off on it. While the executive branch is proposing flat budgets for FY13, it’s likely that the Legislature will support a little more. “You never know until you hear the beautiful lady sing,” said the President, referring to the close of the 2012 session, a remark which drew laughter.
Sabbatical Leaves: VPAA Peter Gerity announced sabbatical leaves for seven faculty totaling two and a half years, with three already under way for Fall 2011 and four to begin Spring 2012, split between one- and two-semester periods. The Institute derives benefits from the sabbaticals, Gerity noted, through graduate assistantships, research internships and cooperative agreements with national laboratories. Gerity said that he and Van Romero, VP for R&ED, insist on supporting undergraduate and graduate students in every proposal, when possible. He added that one of the sabbaticals calls for international collaboration (Paul Fuierer, Germany) and that another faculty will spend her sabbatical closer to home to keep watch over the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) interferometer project (Michelle Creech-Eakman). Ashok Ghosh will spend his leave trying to commercialize a patent he developed through New Mexico Tech. Key to granting sabbatical leaves is to ensure that all courses are covered, either by means of distance education (from there to here), or from savings accrued from the sabbatical leaves to hire part-time instructors. Other faculty granted sabbatical leaves were Dongwan Shin, Deidre Hirschfeld, Aly El-Osery and Bixiang Wang.
Regent Peacock said she found the sabbatical leave policy fascinating, and asked if they were granted for personal reasons, or solely research-based. Gerity explained that sabbatical leave was not vacation time, although it would not be unusual for a faculty member in the humanities to stay home and write a book. Central administrators also have gone through the process, he said, when the leave is granted for something that benefits the future development of New Mexico Tech. Sabbaticals are paid at half-salary, although a requestor may be paid the other half by his/her collaborative company or institution. Faculty members are eligible after seven years of service. The concept is alien in the private sector, but standard at all universities in the country, Gerity said. The process begins at the department level, goes to committee, then VPAA, and on to the President for approval. Gerity said it is not unusual for the committee to kick back a request and ask for more clarity. When Chairman Carpenter noted that the Ghosh request involved five people, López explained that the goal was to form a limited liability company, a partnership with financial potential. Regent Peacock closed by saying she found the entire process interesting.
Security Threat. President López, in a debriefing to the Board, credited VP Marquez and his personnel with having a committee in place to respond to the threat levied against the Socorro community for Nov. 11, 2011. There were automatic initiation points, the President said. “We weren’t caught by surprise.” Even though the threat was specificallly aimed at local law enforcement and the public schools, the University could not ignore it and immediately contacted and met with local and state law enforcement and the FBI. The University used email to advise the campus community of the threat, but decided against cell phone texts. López said he was pleased with how the warning system worked, and with 24/7 monitoring of all campus facilities. The Tech community was concerned, but did not panic. Student Regent Solimon reported that students thought the threat was related to a new video game release, and that 30 students were lined up at midnight at WalMart to buy the game, and then stayed home to play it. Replying to a question from Chairman Carpenter, Marquez reported that George Murillo, former assistant chief of Campus Police, is serving as interim chief following the retirement of Billy Romero; and that the incident gave Murillo, an “education by fire.” The campus was covered with 80 to 90 hours of overtime.
Capital Projects/Infrastructure Improvement: Marquez reported that the new Child Care Center is 70 percent complete, and scheduled to open in early 2012. Jaramillo-Fleming added that Macey Center may have its grand opening in March or April, following a facility-wide upgrade to its heating and cooling system.
- López credited the board with playing a major role in bond approval for a new residence hall, adding that funds are available and construction documents have been completed. Construction could begin in March or April of 2012.
- Federal funds also have been dedicated for the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO).
- New Mexico Tech has launched a nationwide search to hire a director for the Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, and that Greer Price has done well as interim director, following the retirement of Peter Scholle. Of the final three candidates in an initial search, one took another job, the second top candidate appeared to have used the interview process as leverage in his current job and was not a serious candidate, and that the third choice ultimately was not a good match. The new search may last as long as a year. Price addressed the board, saying that advertisements for the post have been placed in several national publications to appear November through January, with the job closing in March. Interviews could begin in April or May, with a new director on board by the end of next summer. Price also notified the board of a national outdoor book award given to the Bureau for its publication, The Rio Grande – A River Guide to the Geology and Landscape of Northern New Mexico, written by Paul Bauer. “We take a great deal of integrity in what we produce,” Price said, adding that the award was personally gratifying.
