Gov. Bill Richardson wasn't too happy with College of Santa Fe's Board of Trustees who, yesterday, released a press release that the Governor's office felt implied that the Governor was partly to blame for CSF's current financial emergency.
CSF's release stated that, "As part of their letter of agreement with CSF, New Mexico Highlands University proposed purchasing land from the college to pay off the mortgage and provide CSF critical funds to complete the spring semester. Last Thursday, CSF learned that Governor Richardson requested this land purchase be delayed until after the legislative session, eliminating this important revenue stream for the college's spring semester. 'We understand the challenges that the state, Governor Richardson, and our legislature are facing due to the economy. We are seeking a meeting with Governor Richardson to ask that he reconsider this decision,' said David Chase, chair of the Board of Trustees."
Richardson's office fought back stating, “'I was disappointed that it appeared the school's leaders were looking for scapegoats at a time when they should be addressing their responsibility for the institution's troubled finances.'”
Richardson's statement echoes the sentiments of many members of the CSF community who are outraged about the lack of accountability for the current financial situation.
In an open letter posted in the comments section of this blog a current CSF student using the name Red Cell stated, "We at the school have come to expect (but not deserve) deceit from all in charge of funds, overblown positive speeches and rallying communications that tells us nothing, the mistreatment, and now punishment, of teachers and staff that must bear the weight of the Board's mismanagement, the loss of teachers who were the reason to have attended the school in the first place (ie: Brent Kliewer etc) and no money for classroom use due to misappropriation of funds."
HB577, the bill that would allow for the acquisition of the College of Santa Fe, goes before the House Educational Committee Friday morning at 8 am.
Richardson has been a strong proponent for the passage of the bill since it was sponsored by Rep. Lucky Varela last fall. “'My administration and I are aggressively pursuing every option to save the College of Santa Fe and preserve it as one of our state's great educational assets,” Richardson says in today's statement.
Tomorrow's meeting is the first step for the bill, which must pass through both the House Educational Committee and the Appropriations & Finance Committee before it reaches the full House for a vote.
However the current situation for faculty and students is still up in the air. Richardson says “It was irresponsible for the College of Santa Fe to count on the money from the proposed land sale to avoid the crisis it finds itself in today. While I appreciate New Mexico Highlands University's interest in the College of Santa Fe, it would be imprudent to approve any transactions until the legislature agrees that an acquisition of the college is in the best interest of the state and until we determine which institution is most appropriate to take it over.”
All that waiting doesn't answer students questions about what happens tomorrow when the contract renegotiations are slated to start between the board and faculty. As the situations stands now the faculty is consulting a lawyer after a 29-9 vote about whether to pursue civil fraud charges against the school's administration and board upon learning of the declaration of financial emergency and contract amendments.
As SFR reported yesterday this, according to CSF professor Richard Bank, means that as of Friday all contract employees will be terminated, putting the faculty in the difficult position of fighting for their salaries while remaining loyal to the students who are five weeks into the spring semester.
[Disclosure: Patricia Sauthoff is a contract employee with the College of Santa Fe and is included in recent mass layoffs.]