NMSU student leaders press to keep Carruthers

August 25, 2017 GMT

New Mexico State University’s student leaders say they want Chancellor Garrey Carruthers to stay on the job, urging the school’s regents to reconsider a decision not to renew his contract beyond June.

“We ask the regents to strongly consider extending his contract until 2020,” student government President Kevin Prieto and Vice President Emerson Morrow said in a joint statement Thursday.

The comments came a day after Carruthers, a former governor of New Mexico, signaled he was not abandoning the top job at the Las Cruces campus but is being pushed out as his five-year term ends. He said he would still like to serve as chancellor for another two years.

With calls mounting for the school’s leaders to keep Carruthers, the regents are expected to discuss his retirement at a meeting Wednesday. But whether they will change course and ask him to stay at the school remains unclear, part of the public mystery surrounding a potential change of leadership at New Mexico State, a major research university with an enrollment of more than 25,000 students.

Carruthers announced earlier this month that he planned to retire when his contract expires at the end of June. But in recent weeks, Carruthers also has said he would be willing to stay in the post for another couple of years. The remarks stirred statements of support from state legislators, who lauded Carruthers for bringing stability to the school as its longest-serving chancellor in the last two decades and guiding it through the state’s fiscal crisis.

Until this week, neither Carruthers, 77, nor anyone else had fully explained why he said he planned to retire if he also hoped to remain chancellor. Carruthers issued a five-paragraph statement Wednesday that said he only announced his retirement after regents said they did not intend to extend his contract.

Some Democratic legislators have charged that Gov. Susana Martinez is trying to run off Carruthers, an occasional critic, despite relatively broad support for her fellow Republican staying put.

The statement by leaders of the Associated Students of New Mexico State University on Thursday was just the latest appeal to regents.

Prieto and Morrow wrote that Carruthers had won respect from legislators, community members, faculty and students.

“Chancellor Carruthers is a valued member of the NMSU community who has led us through difficult times while continuing to encourage student achievement and discovery,” their statement said. “With an over 10 percent increase in freshman enrollment, it seems that NMSU is turning the corner, but there is still much work to be done.”

Chairwoman Debra Hicks, who was appointed by Martinez in 2014, said Thursday that she expects the five-member board of regents will discuss Carruthers’ retirement letter in a closed-door session at its regular meeting Wednesday.

But when asked whether she would support extending his contract, Hicks declined to discuss the matter, maintaining it would be inappropriate to comment outside the meeting.

Contact Andrew Oxford at 505-986-3093 or aoxford@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @andrewboxford.