Acting President Abdallah Hosts Town Hall Meetings

To submit a question to be answered during an upcoming town hall, email President Abdallah at unmpres@unm.edu.  View the entire list of question topics and responses at the bottom of this page.


View the recording from the March 28, 2017 town hall:


View the recording from the February 13, 2017 town hall:


Below are responses to questions and topics that were submitted to President Abdallah.  Don't see your question? Send an email to unmpres@unm.edu!

Updated 4/25/17

Q:  It’s been too long since faculty and staff have received compensation increases.  What does the administration plan to do to address this?

A: I understand and appreciate your, and many of your colleagues, concern that we have not been successful in providing across the board cost of living adjustments at a consistent rate over the past several years.  It is important to recognize that, despite the very challenging fiscal environment of the past several years, UNM has endeavored to provide some form of compensation increases or cost savings to support our faculty and staff.  The details for the past several years are below: 

  • 2016-17: $550 one-time increase to faculty/staff earning less than $100k and $200 medical plan discount for participating in a preventative health checkup
  • 2015-16: One-month health premium ”holiday” (savings range from ~$100 - ~$600, depending on plan)
  • 2014-15: 3% faculty increase, 2.5% staff increase
  • 2013-14: 3% faculty increase, 1% staff increase and $1,000 one-time increase for staff
  • 2012-13: $1,100 one-time increase to faculty and staff

This is an area of concern, and one that we consistently try and identify opportunities to address.  With the combination of state funding cuts, declining enrollments, and increases in fixed costs (such as healthcare and utilities), it is unlikely that there will be funding for compensation increases in the FY18 budget.  This is also why I believe we need to revisit our financial model and look for revenues beyond the state/tuition sources.

Q:  I have become more and more concerned about our time we get during winter break. It seems as if it is shortened every year. I would like to know why days are taken away from us year after year.

A:  As you know, the actual timing of winter break shifts from year to year, based on the schedule for commencement and the day of the week of Christmas and New Year’s.  A look at days off for the past several years shows that the length of winter break has remained relatively consistent from year to year, aside from small changes due to the timing of Christmas and New Year’s.

  • 2017-18: 7 days
  • 2016-17: 7 days
  • 2015-16:  8 days
  • 2014-15: 8 days
  • 2013-14: 8 days
  • 2012-13: 7 days
  • 2011-12: 7 days
  • 2010-11: 7 days'

I was able to add one more day for Christmas/New Year’s break for the 2018-19 year.

Q: I was wondering if a retirement incentive is being considered as part of the budget tightening?

A: We continue to study this option, but at this time we are not planning to offer a retirement incentive.

Q: While we do indeed have a very generous annual leave policy here at UNM, has there been any thought given to granting additional annual days or time off to employees in lieu of salary increases? 

A: I am proud that a great benefit UNM offers its staff is a generous leave program.  In fact, regular employees earn more than nine weeks of paid time off each year, between annual leave, sick leave, and university holidays.  As an example, I was able to add one more day for the Christmas break for next year.  We will take these suggestions under consideration as our planning efforts proceed.

Q: Since my husband and I came to work at UNM five years ago, we have never been able to enjoy a proper Spring Break because the UNM and APS break schedules do not align. If I were able to attend the Town Hall, I would ask why this is and what can be done to align the UNM and APS schedules ASAP.  I hope that you can see how unnecessarily difficult this situation is and will work to align the UNM and APS schedules quickly.

A: A few years ago, UNM moved our spring break to align with APS. However, when APS started PARCC testing, they moved their break to accommodate their testing schedule so we were once again out of sync. We set our dates for many years at a time to aid programs that must plan in advance, while APS tends to make shorter-term decisions regarding their calendar.  I have learned from our enrollment management, that moving our break to APS’s later date would cause problems for mid-term exams and 8-week courses because it does not break the semester nearly in half, but there may also be other concerns.  I continue to look into this possibility, but given the constraints on scheduling for these two large organizations (APS & UNM), this is a very difficult arrangement to promise.

Q: Why was Garrett Adcock selected as student regent, instead of the candidates that were vetted by GPSA? 

A: Consistent with past practice and the requirements of the NM constitution, I submitted a list of student regent nominees for consideration by the Governor.  My nominations included a broad range of UNM students, including all of those recommended by the ASUNM and GPSA student governments, and all of whom we believe would have excelled serving in this critical position.  The Governor's selection, Garrett Adcock, possesses an exemplary academic and extra-curricular record of achievement, and we are excited to begin working with him as a member of our board of regents. 

Q: Can you please address the institutional perspective on flex time? I find myself accruing plenty of flex time, but feeling as though I should at least be entitled to 1.5 time in either flex or overtime compensation.

A: The use of compensatory time is governed by University Administrative Policy 3310.  For non-exempt employees, they earn compensatory time off at the same rate as overtime, or 1.5 hours for each hour worked.  Exempt employees do not accrue compensatory time – see the excerpt below from policy 331 (full policy is available here: http://policy.unm.edu/university-policies/3000/3310.html)

"Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempt employees are paid a regular salary and are not paid based on the number of hours worked. Exempt employees are hired to get the job done and at times may need to work beyond their usual schedule. Exempt employees are given the flexibility to exercise judgment both in how and when the work is done. A greater emphasis is placed on meeting the responsibilities of the position rather than on working a specific number of hours. They are expected to meet operational needs and are evaluated on results achieved. Therefore, exempt employees do not accrue compensatory time.

However, supervisors may allow an exempt employee paid time off when it is recognized that the exempt employee has worked a significant amount of time beyond the normal work schedule to perform specific job requirements. Any time off under the circumstances described above shall be determined mutually by the supervisor and employee. An exempt employee may not use this time off for absences when the employee is paid for work performed outside the employee's regular work unit or outside the University; the employee must use annual leave for such absences.

Supervisors will administer compensatory time in a fair and reasonable manner. An exempt employee is responsible for ensuring procedural compliance with this policy and adequate documentation of absences. Exempt employees separating from the University will not be paid for any unused compensatory time and are not eligible to extend their separation date to use such time off."

Q: What is the status of the new UNM Hospital plan and projected timetable moving forward? 

A: We are completing the first phase of architectural planning for a full replacement facility.  We expect to present the entire project at the May or June Regents meeting where we hope to get approval to move forward with the detailed design of the first phase.  The initial phase will take about 1 year to complete, with broad faculty and hospital staff involvement.  More information will be forthcoming as the design develops.

Q: Is UNM partnering with other universities to formulate a consolidated response to President Trump’s recent executive order related to immigration?

A: UNM has signed on to efforts being coordinated by many of the national organizations of which we are members in their response to this issue, including the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU).  We also continue to coordinate with other universities (through our University Council) to keep informed and aware of what is legally doable.

Q: Is UNM’s hiring freeze expected to continue through 2017? What other cutbacks can employees expect as a result of New Mexico’s continued budget crisis?

A: All open positions, both new and replacement, are being reviewed rigorously to determine if they must be filled immediately or postponed.  The hiring freeze will likely continue through FY18.

Because our budget is reduced, the Regents and I are going to have to make some difficult decisions.  The Budget Leadership Team worked to create a list of recommendations for the president, to assist in making these difficult decisions.  These recommendations include reductions in expenses such as food, travel, overhead, cell phones, and the amount of the sick leave buy-back.  The recommendations also include a tuition increase, as well as initiatives meant to increase revenues. At this time, these are only recommendations.  No decisions have been made.

There is no hiring freeze at the HSC but there is a careful review of all hiring requests.  At this time the HSC is not considering cutbacks in programs or staffing.

