The academic equivalent of a corporate campaign.

Does your university have troubles? At the risk of turning this post into the academic equivalent of Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch, your school probably has nothing on Northern New Mexico College. The situation there has come up before on this blog, and to summarize let’s just say their administration hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory. To keep it short, I’ll simply note that they’ve already passed most universities’ nightmare scenario of laying off tenured faculty and are now charting new ground.

I know about this story because I follow the work of a dedicated group of individuals who call themselves the Northern New Mexico College Study Group and who have been blogging this horror show for some time now. The latest post there is a tour de force of informed dissent against the policies of President Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo:

In 2014, the NNMC Study Group assembled a core group of accountants and a forensic auditor to conduct a financial analysis of NNMC for the years of Barcelo’s presidency: 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. This analysis is based on public New Mexico State Audits from 2010 to 2013….

Our analysis found that the Audited Financial Statements show very clearly: 1) a decline in total revenue, 2) a decline in operating revenue, and 3) deep reductions in the college’s net assets. Further, in four years, President Barcelo has turned previous surpluses into deficit.

Now this kind of analysis is hardly unprecedented. Many of you reading this probably know that AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum and longtime AAUP leader Howard Bunsis have been helping chapters all across the country do the same kind of thing for years now.

Yet this effort in New Mexico strikes me as something more. Read their web site and you’ll see that the Northern New Mexico College Study Group has taken very deep dives into a wide range of subjects such as no-bid contractsadministrative salaries and the school’s mission as an Hispanic Serving Institution.

I think this kind of far-reaching investigative effort should be a model across the country for concerned stakeholders at schools that don’t practice administrative transparency when transparency matters most. The best analogy I can think of is to organized labor’s corporate campaigns of the 1990s, like when the Service Employees International Union (or SEIU) launched the Justice for Janitors campaign, and began to investigate issues well beyond the immediate issue of getting a good contract.

With respect to faculty, most of us (especially those of us working on a contingent basis) probably have way too much to do already to conduct the extraordinary amount of ongoing research that you can find on that web site and blog. Nevertheless, you can see just by reading what’s there that these efforts have already changed the local conversation about Northern New Mexico’s future. None of us want to work at schools where this kind of campaign becomes a necessity, but it should be re-assuring that some of our brothers and sisters are breaking new ground in higher education activism so that we can emulate them if things ever get this bad for us too.

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