Commentary: Watching Montana State play in the Football Championship Subdivision national title game Saturday, I wondered if Waded Cruzado was still the president there.
Sure enough, she has been president since 2010, leading the university through significant increases in enrollment and retention; an all-time high in research expenditures; and advances in academic achievement, including three Rhodes Scholars.
She is also, I assume, well liked and respected in Bozeman, just as she was in Las Cruces after being named interim president of New Mexico State University in 2008. With all due respect to Garrey Carruthers, no president since she left has been as successful at bringing together faculty, staff, students and the community. Not keeping her was a mistake.
Sadly, it wasn’t the last mistake NMSU regents would make.
In 2018, they showed Carruthers the same door they had shown Cruzado. The former governor was earning a salary of $373,450 a year when regents decided not to renew his contract, and began the search for his successor.
As often happens in such searches, it came down to two strong candidates whom regents had a hard time choosing between. What doesn’t often happen is they chose both.
John Floros was hired as president, at a salary of $450,000 a year, and Dan Arvizu was hired as chancellor, at a salary of $500,000 a year. Floros would be responsible for the main campus, and Arvizu would oversee all other campuses.
The decision, which dramatically increased administrative costs and rearranged the leadership structure, was announced by regents out of the blue, without any public input or even the indication that such moves were under consideration.
Regents appeared to be operating under the old theory used by husbands everywhere, that forgiveness comes easier than permission. But in this case, forgiveness never came.
Faculty, students and staff who were left in the dark when the changes were being considered never bought into them. And, they never understood why so much more money was being shifted to administrative salaries at the very top. And so, they responded by passing no-confidence resolutions against university leadership.
Last week it became official: the experiment was a flop. Floros announced that he was stepping down as president. Arvizu will take over that position, and his old job will not be filled.
“It’s time for our university to return to a more common leadership structure,” Arvizu said.
The transition from Carruthers to Floros/Arvizu was a murky, non-transparent mess at every step along the way.
Regents never explained why they wanted new leadership. Whatever public comment they may have received was uninvited.
Then, they met in secret to fundamentally overhaul the university’s administrative structure. Those who would be most directly impacted by the changes were not consulted or informed ahead of time.
Even if the changes had been a good idea, the plan was doomed to fail from the start because of the secretive way it was crafted. I hope the current regents understand that, and will be much more transparent moving forward.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.