Q: What does ONE UNM mean to you as it relates to the HSC?

A: UNM is made up of a vast array of highly valuable programs.  Overall, there are three general components to UNM – the main campus and its excellent academic and scientific programs, the athletics department, which is supported not only by our campus, but also by fans throughout the state, and the HSC with its local and nationally acclaimed programs.  Each one is different but together they make up our flagship “One UNM”.   My view is that the university is like the union, with its different parts operating as states; each is different, but together they form a country.

Q: Under the last president, the university hired an independent committee to compare the wages of male and female staff in similar positions. This brought to light a difference in pay, and subsequently, approximately 40% of women had an increase in their wages. UNM Hospitals, however, continues to have a significant pay difference between men and women. When will this issue of gender inequality be addressed at the hospital?

A: Most employees at UNM Hospital are in the union and their wages are based on the market wage for the specific position.  All the positions are on steps scales with movement within the steps being based on seniority.  UNM Hospital studies all the positions and has not identified where there is a pay discrepancy between male and female employees.  If one is identified, the hospital will respond appropriately.

Additionally, it’s important to note, UNM Hospital and the HSC have women in various leadership and management positions, including deans, director of ambulatory care, chief nursing officer, director of risk management, chief medical officer, director of compliance, privacy officer, and executive vice dean and CEO at SRMC.

Q: Why do the LoboAlerts "alert" us hours after the incident took place?

A: In accordance with the Federal Clery Act, UNM is required to provide either an “alert” or an “advisory” when an incident is reported on or around campus that may pose an ongoing threat to others.  And, because we often do not know an incident has potentially taken place until it is reported (sometimes hours or days after it occurred), the best we can do to fulfill our federal reporting obligation, is to issue an alert once the incident is reported, regardless of when it actually occurred.

Q: Can they elaborate on what former President Robert Frank will be doing on the HCS-side?

A: During his term as President, Dr. Frank held a dual appointment as a Full Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Family and Community Medicine.  He is assuming that position full time and will also be directing a new Center for Health and Education Innovation within the College of Population Health, effective June 1st.

Q:  Will UNM sign the MOU with Bernalillo County that addresses the Hospital Mill Levy and support Pathways to a Healthy Bernalillo County?  Could you speak to the timeline for finalizing the MOU between UNM and the County for the mill levy funds that support our public hospital and will the MOU include a $2 million per year allotment for the Pathways to a Healthy Bernalillo County program, which the County and many residents favor?

A: Short answer is “Yes”, we will sign an MOU with the County.  We are working out the details with the County Administration and with the Indian Health Service.  Once these discussions are completed, the MOU will go to the Indian Health Service leadership and the UNM and County governance for approval.   Steve will probably have something more to say about this too.

UNM is negotiating in good faith with Bernalillo County and the Indian Health Service on a MOU.  UNM will respond to the requests from the County and the Indian Health Service for program enhancements, to the extent there are sufficient resources and the programs are consistent with the mission of the hospital and the lease.

Q: I hear everyone talking about sanctuary cities and making illegal aliens comfortable… however, I have not heard anyone talking about teaching and training the illegals the “how to” to become a citizen…so they won’t be illegal!!  Why wouldn’t this be a high priority?

A: As a matter of fact, we have been working with the Law School and other legal services agencies in town, so that clinics have a good list of resources for patients with who inquire as to these services.   This is part of a larger program we have, to provide information on legal services available in the community and also as part of our patient-centered medical home model.

Q: What do you see as fiscal conflicts between the HSC and main campus? The bulk of the revenue to the HSC comes from patient care services provided by the hospital and the faculty, while main campus depends on state revenue which may be declining.  Do you think it is ethically acceptable for a university, that claims to fear further budget cuts, to still have extensive and expensive sports programs and overpaid coaches when the mission of a university is education and research?

A: I do not view this in terms of fiscal conflicts.  Each component of our university, be it the main campus, HSC, Athletics, or even an individual college or school or auxiliary unit, is facing fiscal challenges and uncertainty.  Be it declining state support, as you mention, or declining enrollment, pressures on federal research budgets, changes in Medicaid, or modifications to hospital taxation, this is a critical time for the future of our university and one that will require the collective efforts from all areas of campus to work together and move our institution forward.  

What you may consider “expensive and unnecessary” is someone else’s link to the university.  As president, I try to prioritize, given the fiscal constraints, the various expenditures at the university and the impact of its various programs.  To many of the state’s citizens, the Department of Athletics is their window into UNM, and while I hope for Athletics to become self-sufficient, the fact is that it is a vital part of large public American universities.  The question in my mind is, how do we leverage the success of an athletic program to generate funds for the academic mission? The answer is an on-going effort that is already bearing fruit, with large donors to the university.

Education, research and service are all parts of the mission of the university.  Athletics falls under service, as well as some education.  All are important components that make up the whole that is UNM.  In addition to service and entertainment, athletic programs provide education, scholarships and even research. Moreover, support for athletics, according to surveys we conduct, often spills over into support for other university functions.  Please understand that athletics is also undergoing budget cuts, along with the rest of the university. 

Q: What is the future of TENURE at UNM?

A: Since I was appointed Provost, and continuing in my current appointment, upholding and strengthening the academic mission of our university has been my primary goal.  Tenured and tenure-track faculty are the bedrock of a public research university, and are critical to our success moving forward.  Even in these challenging budget times, we continue to invest funds to support the tenure and promotion of our faculty.  Unlike many of our peers, we have maintained a healthy balance between tenured and non-tenure track faculty and have recently provided career paths and more funding for the long-term lecturer ranks.  There are new models elsewhere that consider a ½ time appointment with tenure and I am watching how those develop.

Q: Across numerous cases, the Supreme Court has outlined exceptions to the freedom of speech, such as obscenities, false statements of fact, and fighting words. What types of speech do you acknowledge as unprotected by the First Amendment, and how will you identify this speech and prevent it from interfering with the mission of the University? 

A: The University of New Mexico has developed policies that describe the type of speech that is permitted and that which is prohibited on campus, in particular, see UAP 2220 Freedom of Expression and Dissent (where enforcement is discussed) and UAP 2240 Policy 2240: Respectful Campus. The context in which speech occurs is an important part of determining if it has First Amendment protections and therefore it is difficult to make an exhaustive list beyond the examples you give of unprotected speech.

The university does not endorse specific speeches or speakers.  However, in my view, it must remain as an open forum today, as it was historically, for example, during the 1970s, to allow for a multitude of views within the bounds allowed by law. Someone’s judgment of what constitutes unacceptable speech must be carefully weighed against the real possibility that someone else, when in a position of deciding, will find the speech of the first person unacceptable and censor it.  It is the university’s responsibility to uphold freedom of speech, to prevent censorship, while staying within the boundaries of the law. 

Q: What security measures are being taken to increase safety of the students and staff on campus in light of the recent murder of Juan Romero (UNM student) and the weapon pulled on another student?

A: We take student safety very seriously, and are constantly working to enhance the protections and assistance we provide.   We share your concern regarding recent events on or near our campus.

As an urban campus, the challenges are considerable but our campus police do an admirable job. UNM Police work closely with the Albuquerque Police Department to ensure coverage of areas on the perimeter of campus. If a crime occurs outside of our campus, APD is responsible for the investigation.

When there is an incident on campus that presents an on-going safety concern, the information is sent out via messaging alerts as soon as the event is confirmed by campus police.  

We have an escort service that students may use, and we have recently introduced the LoboGuardian app to enhance students’ safety (http://news.unm.edu/news/unm-ramps-up-campus-safety-with-loboguardian).  We are constantly working to enhance campus safety.

