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 3/27/17

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 in the FY18 budget.

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 Years Day.  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 Years Day:

  • 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

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

A: No, 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.  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.  Anecdotally, I’ve heard 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 so neatly in half, but there may be other concerns.  

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 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 and its first phase at either the April or May Regents mtg and get approval to move forward with the detailed design of the first phase which will take about 1 year to complete with broad faculty and hospital staff involvement.

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).

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: As I mentioned – there is no freeze at the HSC.  However all open positions both new and replacements – are being reviewed rigorously to determine if they must be filled immediately or postponed.  At this time the HSC is not considering any cutbacks in our programs or staffing.

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

A: I hope you agree that 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 highly regarded and the HSC with its local and nationally acclaimed programs.  Each one is different but together they make up our flagship “One UNM”.

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 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.   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 programs are consistent with 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 begun discussions with the Law School and other legal services agencies in town so that clinics have a good list of resources to provide 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 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 this 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.

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.