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Public reacts to DACC president's retirement announcement

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Jan 14 2014 09:06:47 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Vina reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

The public is speaking up after the third administrator within the New Mexico State University system announced her intent to leave.

Those in support of, as well as those against, embattled Dona Ana Community College President Dr. Margie Huerta made their arguments before the NMSU Board of Regents during their regular meeting on Friday.

"I'm not sure if you guys know this but I was supposed to be pinned as a nurse today and I'm supposed to do that with 24 of my best friends and colleagues," former DACC nursing student Brittany Barham told the board during public comment.

It was a very emotional morning inside the Regent's Meeting Room.

"One program has had problems. It is a bump in the road. It is something that will be corrected and that the community college and the university will be the better for that bump," said former DACC president Dr. Patricio Quintana.

"I'm here to say thank you Dr. Huerta. It's been an honor and privilege for me to work at DACC," said Jose Aranda, an assistant professor at DACC.

On Thursday NMSU announced Huerta's intent to retire on Jan. 31, 2014.

"I think it was the right decision for her and I was, I would never say pleased, but I was willing to accept her retirement letter on the basis of her request," NMSU interim president Dr. Manuel Pacheco told ABC-7.

Even after that, some feel it's just not enough.

"It doesn't seem fair or right that she is being given another year of salary and benefits and given the soft exit of retirement," said Earl Nissen, an adjunct professor at DACC.

Kristina Polanco, a former DACC nursing student, said she's living out of her car because she is unable to afford the cost difference after transferring to NMSU.

"I still won't even be graduated by the time President Huerta retires, and I was supposed to graduate tomorrow," Polanco told ABC-7.

The university did offer scholarships for tuition to students transferring from DACC but for some, like Polanco, the cost of equipment, books and other fees still causes a significant strain.

After the meeting Huerta broke into tears, hugging some of her supporters.

Our New Mexico Mobile Newsroom caught up with Huerta as she walked out, but she wouldn't say anything about her decision to retire.

"I appreciate them and I love our faculty and our staff and our students and the community as well," Huerta told ABC-7.

Pacheco said Huerta will continue to report to him in the upcoming year. He said he will begin the search for her replacement after the winter break. 
 

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