In accord with Federal regulations, we publish an annual report of specific types of crimes that occur on our campus and our many safety policies and programs: https://police.unm.edu/files/DDF/2016CleryReport.pdf

Q: I support capital projects, I can’t wait for the North Campus Gym to open, but WHY isn’t there a balance when it comes to capital projects/human capital? UNM spends hundreds of millions of dollars on these projects, yet when it comes to scraping together a few million for staff raises, oh we’re in a budget crisis?

A: Though this is a frequently made suggestion, the sources of funding for capital project funding and human capital are very different.  Most of our capital projects heavily leverage state bond funding and/or institutional bond funding, which are funding sources that may only be spent on capital projects, since they are a one-time funding source.

Q: Do you think it’s fair that administrators who are earning over $100,000 pay the same amount for benefits than employees earning $50,000 to $80,000? Has another benefits tier ever been considered?

A: The design of our benefits plan is continuously evaluated.  UNM’s Human Resources department has reviewed possible modifications to the tiered contribution structure, such as adding a fourth tier for higher paid employees, or eliminating the tiers altogether and basing charges on a percentage of salary, but has not recommended changes based on those evaluations.

Q: Can UNM increase the second salary tier for health insurance from $35,000 - $49,999 to $35,000 - $59,999? 

A: Based on a quick review of existing staff and their contribution – this change would affect about 750 employees and increase UNM’s annual cost by almost $675,000.  Although, this may not seem significant, it is difficult to imagine funding this increase when UNM is already anticipating a decrease in funding for FY18.  However, in an effort to minimize the premium increases, UNM has instead opted to provide employees with opportunities to offset increases through a wellness incentive. For FY17, a $200 premium discount was offered to participating employees, and for FY18 it will be expanded to offer an additional $100 premium discount for participating spouses/partners.  We are hopeful that this program will assist UNM in identifying disease states so that appropriate wellness programs can be developed for a healthier UNM population and a reduction in overall health plan costs.  

Q: Can a fourth salary tier be developed to increase premium contributions for higher compensated employees?

A: Often, this question is proposed so that the lowest paid employees (first tier earning below $35,000) can contribute less than they are currently paying. In this regard, NM State Statute, indicates that employers may contribute no more than 80% to an employee’s health insurance.  This is the amount (80%) that UNM already contributes for the first salary tier so no adjustment can be made.  Additionally, in 2015, Aon (UNM’s benefit consultant) completed a study comparing the value of UNM’s benefits to approximately 20 peers.  This review showed the benefits offered by UNM are comparable/competitive to peers.  However, the study also showed that UNM’s contribution is lower than some of the peers. Requiring UNM employees to contribute more for benefits (even if only those above $100,000, as an example) would further reduce UNM’s competitiveness for recruitment purposes. UNM has approximately 1,100 employees on the UNM Health Plan earning above $100,000 of the 1,100 – over 900 are faculty/clinical faculty that are often highly sought after and already difficult to recruit.  When we recently looked at non-faculty positions (those include deans) earning more than $100,000 per year, the number on main campus was around 65. 

Q: Should we be concerned about the solvency of the ERB at this point in time?

A: I hope not, since I am also counting on the ERB for my later years!  We are not aware of changes to the health of the ERB that would present concerns regarding solvency.

Q: I would like to ask the University if it is willing to commit to establishing a multi-disciplinary teach-in series, open to the entire community, examining the roots of hatred and how we learn to hate, and to analyze and explain the artificial constructs that are used to induce the various phobias and isms.

A: I think this is an excellent idea, and will discuss this with the Provost and Chancellor.  I will update the campus community on this issue soon.

Q: The relationship of our past few presidents with the board of regents seems to have been fairly strained.  How is the board working to improve their relationship with a new president when they find one?  What is, in your opinion, may be contributing to these relationship issues?

A: While I cannot speak to any specifics regarding the past few presidents, I am working hard to develop and maintain strong working relationships with our board.  I believe this starts with open and frank communication.  I communicate with the board regularly, through its president, about university issues.  The executive team (myself, provost, chancellor, and EVP of administration) meet regularly with board leadership, to ensure open and effective two-way communication. 

While I share my views with the board in private, at times, we are not in agreement.  We often have differing opinions on many major issues.  I try to remind them that they should have their “noses in but their fingers out.” Every board member comes into the position with pre-conceived notions and ideas based on their prior professional experiences, but the more they become acquainted with the campus and its diverse needs and constituents, the more they migrate into the role of advocates and governors.

Q: Is the University considering temporary salary reductions for employees earning 6 figures? It was once proposed that these reductions be 5% for one year; quick calculations show that even a 1% reduction in overall salaries would save the College of Arts & Sciences over half a million dollars. Perhaps 3% would be more reasonable, as long as retirement benefits and service credit hours remain fixed at the levels they were prior to the temporary pay reduction?

A: Because the university’s budget is reduced, we are going to have to make some difficult decisions. The Budget Leadership Team has submitted recommendations and we are considering all options.  We appreciate your suggestion, but at this time, no decisions have been made.

Q: I would like to propose that all staff (most of whom earn under $100K) be given the option of taking 1-2 unpaid furlough days per pay period (providing coverage can be assigned and supervisor approval is obtained). This would not only save approximately 10 - 20% in staff salaries, it could also improve the morale of UNM staff — especially if this were an optional choice and the furlough days were flexible to fit their needs.

A: Because the university’s budget is reduced, we are going to have to make some difficult decisions. The Budget Leadership Team has submitted recommendations and we are considering all options.  We appreciate your suggestion, but unpaid furloughs are controversial at best, and at this time, no decisions have been made.

Q: What other specific strategies, other than the new required training, is the university putting into place to prevent sexual assault?
A: This is something that is happening at universities around the country and it is time to change the culture of campuses so that it stops.  Please refer to Policy 2740: Sexual Violence and Sexual Misconduct, where there is extensive information on this topic.  You can also go to the Sexual Misconduct and Assault Response Team (SMART) website, where you can find information about our continuing efforts, as well as resources and services.

Q: Do we have exact information for what the Milo Yiannopoulos cost the university in security fees? Where did the money come from? (Tuition, taxes, etc.).  How does university security determine the intensity of their response to an event? For example, how do they determine when to bring in riot cops?

A: As I mentioned in March’s Town Hall, we do not have specific information about the security costs for the Milo Yiannopoulos event.  My guess is that it cost us a lot of money to keep our campus safe.  However, that was my main focus for the event, to keep all those who attended and demonstrated safe and I am so relieved to know we accomplished this and weren’t faced with some of the violent situations that occurred on other campuses.  

This situation will likely be replayed when other controversial speakers are invited to speak on our campus.  I encourage the various student organizations and their advisors to be mindful of the cost vs benefit in their choice of speakers.

Q: The HSC often does not follow UNM Policies and Procedures which can cause difficulties for staff and in some cases working environment, how can we bring the gap from North Campus to Main Campus?

A: While I am unaware of any specific concerns, this is an ongoing effort and is something that will take time.  We have made great progress so far, and will continue to unify the practices of the two campuses as much as possible, while still making decisions that increase efficiencies and respect the different needs. If you have a specific concern, I encourage you to raise it through the appropriate channels (Compliance Hotline, HR, etc).

Q: Coming from another University, I have been surprised by the lack of benefits for staff, ie. discounts at bookstore, campus eateries, parking, etc. These small morale boosts may help counterbalance, to some extent, the other sacrifices staff are making. I would encourage you to think of ways to improve staff morale, especially if you are unable to address greater concerns regarding pay and staffing. Additional items could include free access to the gym and classes for staff and families, appreciation events during student breaks, etc.

