Tuition hike, layoffs at Northern New Mexico College spark protest

Juan Diaz, a student at Northern New Mexico College in Española, joined other students, faculty members and others at a noontime demonstration Thursday to protest plans to lay off 22 employees and raise tuition 14 percent for the 2013-14 school year. Tom Sharpe/The New Mexican

ESPAÑOLA — Northern New Mexico College students joined forces with faculty members Thursday to protest plans to lay off 22 employees and raise tuition another 14 percent for the 2013-14 school year.

Juan Diaz, who is working on a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, picketed with about a dozen others at the entrance to the Española campus.

“I am in opposition to this outrageous tuition rate increase,” he said. “The administration says it’s just going to be a 14 percent increase, which it’s not. They are not including the hidden fees.”

For example, he said, tuition for the one class he’s taking this summer costs $101, but the fees are $143.

Diaz said the higher tuition and fees are on top of steeper hikes in recent years. Tuition was $57 per credit hour in 2010, then almost doubled the next year, he said.

Samuel LeDoux, a Nambé resident who is working on his business administration degree while serving as acting chairman of the Santa Fe County Republican Party, said he was protesting the school’s lack of transparency.

Although school officials mentioned at previous public hearings that they would be cutting some programs, “never was this mentioned about cutting the jobs,” he said.

“The Republican Party usually doesn’t agree with unions on much. But our government needs to be as open as possible in order to benefit all the citizens because the government works for the citizens. We don’t work for the government.”

Heather Winterer, a professor of English and humanities, said she expects to get tenure after five years, but fears her outspokenness might jeopardize her position.

“There have been a lot of kind of capricious hirings and firings, all without rhyme or reason,” she said. “Sometimes there will be a search committee and sometimes someone will just show up for work hired by them. And, of course, you know that people have been fired here who are very, very valuable to the school.”

For example, administration employee Lisa Duran had a flawless record, but was let go in “pure retaliation” for speaking out against an administrator at a recent public meeting, Winterer said.

Tim Crone, who has taught sociology and anthropology at the school for nearly 40 years, is currently the president of the American Federation of Teachers union local. He said the last time faculty members picketed was in 1999 when the Public Employee Bargaining Act ended and the school elected to discontinue its union contract.

“Also that year, we either got an insignificant raise or no raise and the president at the time [Sigfredo Maestas] got a raise of 22.2 percent,” Crone said.

Thursday was orientation day for new students, so the current college president, Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo, was not available for comment. But Ricky Serna, vice president for advancement, agreed to respond to the criticisms.

He said the school’s budget set to begin July 1 calls for eliminating 21 — not 22 — staff positions, but no faculty positions. These range from the dean of academic support services to lowest-tier jobs.

Asked whether Duran was fired in retaliation for speaking out, Serna said, “That’s never a driving force for any of the decisions we make. I won’t speak specifically to a single individual, but I will say broadly the administration … reserves the right, at the end of every fiscal year, to determine which contracts are going to be renewed and which are not.”

Serna said the school has tried to respond to some of the criticisms about the new budget. For example, he said, original plans called for shutting down a child-development center on campus and eliminating the woodworking program at El Rito. But after a town hall-style meeting a few weeks ago, both those programs were reinstated. Unfortunately, he added, keeping those programs means eliminating pay increases for teachers.

Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or tsharpe@sfnewmexican.com.

(7) comments

cucafracha

Those protesting are upset they can't play solitare at work and get paid to waste tax payer dollars!!

cucafracha

Nobody is upset Lisa Duran has been fired. She, much like the other faculty protesting, are incompetent, lazy and unprofessional. They are standing in the way of Northern's progress. I feel for the tuition hike. This college is still cheaper than most and it is just a sign of the times. My daughter is a proud graduate. This college will continue to serve northern new mexico. We need to move ahead and stop being negative. Change is hard. Republicans get over it!!!!

ES Department NNMC

The lack of transparency is the main issue the students and faculty are facing right now at NNMC. Tuition hikes fall somewhere down on the list as far as hardships for NNMC. The college performed budget cuts at a time where most participants at the college were busy with graduation and finals. The timing of the layoffs, budget cuts, reassignment of faculty, and tuition hikes happened blindly leaving many who have strong opinions about these actions in the dark. The Environmental Science (ES) Program has had dedicated Director and Adviser to most all ES students for the last 3 years. The ES Director has worked tirelessly to shape, expand, and provide quality and stability to the ES program. I personally just met with the ES director for my graduation plan two weeks ago, who also has served as my dedicated adviser for 3 years. This week I and 60+ environmental students learned that our Director, by word of mouth, is not longer our adviser or the Director, and was reassigned to El Rito Campus. This announcement and reassignment has no rhyme or reason and is greatly affecting our program. We as paying students have had no word from Dr. Barceló (the president) or any of the lead college administration staff about the status and future of our program. No one from the college has contacted us to let us know that a new Director starts on July 1st. We as students have been the last to hear of this. How convenient for this news to break over the summer break where many NNMC students are not available to comment. Currently, the ES students are gathering to try to have our Director reinstated. These issues at hand are far more serious than tuition hikes.

Joe Montoya

The President and the Administration work on the premise of, "I"ll scratch your back if you scratch mine!" There appears to be a lack of communication in all aspects oof operation in the operation of the College.

DBeyers

I live in Tulsa - tuition for one course at OSU is about $600 ... in 1996 I took my last course at the University of Chicago is was $3000 ... even at $200 per course UNM sounds pretty inexpensive. If teachers are to get pay increases tuition will go up - does evetyone not see this?

yurisw

You would think they would pro-actively layoff staff with past litigation problems that got a gimme job at the college like the HR Director.

cucafracha

Like Tim Crone?

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.