All week, we track environment news around the western United States, finding the most important stories and new studies you need to read to understand what’s happening with water, climate, energy, landscapes and communities around New Mexico. Then Thursday morning, you get that news in your Inbox. You can subscribe to that weekly email here. Here’s a snippet of what subscribers read this week:
• The company that owns New Mexico Copper Corporation, and plans to open a mine near Hillsboro, announced to its shareholders at the end of August that it is working toward gaining two important state permits. THEMAC noted that there will be a hearing on one of those, the groundwater discharge permit from the New Mexico Environment Department, during the week of September 24 in Truth or Consequences.
New Mexico’s next governor should be ready to confront the state’s critical water issues on his or her first day in office. That’s according to Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Obama administration, who spoke at a water conference at the University of New Mexico on Thursday. The agenda looked ahead—past the six remaining months of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration—to what the next governor needs to understand about New Mexico’s water challenges, from drought and water transfers to interstream agreements, including on the Colorado River, whose waters seven U.S. states and Mexico share. Connor noted that on the Rio Grande, Elephant Butte Reservoir is 18 percent full, and said it could drop to less than five percent by the end of this year’s irrigation season. “The governor needs to have some policy initiatives ready to go as quickly as possible because there are going to be water issues that need to be addressed from the get-go,” he said.
NM Political Report’s third News & Brews event featured NMFishbowl.com’s Daniel Libit and New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Board President Greg Williams. Reporter Andy Lyman interviewed the two about Libit’s recent public records lawsuit against the University of New Mexico Foundation and transparency issues related to the university’s athletics department. “I’m a curious observer much more than I am a fan,” Libit said of the Lobos. Libit has filed over 150 records requests under the state’s Inspection of Public Records trying to understand how the UNM Foundation makes its decisions and raises its money. Last November, Libit launched his website with a story raising important questions about the WisePies naming rights of The Pit, the university’s arena that hosts basketball games. Libit now lives in Chicago but grew up in Albuquerque.
Some professors, students and advocates at the state’s flagship university are warning proposed sweeping changes to the state’s higher education system could undermine academic freedom and programs like ethnic studies. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs would scale back the number of required credit hours students take in public university “general education core” classes and establish “meta-majors.”
“Meta-major” classes are defined in the bill as “lower division courses” that are set by the department and include general education courses and prerequisite courses. At a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, Kernan said her bill’s purpose is to make it easier for students who transfer to different universities to use the credits they’ve already earned from previous courses toward their college degrees. Kernan’s bill is supported by New Mexico Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron. At last week’s hearing, Damron described meta-majors as a group of courses set under a list of broad subjects that undecided college students can choose from to create a path toward their eventual major.
At least three four-year universities in New Mexico are telling international students affected by President Trump’s controversial executive order affecting immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries to not leave the United States. The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology formally instructed international students from any of the seven countries to not travel outside the U.S. in the near future. Trump’s executive order temporarily bars those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country. “Citizens of those countries, who wish to return to the US, should not plan to travel abroad at this time,” UNM wrote in a news release Monday. In his weekly letter to students and faculty, UNM Acting President Chaouki Abdallah noted that Trump’s order affects “more than 100 individuals in the UNM community.”
On Sunday, NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers made a similar call to his students.
An online provocateur associated with the “alt-right” will speak at the University of New Mexico this month as originally scheduled, according to UNM acting President Chaouki Abdallah. The “alt right,” an offshoot of right wing ideology that generally embraces racism and white nationalism, leaped into the mainstream last year during Donald Trump’s run for president. In an email to students sent Monday, Abdallah wrote that his decision is meant “to protect the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights and in the University’s mission.”
Abdallah’s decision comes as student groups have been pressuring UNM administrators to ban Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus later this week. Yiannopoulos, who writes for Breitbart News, was invited by the UNM College Republicans. Despite being openly gay, Yiannopoulos has argued that gay people should “get back in the closet.” His current speaking tour is called “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.” He’s also made statements like, “I think birth control was a mistake and women are happier in the kitchen” and written articles with headlines like, “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews.”
Last summer, Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter after his followers attacked comedian Leslie Jones.
University of New Mexico President Bob Frank has halted plans to change the email addresses of all Health Sciences Center employees, students and faculty. The controversial plan, which was to have dropped the word “salud” from their “@salud.unm.edu” address, simplifying it to “@unm.edu,” proved unpopular among faculty and others. The delay comes after outcry that included a survey found 319 of 325 faculty members were opposed to the idea. The email change would have affected more than 15,000 people. “After carefully considering these concerns, it has become apparent to me that an effort meant to unify our campus has instead had the opposite effect, growing into something that risks moving us further apart,” Frank wrote in an email to university students, faculty and employees, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The head of a local nurses union said she plans to raise concerns about staffing issues at the University of New Mexico Hospital to the accreditation agency that rates medical institutions. In a letter written Monday to hospital officials, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199 President Lorie MacIver accuses top brass at UNMH of “failure to at least engage in a real and serious discussion hospital-wide about staffing.”
This reasoning, MacIver writes, is enough “to inform you that we will be writing to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) requesting that they review UNMH’s ‘commitment to creating a positive nursing practice environment’ to ensure the commitment is real.’”
She adds writing to ANCC is also an attempt to make sure “we don’t experience what happened when UNM’s Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation due to failures of the Health Sciences Center,” which oversees the hospital. As NM Political Report first reported in April, UNM’s Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation after what a university spokesman described as “loss of faculty over the past year in a highly competitive national environment.”
MacIver argued that retention issues in the hospital’s nursing staff could lead to the same problems at the hospital. “We’re hoping to open a dialogue with the hospital to say, ‘You’ve got serious issues,’” MacIver said in an interview. “Maybe it will take the credentialing people to say, ‘We need you to address the issues we have.’”
UNMH is currently seeking Magnet Recognition Program status, which is the most prestigious form of recognition that ANCC offers.
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.
A handful of doctor residents University of New Mexico hospital may have to find a new place to finish their residency. The university confirmed Friday that its Department of Dermatology lost its accreditation. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recently withdrew UNM’s dermatology department’s accreditation, effective June 30, according to the agency’s website. UNM’s website lists five doctors currently under the dermatology residency, three of whom won’t finish their residencies before the dermatology department’s accreditation expires. Billy Sparks is a spokesman for UNM’s Health Sciences Center, which includes the university’s School of Medicine.