A: I couldn’t agree with you more.  Staff are making sacrifices that will benefit the university long-term.  There are many perks to working at UNM, from discounted tickets to athletic events and Popejoy (https://hr.unm.edu/benefits/discounted-tickets), to discounts at numerous businesses (https://loboperks.unm.edu).  Employees can also use tuition remission to take classes or purchase a WOW (World of Wellness) Pass, which gives them access to Johnson Gym and classes.  If you have specific ideas based on your prior experience, please forward them to my attention.

Q: You mentioned that you assume staff were uninterested in staff council meetings because of low attendance. I would counter that, should you want participation in the end result (meetings), you should elicit participation in the scheduling. My office, for example, has required walk-in hours from 1-3 and thus I cannot be gone from the office at all during those times. My assumption is that many other people are unable or unwilling to sacrifice their lunch hour. There may be a time that would fit more staff members’ schedules, and I would encourage you to engage our input. Perhaps you could address staff supervisors as well, and help them know that it is a priority that we find time to attend these meeting.

A: I do not recall saying that staff were “uninterested” but rather I was making the point that during the first town hall, low attendance could have been due to folks either not having specific concerns, or feeling it is not productive to attend.  The most recent Town Hall, on March 28th, was streamed through Facebook Live, which allowed employees to watch it live at the UNM Facebook page without the need to leave their offices.  It was also highly attended, since we gave ourselves ample time to promote it properly.  We will continue to look for new ways to increase attendance. 

Q: With the limited resources UNM staff has regarding financial and budget decision making, what course of NEW action(s), would you recommend UNM staff take to affect the “purse” string dilemma? 

A: The main financial challenges are neither new nor short-term.  There are short-term actions that we are taking to address today’s concerns, such as using centralized services, IT reorganization, etc.   

Staff should continue the ongoing efforts that have been implemented over the last year or so.  The good news is, it is working, slowly but surely.  When someone leaves the university due to attrition, step up and volunteer to take on additional tasks for extra pay, when possible, in order to reduce costs.  I was challenged during the public forum, when I described this approach, so I have since asked HR to provide implementation guidelines, which will be released in the next couple of weeks.   Make purchases through LoboMart, where prices have been negotiated.  These are just two examples, but the big message here is to continue doing what you are doing to shrink the financial imprint of the university so that we can deal with budget reductions.  Every little bit counts. 

Please continue sending me your ideas.  I appreciate it!

Over the course of the next year, we are going to start reimagining and reengineering the university to be more able to withstand fiscally challenging times, such as we are experiencing in our state. 

Q: How can staff feel more empowered regarding the financial decision making process?  Is greater staff attendance and input at Town Hall meetings the best way to affect financial decision making?

A: I touched on this in the previous question.  Please continue to attend the Town Hall meetings.  Your insights, questions, concerns and ideas are welcome and I look forward to continuing our dialogue. All I can do is present the challenges in a very transparent way, but I cannot solve them without your help and input.  At the same time, please understand that the university is not a monolith and the “answers” are not always easy, as they impact other parts of the university.  Simply eliminating programs that are “non-essential“ may lead to a bigger loss and impact on the university and its constituents.

Q: What are the average equivalents, in terms of staff positions, faculty positions, and/or raises of a million dollars in new debt?  We all realize that there are many variables that make exact estimates difficult, but we'll be satisfied to hear averages with ranges.

A: Using data from the recently completed 2017 bond issue, the bond generated $46.65M in construction proceeds and requires $2.66M in annual debt service payments.  Or, each $1M of proceeds requires about $60k in annual debt service.  If the student fee increase for this debt obligation had been directed to faculty/staff, here are the equivalents:

  • The average staff salary, with benefits, is about $65k
  • The average faculty salary, with benefits, is about $107k
  • A 1% compensation increase for faculty (I&G only) is $1.3M
  • A 1% compensation increase for staff (I&G only) is $1.1M
  • Here are a few equivalents that highlight the possible trade-offs you suggest:
    • Debt service for $1M of debt could cover 92% of one staff FTE, or 56% of one faculty FTE
    • If the entire $2.66M student fee increase for this bond issue were used for compensation increases, it would have funded a 1.1% raise for faculty and staff.
    • If the entire $2.66M increase for the bond was used for new staff hiring, it could have funded about 41 staff FTE.
    • If the entire $2.66M increase for the bond was used for new faculty hiring, it could have funded about 25 faculty FTE

Q: How much existing debt is "retired" or paid off per year?  Again, averages and ranges would be fine.

A: The next bond issue scheduled to retire will be in FY19, but that debt is not serviced by student fees, and at that point the specific revenue sources tied to that payment will go away as well.  The next student-fee funded bond issue that is scheduled to retire is in FY26. 

Q: How do you and your administrative colleagues weigh the relative values in human capital versus infrastructure when you decide to incur new debt for construction or renovation?  Would it be helpful for those decisions if the faculty and staff clearly communicated whether or not we prefer additional investments in infrastructure over investments in human capital?

A: Both Human capital and infrastructure investments are necessary and interdependent.  Depending on a particular context, one may be weighed more than the other.  As an example, in order to hire Physics faculty, we need a more modern Physics building.  Capital projects are studied and advocated for over many years by campus constituents (chairs, faculty, students).  The academic building priorities are set and updated each year with input from deans, who solicit their own inputs from their faculty and chairs.

In all of these instances, more communication is better than less and it would be useful to hear from faculty and staff regarding their priorities and how they view the trade-offs of these type of decisions. 

Q: What is your take on the decentralization of HR duties? Is there a reason HR representatives are embedded in units? Do you find it to be a conflict of interest when HR representatives report to staff supervisors?

A: HR is centralized and housed at the Business Center on the corner of Lomas and University.  Many units have designated an HR representative who should be under advisement of centralized HR.  If there are situations where staff or faculty would like to go directly to their HR consultant for guidance, they are always welcome to do so.

Q: Rumors that there are layoffs, forced furloughs coming, loss of paid winter break for staff in the near future to balance the UNM budget. Is that a possibility?

A: None of these rumored actions are being contemplated today.  Because the university’s budget is reduced, we are going to have to make some difficult decisions. The Budget Leadership Team has submitted recommendations and we are considering all options. At this time, no decisions have been made beyond the hiring freeze.

Q: Do you think it is ethically acceptable to not provide cost of living increases to staff…for years, while other UNM costs go up?  If not acceptable, what do you plan to do about it?  Lip service about how “great” staff are, does not pay the bills.

A: I continue to advocate for cost of living increases, but as our traditional revenues continue to decrease, and our costs keep going up, the only way to manage is to either increase revenues or to reduce costs.  Since the majority of our costs are in personnel, we either need to reduce the number of employees, an approach that is opposed by many, and/or look for new sources of revenue, as I have been advocating, but which is  also opposed by many.  I wish I could give all hard-working staff a salary increase to reward them for their dedication.  However, the reality is that the state fiscal situation is extremely challenging and that is where cost of living increases usually come from.  The money just isn’t there, from our state allocations and tuition revenues.  What I can tell you is that I agree and I will continue to look for ways do this. 

Q: Young and talented people come work at UNM, then don’t stay.  Why? What will UNM do to retain and cultivate young talented staff and faculty to become future UNM leaders? Especially since many baby boomers are retiring and others are leaving for higher pay”.

