An effort to apparently improve the University of New Mexico’s branding is not sitting well with many of the people who will be affected by it.
A directive from UNM President Bob Frank orders a change to the domain names of the emails of more than 15,000 students, faculty and staff within the university’s Health Sciences Center by June 30.
Specifically, Frank ordered the word “salud” dropped from any domain ending with “@salud.unm.edu.” Instead, all domains will end with “@unm.edu,” like much of the rest of the campus.
HSC includes the university’s medical school, hospitals, nursing school and cancer center.
The change comes just three months after UNM regents voted to eliminate the HSC board of directors. Critics of that move, including HSC Chancellor Paul Roth, argued the change was prompted by a desire from some to use HSC’s money resources to fix main campus budget problems.
On Monday, 319 of 325 HSC faculty members answered an online survey conducted by Dr. Corey Ford, HSC’s MD/PhD program director, opposing the email change. Ford, who has been at HSC for 28 years, then sent the results in a petition to Frank calling for a halt to the change.
“The remarkably beautiful ‘Salud’ domain was explicitly chosen out of sincere respect for our Hispanic citizens and colleagues,” Ford wrote in the petition. “It symbolizes all we do at the HSC to improve the health of New Mexico and beyond (as part of UNM!).”
Ford explained in an interview how the university’s main campus is struggling with declining undergraduate enrollment and a loss of $8 million in funding from the state.
“We have trouble seeing how removing ‘salud’ and all the hassles that come with it will make more students come here,” Ford told NM Political Report. “The best branding is what you do and the services you provide to people, not what you call yourself on an email.”
UNM spokesman Steve Carr wrote in an email that the change “is part of an overall migration effort that began nearly four years ago” when the university had 45 different email domains.
“To date, 33 (73 percent) of those have been transitioned or eliminated,” Carr wrote. “We have been actively working to transition the remaining 12 domains. The decision to complete the @salud transition next was announced on April 6, 2016 and the timeline for completion (June 30) was determined by the scope of the project and estimated time that would be necessary to complete.”
It’s a message that’s not comforting to many faculty members.
“Somebody’s obsessed with branding and marketing and making UNM glossy and monolithic,” Dr. Fred Hashimoto, a professor emeritus of internal medicine who has worked at HSC for more than 40 years said. “We’re not monolithic. We’re diverse, and we’re glad to be a part of UNM.”
Hashimoto, also a former chief of staff for UNM Hospital, added that he received his medical degree at Harvard University, which has a similarly separate email domain from its main campus.
He criticized Frank’s directive as “top-down” and lacking involvement and input from anyone at HSC.
Hashimoto also mentioned concerns about potential security problems with confidential patient information going to the much bigger @unm.edu domain, which he argued is less secure than the salud addresses.
And then there’s the possible confusion that patients may experience when their doctors’ emails change. To limit this, the “salud” addresses will forward any new email messages to that person’s new @umn.edu address.
In a prepared statement, Frank thanked the “faculty, staff and students who have taken the time to present their views on this effort.”
Referring to “salud” Frank said he recognized the”power of a brand.”
“The primary driver of this transition is to unify our identity as One UNM, one university whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Frank said.
The explanation is similar to stated reasons from supporters of the controversial elimination of the HSC board of directors in March.
The desire to raid HSC’s coffers extends beyond the university.
The state Human Services Department wanted HSC to give $50 million from its coffers to help fix the state’s Medicaid problems, as NM Political Report first reported earlier this year. HSD has at least $220 million stockpiled for the build-out of a new adult hospital that Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, which Human Services Department falls under, has opposed.
UNM regents, all of whom were appointed or reappointed by Martinez, made the decision to eliminate the HSC board of directors, which included two community members, with little input and much outcry from HSC. They then replaced that body with a subcommittee made up of themselves.
One of those regents, Rob Doughty, explained at the time that the move would save money, though no studies had been done showing it would.
As for the email change, UNM spokesman Steve Carr wrote in an email that it will come at “no cost to the University.”
“No additional funding is anticipated by either UNM [information technology] or the HSC, beyond the use of existing staff time, to complete this project,” he wrote.
But it won’t save money either. According to the university’s own work order for the email switch, the change won’t bring any financial savings, process efficiencies or increased revenue. And it acknowledges a “reallocation of resources” to complete the email transition.
The work order also says the change won’t give UNM any competitive advantage with other universities.
Meanwhile, the changes could result in some kinks in the system. The work order acknowledges “hard conflicts” in transitioning the email addresses of 5 percent of those with “salud” emails.
Earlier this week, the university sent an email to HSC staffers, students and faculty announcing they had “run into some technical challenges during the transition from @salud to @unm.” Specifically, the email warned applications like the video messaging program Skype for Business and cloud storage service OneDrive “will be temporarily disabled.” It asked all to participate in a survey stating whether they use these applications for work.
“If you do not answer yes by Wednesday June 22nd, you will not have access to Skype for Business and OneDrive after the transition, July 1, 2016,” the email reads.
Read the university’s own work order for the email change below: