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NMSU faculty respond to president's leave of absence

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Sep 27 2012 09:57:34 AM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 11:51:02 AM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Viña reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

New Mexico State University faculty members told ABC-7 there's a huge lack of transparency on campus.

Many of them said they hadn't been told any details about President Barbara Couture's abrupt leave of absence. In fact, some say they first heard about it from local media.

Knocks on the president's front door went unanswered. It seemed no one had been there for days, with newspapers stacking up outside.

On campus, faculty and staff are just wondering what's going on.

A source close to the university told ABC-7 that Couture has been placed on leave and will likely be out of a job soon. No one at the university is saying anything, and it's leaving faculty and staff in the dark.

"It's deeply frustrating. It's deeply demoralizing because again we aren't given the respect and the courtesy to know what's going on with our boss and the ramifications
that trickle down from that," said Julie Rice, a sociology professor at NMSU.

Our source said low faculty morale is just one of the reasons why Couture could be out.

For several years, faculty and staff didn't get pay raises.

Even with the latest raise, Rice said the faculty's salaries are still far below the national average.

Rice told ABC-7 that's not the biggest issue for her.

"I know I'm not going to make a lot of money here at NMSU. The things that concern me more is just this lack of stability, this lack of transparency, which ultimately inhibit my ability on several levels to effectively do my job," Rice said.

Even the chairman of the faculty Senate said he doesn't know any details about the president's leave of absence.

Rice said the university needs to bring in a president who will stick around and make positive changes.

"It would be nice to get some stability here so that we can do our jobs and do our jobs as best as we can," Rice said.

The university released a brief statement on Wednesday stating Provost Wendy Wilkins will take over President Couture's responsibilities while she is on leave.

Our source said Couture could be out of her position permanently as soon as this weekend.

More details may be released soon. On Monday, the Board of Regents is holding a closed session to discuss personnel and legal matters. Then they will hold a special open meeting at 3 p.m.

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