Ten suggestions for Highlands

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1. Improve our academic reputation and intellectual culture. Transform New Mexico Highlands University into a highly respected liberal arts alternative to New Mexico Tech. This is a niche for NMHU, with its beautiful campus and low student-to-faculty ratio. Unique NMHU has much to offer. There are capable and committed faculty with meaningful programs of study. President James Fries has stabilized NMHU to allow this renewal.

2. Institutional standards and culture start with the top administration. Demand the appointment of apolitical, capable, fair, analytic, experienced, rational, and knowledgeable regents. Require all future positions of provost and president to undergo rigorous, apolitical national searches. Candidates must have outstanding academic backgrounds in teaching, research, and service at the national level. Evidence of visionary academic courage and dynamic leadership is necessary. Searches should be age, gender, and ethnicity blind. Avoid political appointments.

3. Gently, but actively, phase in minimal ACT/SAT scores or mandatory reading training if required. Retention and graduation rates will increase as a result. This will assure that all admitted students are able to read, write, reason, and calculate at a high school graduate level. They will arrive prepared to learn content. Students should appreciate their taxpayer-supported university and take their campus and education seriously. High expectations beget quality. No one is forced into university training.

4. Increase the on-campus presence and mentorship duties of the faculty and administration. They must be dedicated to the students and mission of NMHU. Strong involvement with student activities is essential.

5. Realize that the most important decision NMHU makes is granting tenure to a faculty member. Tenured faculty are the soul, foundation, and quality of a university. Unproductive tenured faculty are costly and very hard to release. Candidates must achieve, and maintain, the most rigorous standards of teaching, research, and service. It is a privilege and honor to be a university professor. It is a huge responsibility and a calling. A 60-hour (or more) work week is often required. Teaching and quickly leaving campus is unacceptable.

6. Merit and value are not correlated to compensation at NMHU. Implement merit pay to faculty and staff. All employees are not equally committed or productive. Promptly applaud successful ones. Professionally release chronically unproductive or disinterested employees.

7. Balance administrative, faculty, and staff salary bases. Administrative salaries are excessive. The lowest salary bases of staff are, frankly, unfair.

8. Carefully phase out remedial courses and encourage unprepared students to train at community colleges to achieve the skills that allow them to learn at the university level. NMHU welcomes their transfer. These students are equally valued and important. They simply need interest, focus, and skills. Importantly, vocational training is as valued and respected as liberal arts work — maybe more. Any work, well done, is honorable and noble.

9. Require all NCAA varsity teams at NMHU to meet national averages of official academic success and graduation rates. Award those with higher rates. Monitor excessive training requirements that decease academic performance. Athletics serves the academic mission, not conversely. Require superb sportsmanship.

10. Help create a safe, healthy, respectful, and merit based environment on and off campus. Promote community service from the NMHU members to help foster a welcoming and proud community that appreciates intellectual and professional quality. Set a positive example for Las Vegas. Ask everyone to clean, maintain, and respect a sustainable campus. Encourage cost containment and decrease waste. Academic reputation, low costs, and campus attractiveness dwarf all other recruitment factors.

Dick Greene
Las Vegas

Editor’s note: Greene has taught at Highlands for more than 20 years.