NMSU regents vote to replace Carruthers
Board acts despite widespread support for current leader
LAS CRUCES — The New Mexico State University Board of Regents voted Wednesday to move forward with the search to replace Chancellor Garrey Carruthers despite widespread support from university faculty, staff, students and state lawmakers.
Carruthers, 78, said earlier he would be willing to stay on another two years. In an interview after the meeting, he said he was thankful for the show of support.
“I could have retired a long time ago,” he said. “I love this place. I love the students. I really, really enjoy this job.”
Four of the five regents voted in favor of searching for a new chancellor with Margie Vela abstaining.
“I believe we have an opportunity to build on a strong foundation,” said Regent Mike Cheney, who supported replacing Carruthers.
Half a dozen speakers at the meeting told regents the stability the chancellor brought to the university was critical during tumultuous times and funding cuts for higher education.
Larry Allen, a member of the NMSU Foundation, said Carruthers was key to fundraising efforts at NMSU, including the $125 million “Ignite Aggie Discovery” campaign.
“He is one of the few people in the country that can knock on any door of any executive and be admitted,” he said.
Allen read a letter from the NMSU Foundation’s executive board urging the regents to extend Carruthers’ contract for an additional two years. His current contract ends next spring.
William Jones, a student senator, told regents that student leaders are concerned about the number of presidents in recent years, five in the past decade.
“I think we should hang on to Garrey Carruthers as long as possible,” he said.
But the regents rejected Carruthers’ offer to stay two more years.
“The board has expressed ongoing concern about significant enrollment lost,” said Regents Chairwoman Debra Hicks, noting enrollment is down 27 percent, three times as much as at the University of New Mexico.
Carruthers, who has served as chancellor since 2013, announced he planned to retire July 2018, triggering the search for a replacement. The chancellor said he made the decision after regents told him they would not extend his contract, which expires next spring.
But he also said he would “welcome the opportunity to serve another two years.” A bipartisan group of state lawmakers was among those who supported the idea.
“If you ever wanted a vote of confidence, I got it,” Carruthers said. “I got it from a whole lot of people and so I’m walking away feeling very good about what we were able to accomplish at this university and will continue to accomplish once we find out what the next person wants to do.”
Some critics have questioned whether the decision not to extend Carruthers’ contract was based on politics rather than job performance.
Peter Goodwin, a NMSU alum and community radio host who spoke in favor of keeping Carruthers, asked regents if there was a “plan to put somebody else, another governor, in his place?”
“Nothing could be further from the truth, that there’s any political intervention in the process,” said Regent Kari Mitchell, who also voted against keeping Carruthers on for another two years.
“I don’t know her (Gov. Susana Martinez’s) background in its entirety, but I can’t foresee or fathom a scenario where she would even meet the qualifications, and she herself has been on record saying she’s not going to do it, so I don’t understand where this stuff comes from,” Mitchell said.
Martinez has said she is not interested in applying for the position.
Jerean Camúñez Hutchinson was the fourth regent who voted against extending Carruthers’ contract.