A: I am not sure the data supports your conclusion that all “young and talented people don’t stay”.  We do, of course, lose our share of employees and I wish we did not, but speaking as someone who came here 27 years ago, along with many colleagues who are still here, I would argue that many talented people do stay.  UNM attracts talented people of all ages.  Some stay for a time while others dedicate their entire career to serving the university.  I work with these people every day and I am one of them!  Retaining and cultivating staff and faculty to become future UNM leaders is something that is very important to me.  In the upcoming months, I will be reaching out to figure out how to make sure UNM becomes more successful at retaining its best and brightest.

Q: I learned that funding for UNM depends on oil prices. President Abdallah, Can UNM urge the state to find another funding model?  Please provide a general overview of the budget, current financial situation, and how it relates to the State of New Mexico. What can we do to help support the need for appropriate funding?

A: Oil revenue helps to fund the entire state.  According to nmlegis.gov, energy sources contribute 16% of the overall revenues for our state, third to sales tax (43%) and Income Tax (26%).  When oil prices are high, individuals feel it at the pump, but the state has increased revenues.  When oil prices are low, it’s a lot cheaper to fill up our gas tanks, but state revenues drop.  The university relies on funding from the state, so this trickles down to higher education.  This is why UNM’s fiscal model may need to be reimagined and reengineered to become more resilient in challenging fiscal years at the state level.  

Q: UNM is consolidating positions in order to remedy duplication and save money. Can you talk more about this? People have been laid off in several areas, but it seems to be a secret.

A: The footprint of the university may need to shrink in order to be able to deal with budget reductions.  When someone leaves the university due to attrition, units are asking that employees take on additional tasks, for extra compensation, when possible, in order to be able to eliminate that position.  I am not aware of “secret” layoffs.

Q: What is being done about the hiring freeze, raise in cost of benefits and no cost of living raise? 

A: The hiring freeze will likely continue through FY18.  HR works diligently to contain the cost of benefits, but increases are unfortunately being seen industry-wide.  While I  would like nothing more than to see a cost of living raise, it is likely not possible this year, given our reduced budget and the decrease in enrollment. 

Q: Why should we stay at UNM?  When will UNM make staff morale, equitable staff salaries, and staff retention a priority?  What is being planned to save the staff we have, around even more cuts?

A: Staff morale, equitable staff salaries and staff retention continue to be a priority.  I continue to advocate and practice transparency to explain our fiscal challenges and diversify our funding sources.  The reality is that in the face of smaller state contributions, and a decrease in enrollment and tuition, resources continue to shrink, and our budget model needs to change going forward.  This will probably mean a smaller working staff and faculty so that we can compensate everyone appropriately.

Q: Why are staff not allowed to have Fall or Spring Break like faculty?  I know of a few other institutions in NM that their staff are off for Fall and Spring Break like the faculty.

A: We try to grant as many paid holidays as possible and I was excited to add an extra day of winter break in FY18.  However, Fall or Spring Break are not paid holidays.  Staff are welcome to work with their supervisors to request those days off as annual leave but the university does need to remain open for business on those days. If you can provide me with the names of other institutions in NM that are closed for Fall and Spring Break, I will be happy to investigate.

Q: Parking permits are at two price levels, those for employees making less than $35,000 and those for employees making more.  Given that there’s a huge range of incomes above $35,000 and the $400 fee means a lot more to someone making $38,000 than someone making six figures, will the University consider instituting more tiers into the parking charge system?

A: First, allow me to point out that the information in your question is not quite accurate. Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) is entirely dependent on the information received from Banner, in determining who qualifies for which permit rate, etc. and the cost of a proximity permit for faculty/staff who show as low/mid-rate (less than $50,000 per year) is $400 per year, whereas the cost of a commuter permit is $175 per year, and the cost for a structure permit is $499 per year.  The cost for the same permit types for faculty/staff who are considered as high rate ($50,000 and above) is $475, $175 and $699 respectively.

As mentioned above, who pays which permit rate, is based on information received by the Banner feed and is broken out based on who is considered as ‘low to mid-rate” of pay (less than $50,000 per year) verses “high rate” of pay ($50,000 and above). The cost of the permits is further tiered based whether the permit is for a proximity lot (e.g. A, B, C, L or M) verses a commuter lot (South Lot, G and Q lots) verses a parking structure (Lomas or Yale).  

All eligible employees have the option of purchasing their permit through payroll deduction, which breaks the cost down to a bi-weekly or monthly basis depending whether their status shows as “exempt” or “non-exempt” (again, as per Banner). Because UNM considers parking to be a taxable benefit, if/when the employee purchases their permit via payroll deduction, the cost of the permit is taken out pre-tax, which results in a savings for the employee.

Unless something happens on the Banner end, I cannot foresee there being a change in the permit structure. Another thing to keep in mind is that PATS is entirely self-funded, and that the revenue received from the sale of parking permits is the primary funding source for shuttle operations as well as all other operating expenses including capital purchases (e.g. 40 ft CNG-fueled buses that cost @ $205,000 each, major repair of surface lots and parking structures, purchase of pay station equipment, etc.).

Q: How will campus assess and respond to the impact of the hiring freeze on staff positions. What longer term plans are being made to restore important positions, when we eventually see an uptick in the state economy and revenues for higher ed.

A: As soon as the university is in a position to lift the hiring freeze, we will do so.  In the meantime, the hiring freeze is one of the tools we are using to address fiscal challenges.

Q: There are rumors around campus about layoffs for staff. How will the determination be made? Last in, first out? Performance review based? Workload based?  What types of measures are being considered to prevent layoffs on top of the hiring freeze for staff positions?  When (what date) will a decision be made about layoffs and when can we expect to know when layoffs will take place?

A: There are always rumors, but at this stage, the only policy in place is to use the hiring freeze and attrition, as well as faculty hiring plans, to reduce our personnel costs.  Because the university’s budget is reduced, we are going to have to make some difficult decisions. The Budget Leadership Team has submitted recommendations and we are considering all options. The recommendations do not currently include layoffs.  At this time, no decisions have been made.

Q: Why is money being wasted on outside searches (UNM Alumni Assoc, Pres etc.) when there are potential candidates who have worked their way through the system and know the school for which they would be working?

A: There are many within the university who insist on national searches.  It is the intention of the university to hire the most qualified candidates as possible.  Sometimes they come to us after having worked outside the university and others come to us by working their way up.  There are many examples of people who have worked their way up through the system, myself included! 

Q: How many positions have been eliminated? 

A: In summary, for FY17:

  • EVP Administration: 14 Staff
  • EVP Provost: 66 Staff, 0 Faculty (17 faculty positions will be eliminated in FY18)
  • President’s Organization: 3.5 Staff

Q: Instead of instituting furloughs, will the University consider offering employees the option of changing their positions to 35 hours/week instead of 40?

A: This is not something we are currently considering, but I will ask HR to review. 

Q: Why is nepotism prevalent among staff hiring?

A: UNM follows strict guidelines in hiring, as outlined in Policy 3210: Recruitment and Hiring.  If you are aware of instances of nepotism, please contact the Compliance Hotline, OEO, or HR.

Q: When is UNM leadership, in particular those in the Provost's Office, going to hold themselves accountable to UNM Policy 2240-Respectful Campus - and stand up and proudly lead the way? It is not that Staff don't care when we do not show up to the Town Hall meetings - we are fearful of being retaliated against, and understandably so, because nothing is done to the perpetrators - and we ARE retaliated against, with no protection. Leadership, just in the Provost's office alone, are either aware of or are participating in "Destructive Actions", such as sexual harassment, retaliation, bullying, etc., such that staff have lost their positions, their health, and their retirement. Multiple incidents have been reported within UNM, to no avail, or externally to agencies such as the EEOC who are inept and do nothing - and yet those who are in positions of power and violating this policy are still at UNM, still violate policy, and have suffered no consequence and are highly compensated - while lower level staff who are carrying this university get no support of any kind. And to add to this ridiculous situation, UNM pays their legal staff to protect the violators, and the victims are not protected at all. It is difficult enough to progress at UNM without being retaliated against - and if you stand up and speak up, you surely will be. We are only as strong as our weakest link and someone needs to lead the PACK.

