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University of New Mexico president vows more transparency

September 17, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The president of New Mexico’s flagship university promised Monday to adopt further reforms amid an investigation into the school’s athletic program and criticism over how regents voted to cut some sports.

In her first annual state of the university address, University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes said she would work to make the school more transparent and pointed out that she has created a search committee to make hires for key administrative positions. The new administrators in finance and the school’s legal team will help guide improvements in transparency, she said.

But Stokes avoided directly mentioning the New Mexico Attorney General Office’s investigation into the school’s athletic program or the recent cutting of soccer.

She acknowledged, however, that the university “faces continuous scrutiny from many corners” and said she has learned a lot about New Mexico following a statewide tour.

Earlier this month, the attorney general’s office said the University of New Mexico sought to actively hide information from journalists seeking information about questionable spending by the athletics department and the contentious decision to cut some sports.

Assistant Attorney General Dylan K. Lange wrote in the report that the numerous violations centered on the state’s Open Meetings Act and the Inspection of Public Records Act.

In her first 200 days in office, Stokes also has wrestled with criticism from state lawmakers, city leaders and others for a decision to cut some sports teams as part of an effort to rein in spending within the troubled athletics department.

Despite an outcry from soccer fans and some lawmakers, Stokes endorsed a plan by the school’s athletic director to cut soccer and other sports.

Stokes told an audience on Monday after the tough decision over the summer, “I could no longer consider myself your new president.”

With its main campus in Albuquerque, the University of New Mexico serves close to 25,000 students. In recent years, the school, like others in New Mexico, has seen an enrollment decline. It also remains near the bottom of some lists on salaries for professors.

Stokes blamed the enrollment drop partly on the overall backlash universities are facing.

Stokes also said she has formed advisory committees to offer recommendations on various subjects from ethics to engaging with Native American tribes to how to make school a more welcoming place.

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Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

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