- Van Romero notified the board that he and others attended a meeting with representatives of traditional mining schools to try to inspire federal legislation to make funds available for faculty research in that field. Two bills are pending: One by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, the other by U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Romero noted that no funds have been allocated for mining research in the past 15 to 20 years; and that last year, only 16 Ph.D.’s were granted in mining disciplines, and only 60 individuals graduated with a mining degree nationally. Some mining positions are being filled by graduates in civil or mechanical engineering to fill the gap. Romero said the Department of Defense has reported that all rare earth minerals now are being imported, which can potentially pose a national security issue to the U.S., inasmuch as vital rare minerals could be withheld by a hostile foreign government. He did have some good news: Last week, the federal Highway Administration allocated $995,475 to maintain the road to the MRO VisitorsCenter.
- President López closed on a cheery note, telling Regents of an email he received from the parents of a student with a food allergy, saying that a Tech employee provided an alternative diet for the student, and the parent was grateful to the University for attending to that kind of detail. The President noted that Jaramillo-Fleming’s shop was primarily responsible for that particular service.
5. Public Comment. None.
6. Degree Conferrals for September and October 2011: Gerity reported six Bachelor of Science, five Master of Science, one Master of Science for Teachers and three Doctor of Philosophy degrees for September, and five Master of Science degrees for October. The average number of awardees is close to a dozen throughout the months. He noted that a policy change whereby Regents conferred authority upon the President to award degrees during the academic year makes New Mexico Tech one of the most progressive institutions in the country in awarding timely degrees. Many agencies, including the Department of Defense and its contractors, will not hire a graduate without a degree in hand; letters of completion are no longer accepted.
7. Financial Analysis for October 2011: Marquez reported that financial statements are in for the first third of the year, with revenues about the same as this time last year. Expenditures are down $300,000, while tuition and fees are up $600,000. Under Auxiliary, everyone is where they should be. Marquez said he is watching the cost centers, noting that, in general, the university community is keeping a vigilant eye on expenditures. López added that in the funding formula, there always has been a growing gap between what the state pays for utilities and the University’s actual cost for utilities. However, the proposed formula will fully fund Tech for actual utility costs, as Tech continues to find new ways to conserve energy usage.
8. Restricted Funds Purchases: Because two of the requests were for the Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC), Director Robert Lee addressed the issue. He explained that the first request was to issue a subcontract to Gordon Creek LLC to replace Savoy Energy LLC for work to be performed on a carbon sequestration project from Aug. 9, 2011 to Jan. 31, 2013. The difference between the Savoy award, at $11,814,000, and the one to Gordon Creek, for $15,272,806, is $3,459,806. Chairman Carpenter asked for background on the project. Lee noted that Gordon Creek is a Canadian company willing to accept Tech’s contract terms, while López explained the issue: U.S. companies are wary of projects involving CO2 projects because of potential liability over numerous environmental issues. The President noted that Tech is trying to mitigate the issue by having Congress adopt legislation with a safe/harmless clause on CO2 projects. There are still hurdles to overcome, one of which is the EPA; however, the project does have the support of the DOE. Lee explained that only under Phase III of the project will CO2 be injected into the ground, and, “We were able to select an area (in southern Utah) where carbon dioxide is already there, so we would not have leakage problems.” Everything is in place; lots of groups are in discussions and meeting weekly. Lee closed by saying, “We want to show the general public we can carry out (research) without harm.” The second request, also relating to CO2 was for $355,484, through the E&ES Department.
The remaining five requests were from EMRTC:
- To Star Dynamics, $206,500
- To Protection Engineering Consultants, $221,120
- To Command Post Technologies, LLC, $683,937.30
- To Command Post Technologies, LLC, $463,622
- To Command Post Technologies, LLC, for $334,380.41
EMRTC Director John Meason noted that the focus of the Star Dynamics project is aerial detection of Internet cafes in hostile areas, and to intercept data sent out from those cafes. The second refers to a cooperative agreement with the State Department to build and test steel structures to withstand air blasts based on the company’s design. The final three refer to training exercises at the Playas Training and Research Center (PTRC). Meason explained that role players are a major part of training exercises. Chairman Carpenter noted that the explanations behind the funding requests provide the board with an opportunity to learn about activities at the research centers.