A: I take Policy 2240: Respectful Campus extremely seriously.  In my role as provost, I was not aware of anything remotely resembling your accusations.  If you feel this is not being upheld, I encourage you to call the Compliance Hotline and report it.

Q: An increasing number of courses are being taught by part-time adjunct instructors and more academic initiatives/services are being coordinated by professional staff, yet inclusion of these groups in decision making has not increased and remains the domain of senior faculty and campus administrators who have diminishing involvement in many day-to-day aspects of the university’s academic mission. How can you as acting president help to better manage this “information exchange” challenge?

A: The university operates under a shared governance model.  The role of the faculty is paramount in that model, especially as it concerns academic matters.  In recent years, we have promoted and elevated the ranks of lecturers, but specific governing roles should be discussed through the Faculty Senate.  It is a misconception that decision making is the domain of senior faculty and senior administrators.  Any programmatic and academic changes must be approved at many levels, starting at the department level, all the way up to the board of regents.  

Please continue to attend the Town Halls and pose challenging question to me.  I want everyone in this university to have a voice and if yours is not being heard, I encourage you to speak up through the various channels and to the various groups and organizational structures.

Q: Large organizations often find themselves struggling to balance the tendency for administrators to hold final decision-making authority while also harboring a reluctance to transparently accept personal accountability for those decisions. To what extent should UNM leadership be expressly evaluated on the quality of their management skills and/or the success of the initiatives that they pursue, and how should these metrics be best gathered?

A: You may add to your list the fact that universities have diffuse decision-making structures.  UNM leadership have set objectives for each year of the UNM2020 strategic plan.  The status of these objectives are updated quarterly and evaluated on an annual basis.  As provost, I evaluated my direct reports using very extensive goals and 360-degree reviews.  I also submitted myself to the same review process, provided the results to the president, and posted them on the University Secretary’s website.  As president, my annual goals are set and evaluated by the board of regents and I will strive to be as transparent as I was as provost, in communicating both my goals and evaluations.

This is ongoing at the university and as provost, I was often frustrated by the complexity and rigidity of various processes.  I was able to simplify some ,but not nearly enough! Processes are continually being evaluated to see if there are better systems to increase efficiency.  A good example is the recent implementation of Chrome River, which greatly improved the efficiency of many purchasing and reimbursement transactions.  However, before we make this type of change, it’s important to take our time and evaluate what is the best system to serve our needs and implement it properly.   In the upcoming months, I will be seeking ways and ideas on how to address this, using the so-called service-blueprinting approach.

Q: When and how will the University address the poor systems and processes that reduce the productivity of staff? The number of steps to complete most processes are convoluted. Then there is the question of the number of people that have to approve any number of processes.

A: This is ongoing at the university and as provost, I was often frustrated by the complexity and rigidity of various processes.  I was able to simplify some, but not nearly enough! Processes are continually being evaluated to see if there are better systems to increase efficiency.  A good example is the recent implementation of Chrome River, which greatly improved the efficiency of many purchasing and reimbursement transactions.  However, before we make this type of change, it’s important to take our time and evaluate what is the best system to serve our needs and implement it properly.   In the upcoming months, I will be seeking ways and ideas on how to address this, using the so-called service-blueprinting approach.

Q: My experience at UNM has shown me that the people in charge of updating processes or purchasing new systems do not always reach out to the end users. When training is provided, it is not always complete. Again, reaching out to the end users needs to happen in order to make the training as effective and complete as possible. Additionally, Job Aids that are created are either incomplete or do not reflect changes that are made.

A: We try to provide as much training as is needed when rolling out new systems, but there may be times where we don’t.  If there is a new system and you feel you need more training, please ask your supervisor if there is a way you can get more training.  When you come across a Job Aid that is incomplete or not helpful, please send an email to Financial Systems Management at fsm@unm.edu with detailed information as to the problem and give them an opportunity to fix it. 

Q: With the sudden drop in foreign student applications for UNM admission thanks to President Trump's immigration changes, what plans does UNM have to counter this further reduction in enrollments?

A: This is a great question and one that I am still searching for answers to.  I am a firm believer in involving the end-users in designing processes.  It’s an issue that is plaguing universities across the country and we are going to have to collectively come up with new ideas and solutions. Our Global Education Office (GEO) is implementing some of these (including targeted communication and recruiting campaigns) , and we are in touch with national organizations to help us address this issue.

Q: Why is UNM not collecting employment outcome data from its graduates?

A: The university does collect employment outcome data from our graduates. Every semester – fall and spring – the Office of Institutional Analytics (OIA) partners with Career Services to send out an exit survey to all graduates from UNM.  The career portion consists of questions including where our graduates are going (FT or PT jobs, internships, still looking, continuing education, etc.), salary info, when they started seeking a job, etc.  The survey was recently revamped this year with OIA and Career Services.  Please download the Career Service’s Fall 2016 Graduate Career Exit Survey report (with a link to the report), which will be posted to the Career Service’s website with the unveiling of their new website re-design soon.  Career Services also assists colleges/schools with this data –especially in addressing accreditation requirements.

Also, Alumni Relations, along with the UNM Foundation, area work to constantly update business and employment information for graduates.   As people change jobs, this does sometimes become more challenging but we do all we can to keep that data coming in. 

Q: When will programs be eliminated that are not generating student credit hours? When will sports be eliminated to balance Athletics budget?

A: Some of the programs that cannot support themselves, based on credit hours alone, remain critical to the university’s mission.  They include small arts programs, or even the law school!  To the best of my knowledge, we do not have programs that generate no student credit hours.  As we are forced to continue to make difficult budget decisions, these are questions that we will continue to consider.  As you may know, this is already happening in Athletics, where they cut the ski program entirely, in order to reduce their budget, and have been receiving many messages advocating reinstating it.

Q: There has been talk about closing the Pharmacy in the Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) center. Doctor services would remain but the pharmacy would close completely. Is this correct and why would it close?

A: There is absolutely no plan or discussion regarding closure of the SHAC pharmacy.  SHAC offers important services to students and is always looking for ways to improve them.  This question is timely, as SHAC is currently partnering with the UNM College of Pharmacy to look for opportunities to improve pharmacy operations and services.

Q: Are we a "sanctuary university"? What are we doing to protect our undocumented students?

A: The university is not a “sanctuary campus”, nor do I, Acting President, have the authority to declare it as such.  A sanctuary campus actually has no legal standing.  In fact, we are actually implementing many of the suggested interventions advocated for by those requesting the sanctuary campus designation.  We are doing what we can to protect our undocumented students, while also upholding the law.  There have also been numerous campus events to educate our faculty, staff and students on the laws surrounding this issue.  There will be more information provided about this specific issue soon.

Q: In the President Search, what is being done to prevent a "golden parachute" clause? I understand we have to be competitive with other universities, but when presidents don't finish their terms or have multiple votes of No Confidence the remainder of their contracts should be null and void.

A: The Acting President is not involved in the presidential search.  A Presidential Search Committee has been tasked with this effort.  However, there is a UNM Presidential Search website where you can find detailed information, including the members of the search committee and updates regarding the process.  There is also a Comments page where you can submit questions.  Having said that, what is termed “presidential parachute” is actually a standard practice that is universally accepted as a recruiting tool for presidents.  The exit clauses you mention may be negotiated by the board and the future president.

Q: There has been some discussion that several UNM departments and initiatives with monies from endowments and revenue-producing programs—monies that were specifically intended to support those departments and programs—have been “swept” from department accounts by the university and used for purposes other than those for which they were intended and, in some cases, endowed. Can you speak to this issue and outline where those monies have been applied?

A: I am not aware of any such cases.  If you have information that endowed funds or other revenues were used for something other than an authorized purpose, please bring it to the attention of your dean or director. You may also report it anonymously through UNM’s Compliance Hotline

Q: Is it true that the university’s internal audit department is itself being audited? How is that process handled?

A: The Internal audit department is reviewed periodically.  Although I am not aware of any current audit, our Chief Compliance Officer provides guidance for ensuring that any investigation can be conducted according to UNM policies, avoiding conflicts of interest.

Q: The New Mexico State Auditor is currently investigating NM charter schools and asking for financial accountability. In few of these schools, Mr. Keller has questioned the financial feasibility of having large administrator salaries and relatively low teacher pay and next to none, infrastructural support at the same institution. Given UNM administrative expenditures (like the "re-branding" initiative) and top tier salaries of administrators and their staff, is it time to invite the State Auditor to take a look at these disparate realities at UNM? (There is a large, non-administrative staff doing double, triple duty without any annual raises for a number of years.)

A: The university is audited every year by external auditors and the reports are available here.  Citizens are always able to contact the State Auditor with their concerns.  It is up to the state auditor to decide what and who to audit.  I encourage you to look at the report from the Council of University Presidents (CUP) regarding various expenditures, including administrative costs.

Q: We sort of have the "off shore" fundraising program through the UNM foundation, how come we haven't heard much about those funds?

A: The UNM Foundation has extensive reports posted on their website at www.unmfund.org.  I am not sure what you mean by “we haven’t heard much about those funds”, as they report regularly in public to the board of regents, have an independent board, and their performance is regularly reviewed and scrutinized.

Q: Has leadership made a decision as to what is going to happen with grade 12 employees who became non-exempt and returned to exempt? Will we still be required to complete a time sheet every two weeks?

A: Due to the lack of direction at the federal level, UNM administration is re-reviewing the current state of those affected by the FLSA Overtime Rule. An announcement will be made as soon as a plan is determined on how to move forward, we are hopeful this announcement will occur prior to the end of the fiscal year.

Q: UNM’s Mission Statement says that “UNM will provide students the values, habits of mind, knowledge, and skills that they need to be enlightened citizens, to contribute to the state and national economies, and to lead satisfying lives.” What are some of the “values” and “habits of mind” that this statement refers to?

A: Please refer to Regents Policy 2.18: Guiding Principles. The principles include freedom of inquiry, integrity, inclusiveness and respect, and responsibility to community.

Q: I know that UNM does not ask about or document immigration status when providing medical care, but… Does New Mexico have any form of statue that requires UNM to report gunshot injuries (or other injuries that suggest an act of criminal violence was committed against the patient) to law enforcement? If so, are we dependent on APD to make sure that undocumented patients are not turned over to immigration officials as a result of seeking emergency medical treatment? If so, what is APD’s stance on collecting/relaying the immigration status of victims of crimes or witnesses to crimes?

A: New Mexico does not have a general gunshot or firearm injury reporting requirement. However, it does have a law requiring anyone who becomes aware of a sudden, violent or untimely death to report it immediately to law enforcement authorities or the Office of the Medical Investigator. Also, New Mexico has an administrative regulation that says hospitals and health care providers must report to the New Mexico Department of Health injuries that result from firearms that come to an emergency department. The patient’s name, race, ethnicity and home address are to be given, but the regulation does not require immigration status. As is noted in the question,  immigration status is not requested when treating a patient so it is unlikely that UNM hospital would have that information and therefore also impossible to have turned it over to APD.  The HSC Chancellor has recently provided a statement regarding this issue to the campus.

Q: I am a new employee and was hired on with the promise of being on a scale for salary increases. This promise is what allowed me to accept a lower than average salary for my job and qualifications (and salary history at other Universities). In the 4 months since I was hired, I have been given, in addition to the duties stated on my job description, ½ of the job of a recently retired staff member who will not be replaced due to hiring freeze and supervisory duties over a GA. I have also been told that I should expect no salary increase, even though we should have room in the budget given that we are paying fewer staff salaries. Can you please address how new employees –or anyone, really – should be expected to be satisfied with this type of situation?

A: HR is currently drafting a process for continuous in-range adjustments when staff has taken on additional duties in order to eliminate another position.  HR is still finalizing the process and forms associated with an increase in pay for assuming lower level duties, rather than higher level duties, for which we already have a process. This is a significant change in UNM’s compensation practice and will require a change in policy and a change in how these items are coded in the system.  Based on these items, HR anticipates an effective date no later than July 1, 2017 which will allow the change to coincide with the new fiscal year.  HR has already started to communicate and solicit feedback on the upcoming change through HR Agent and Forum meetings.

Q: My team has gone from 22 to 11 in the last 3 years.  We literally can’t get our work done and even more is being asked of us, to bring in students/money.  With no raises for years, I am certain UNM staff is looking for opportunity elsewhere.  With no one being replaced, how do we implement new initiatives to gain students?

A: UNM has fewer students and less state funding than it did three years ago. We are doing our best to move forward within our means and without significant layoffs. Essential positions are continuing to be filled, but of course, opinions differ about which positions are most essential. I have assigned this difficult duty to a Hiring Review Team that provides input for each EVP to consider.

Q: Do you have any plans for considering a 360 degree review process? I find it difficult to champion changes or improvements to my area, if there is no way to safely address potential improvements in management.

A: For the last 5 years, I have used 360 degree reviews for a number of senior leadership positions (all deans and direct reports to the provost, as well as the provost), as well as other mechanisms (including anonymous surveys) to gather input.  We also maintain the Compliance Hotline that allows employees to enter anonymous complaints or suggestions for improvement.

Q: It is very hard to do work when Banner and other UNM websites are constantly down.  The system is not stable.  When is UNM ever going to improve IT services?   We can’t work if we don’t have the tools.

A: Thank you for raising the concern regarding the availability of the Banner application and other UNM Websites.  These tools are an important part of our day-to-day work at the University, and we take the responsibility of maintaining these systems very seriously. The Banner application is closely monitored and has proven very reliable in and of itself, with near 100% system uptime over the course of this past year.  That being said, there are many dependencies that can impact an individual’s access to the system including network connectivity, workstation issues, web browser versions and more.  If you are experiencing an issue with access to Banner or other technology services, we encourage you to open a ticket with UNM IT, using the service desk tool (https://help.unm.edu), or to contact one of our customer support representatives at 277.5757.  We will work directly with you and your local IT support, if available, to identify and solve any issues you may be experiencing with these services.  There were recently two web browser issues impacting individual access to Banner.  Details on these issues and steps for resolving can be found in FastInfo #3051 and FastInfo #3407.  UNM IT provides real-time updates on both planned and unplanned service outages via our IT Alerts site (http://it.unm.edu/alerts/).

Q: Why does UNM not recognize further education unless you transfer to another position?

A: UNM doesn’t currently have a policy or program that recognizes employees for degrees obtained. Certain employees are, however, eligible for the Tuition Remission program for continuing education, which equates to more than 6k annually in covered tuition expenses. If you like to advocate for this issue, please work with the Staff Council.