9. Unrestricted Funds Purchases Exceeding $250,000. The request from Purchasing Services to Sound & Signal Systems of New Mexico Inc. for $564,517.14 is to upgrade the University’s fire alarm system. A second to Mountain West Golfscapes, Inc., for $282,118.34 is to fill holes and reseed the Athletic Field. Regent Armijo moved to approve the requested purchases. Regent Peacock seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
10. Property Items to be Removed from Inventory. The property list given to the board was reviewed by the Property Committee for an auction in January 2012. Lala Garcia, Executive Assistant to the President, told Regents that two separate resolutions were needed: One for items under $5,000 and the second for items over $5,000. Regent Solimon made a motion to adopt a resolution to approve items under $5,000, followed by a second from Regent Peacock. She then moved to adopt a resolution to approve items over $5,000, which Regent Silver seconded. Both resolutions were unanimously approved and are attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.
11. Individual Board Member Comments. None.
12. New Business. Regent Armijo proposed that the board adopt a resolution that the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) retain the name of the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope facility. (NRAO recently asked for input to rename the 27-telescope facility on the San Agustin Plains. The first antenna dates back to September 1975, and the complex was formally inaugurated in 1980.) Armijo noted that NRAO has a long and distinguished history in Socorro County, and that its DomeniciOperations Center sits on land leased from New Mexico Tech. “My personal opinion is that changing the name is not a good idea,” Armijo said, adding that the VLA is a unique, well established facility operational for at least 30 years, with a name that cannot be duplicated. He recalled the “unintended consequences” following a suggestion several years ago that New Mexico Tech change its name. Armijo said President López concurred, and had Public Information Officer Thom Guengerich draft the non-binding resolution to be sent to NRAO headquarters in Charlottsville, Va. The Socorro Regent added that the city and county of Socorro are expected to adopt similar resolutions. Regent Armijo then moved to accept the resolution, followed by a second from Regent Solimon. Romero noted that the VLA is the second-most Googled telescope next to the Hubble, and that the resolution would be welcomed by the people of Magdalena. “I’m thrilled you brought this up,” said Regent Peacock to Regent Armijo. Acting on the motion and second, the board unanimously approved the resolution which is attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.
13. Employee Benefit Trust. The board recessed at 2:48 p.m. and convened as the Benefit Trust. Marquez reported that claims are high and revenues are behind expenses. New Mexico Tech has asked for bids for a new insurance provider to compare with the University’s current benefit plan. The current plan has 715 enrollees with an average age of 47 years. Twenty-five percent of all enrollees are retirees who are paying between 35 percent and 60 percent of premiums. Twelve employees with serious medical issues account for between 15 percent and 20 percent of the total plan coverage costs. The current plan is comprised of two self-insured programs. Marquez said that whether or not to break it out into three plans is under consideration. Premiums increased last year by an average of 20 percent, which no one was happy about. Marquez said his goal is to acquire a different carrier and have a minimal, if any, premium increase. If the University stays with its current plan, it would mean another 20 percent increase. JoAnn Salome, Director of Human Resources said the issue is very complex, and that the University has tried to make adjustments to keep costs down. “Our budget can’t keep up with rising costs in treatments and air ambulance service,” she said. Another issue is to cover faculty and staff on international travel. Two presentations were delivered on campus to the committee chaired by Bruce Harrison. From a pool of five company proposals, two were invited back, and the committee is considering a third plan offered through the New Mexico public schools. The Benefits Fair usually held in November has been postponed until January 2012 to allow additional time to provide relevant information, Salome said.
Providing adequate coverage at an affordable cost is the first challenge, said President López. Second: “I don’t believe that over the long haul, you can keep the same coverage at the same cost,” he said. “It’s not an easy decision, no matter what.” In reply to a question, Marquez said NMSU was self-insured, and it was a real challenge when they changed plans. If Tech buys a new plan, it could negotiate coverages; otherwise, there is no agreed-upon standard coverage. Chairman Carpenter noted that how the process works out will be very important. A presentation will be given soon to the Council of Chairs. Regent Armijo then moved that the meeting of the Benefit Trust adjourn and that the board meeting reconvene at 3:13 p.m.
14. Possible Executive Session NMSA 1978, Sec. 10-15-1 (H)(2) (If Required to Consider Legal and/or Personnel Issues. Regent Armijo moved to adjourn the board meeting for an executive session. Regent Peacock seconded the motion, and on a roll call vote, the motion passed unanimously. The board then went into executive session at 3:15 p.m., and voted to reconvene at 3:53 p.m., again on a motion and second by Regents Armijo and Peacock. Chairman Carpenter announced that the board had discussed personnel issues, and that no final action had been taken. Regent Silver then moved to adjourn the meeting. Regent Solimon seconded the motion, and with a unanimous vote, the meeting was adjourned at 3:54 p.m.
15. Adjournment: There being no further business to come before the board, Chairman Carpenter adjourned the meeting at 3:54 p.m.