Q: I am hoping to retire soon and part of VEBA.  I am concerned that with the reduced funding to the University and the situation with the state, that the health insurance will be taken away from retirees.  I have heard that incoming staff are not paying into this program.  Will the program default?  If so, will staff be getting back what they’ve paid into it so far?

A: There is no plan to default the VEBA trust plan and there are no changes being made to the current plan rules or policies affecting employee eligibility to access UNM post-retirement benefits for medical and dental. On April 18, 2017, the Board of Regents approved to cap the contribution at the current rate of .75%, until such time that the VEBA Committee approves a change to the contribution level.

Q: If employees do not utilize dependent education benefit because their student has received a scholarship from UNM, why is it that this benefit cannot be utilized during the summer?  It appears that these employees end up paying the University more for a benefit they should be receiving. 

A: For benefit-eligible employees, the Dependent Education Scholarship offers an eligible dependent child/spouse/domestic partner the opportunity to obtain an undergraduate degree at UNM. This benefit is limited to an 8 semester maximum, used in either fall or spring. It is structured similar to the other scholarships offered at UNM and programs offered by other higher education entities. 

Summer semesters are not considered a standard semester in the academic calendar at UNM, and scholarships are offered only during standard length terms.  There are lower tuition rates, and the university does not offer a full schedule (in courses nor term length) during summer.   In other words, summer is used to catch up or get ahead, but limited resources such as scholarships (and most grant programs) are utilized in the fall/spring time.  The only exception at UNM is for the College of Nursing, where students largely have a trimester schedule, where they take full semester length courses at full-time enrollment in the summer.

Q: When is UNM collecting data on internship program; How many students are interested to participate in paid and unpaid internship, how many students got internship opportunity for how long; which UNM unit is responsible for coordinating internship opportunity for students? What is UNM policy on providing credit hours to students if they participate in internship program? How will UNM incentivize UNM teaching departments to find internship opportunity for their students? How much budget is allocated to promote internship opportunity for students? How is UNM seeking internship opportunity for its students?

A: There are many different internship programs in the schools, colleges, and departments at UNM. Each has its own purposes and procedures, and keeps its own data. We are proud of the many internship possibilities that are available to our students and many departments devote considerable resources to identifying and promoting these opportunities. At this time university-wide internship coordination is not a central budget priority. 

Q: Acting President Abdallah, you have previously expressed a preference for a “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” leadership style. Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, when speaking on this topic in the context of how to foster a culture of innovation, said, “When you ask for solutions, you create a culture of advocacy, rather than a culture of inquiry…. Most creativity, most innovation happens when somebody points out a problem that’s not yet been solved.” With that challenge in mind, how do you go about accurately identifying/understanding the full scope of particular problems and then independently evaluating the solutions proposed by your administrative colleagues?

A: Thank you for a thought-provoking question! I hope my weekly messages and other campus communications give you some insight into my values and processes for making decisions. If I tried to pin down a specific method I use each time, I would be fooling you and myself – because many factors affect each decision. I do try to gather a broad range of information, listen to what others are actually saying and engage in proper dialog rather than forming an opinion a priori.  And when I ask for solutions, I do mean candidate solutions since, those faced with the problems are often best at proposing potential remedies.

Q: You are spending a large amount of time writing and broadcasting to the UNM community about politics and the President Trump budget. This seems to me to be catering to the hand-wringing blue members of our campus. You are aware that Trump was elected President without the support of the national Republican Party and without the support of the Republican leadership of Congress. The likelihood of his budget surviving intact is slim to none. Don't you think your time would be better spent on working on new funding sources for UNM that don't involve tuition and fee increases?  Not-a-Trump voter or supporter

A: If the question is, “Are you working on funding sources for UNM that don’t involve tuition and fee increases?” the answer is a resounding yes. Working with the UNM Foundation on development activities, with our researchers and VPR to increase grants and contracts, and enhancing our university-community partnerships for economic development are key areas of my efforts – not to mention continued efforts to work with legislators and our governor to promote our value to the State.   The fact remains, however, that whatever President Trump is potentially able to do, including redirecting some funds away from basic research into shorter-term programs, will affect our research budget in serious ways.

Q: What changes in undergraduate higher education are most important now for improving the well-being of NM citizens? world citizens?

A: We must provide the basic abilities to analyze, communicate, reflect, interact, and continue to learn, so we prepare our students not only for the job they get when they graduate, but for the job they will have twenty years from now, that we can’t yet foresee. I believe in higher education as providing a foundation for inquiry of all types, not just skills training.

Q: Will people who do not need to be non-exempt, who were hired as exempt, please be released from LoboTime?

A: Due to the lack of direction at the federal level, UNM administration is re-reviewing the current state of those affected by the FLSA Overtime Rule. An announcement will be made as soon as a plan is determined on how to move forward. Therefore, until a decision is made regarding how UNM will address the employees affected by the FLSA Overtime Rule, no change should occur to the current method of reporting time.

Q: In the Town Hall today, I asked the question about insurance going up and the fact that staff will suffer pay cuts, as a result and asked what can be done to offset the cuts.  Your "sort of" answer was really a slight, in my mind, when you said, "recruit more students." Although I agree it is the job of each university employee to promote the University and encourage people to educate themselves, I remember the University spent at least $1million last year on a new marketing/rebranding campaign to recruit more students.

So my questions about this effort are:
1) Was this money well spent?
2) What is the actual increase in students and/or SCH's we are seeing as a result of spending that money?
3) If we have decreased in students and/or SCH's, what is that number and why is the $1million marketing campaign not working?

A: It is too early to know the results of the marketing campaign, although UCAM is tracking data on predefined key performance indicators (KPIs). In fact, the money has not yet been completely spent, as the campaign is still in progress.  Please also be aware that the $1 million was a non-reoccurring investment. A marketing campaign like this takes time, in order to see measurable results.  Also, there are numerous factors that can affect the number of students enrolling in our university.  It is our hope that the money being spent on this campaign will benefit the entire university and it is something we will watch closely as time progresses.  Moreover, the branding effort is not solely focused on recruiting more students (we are getting more first time freshmen from outside New Mexico), but also has a fundraising goal.  Unfortunately, the headwinds in that arena (e.g. bad press for a variety of reasons) may be reducing the positive impact of the initiative.

Q: In the Town Hall, you said that when a staff member is asked to take on more work, you ensure they get paid more money for taking on that work. This must be working only in the President's office, for in the College of Arts and Sciences, that is not the case. I'm not sure you are aware of this, but if you are going to make a statement that people are compensated for taking on more work, you need to know that you are not stating what is actually happening on the ground.

I work with a woman that was asked to take on the work of another department. Initially, they asked her to only do the financials, for which she was compensated. When the department was denied hiring a replacement Administrative Assistant, she was asked to take on the other 50% of the departmental duties and received NO, ZERO compensation. Perhaps she is the only person on campus that has been denied the compensation she deserves for her job going from 100% to 200%. Is this a fair and equitable way to treat this staff member or any staff member in this situation? Would you accept that situation for yourself?

A: HR is currently drafting a process for continuous in-range adjustments when staff has taken on additional duties in order to eliminate another position.  HR is still finalizing the process and forms associated with an increase in pay for assuming lower level duties, rather than higher level duties, for which we already have a process. This is a significant change in UNM’s compensation practice and will require a change in policy and a change in how these items are coded in the system.  Based on these items, HR anticipates an effective date no later than July 1, 2017 which will allow the change to coincide with the new fiscal year.  HR has already started to communicate and solicit feedback on the upcoming change through HR Agent and Forum meetings.