LAS CRUCES, NM — Dr. Barbara Couture will no longer be president of New Mexico State University. On Monday, Board of Regents Chairman Mike Cheney said the board and Couture mutually-agreed on a separation agreement.
Dozens of people anxiously listened as Cheney said the university and Couture were parting ways. Cheney said the board learned Couture was resigning 10 minutes before the meeting. Cheney said Couture asked for an annual leave last week.
Students, faculty and community members went to the meeting with a lot of questions but the board of regents could not give many answers.
"There have been a lot of rumors or conversations out there that were not initiated by this board and I would just tell you that I'm not going to comment on rumors in my business. I'm not going to comment on these kinds of rumors," said Cheney.
In the meeting, Regent Javier Gonzales brought up several challenges the university faces including decline in research dollars and a drop in enrollment. Also, the loss of accreditation of the Doña Ana Community College nursing program and issues with the athletic program.
New Mexico State Senator Mary Kay Papen said she understands the board cannot talk about personnel issues.
"I think there's a lot of things legally that they can't be more transparent than they were but I'm sure over time the transparency will come out and I hope it does so we have a better idea of the reasons behind it," said Papen.
Others said it wasn't enough.
"I feel a little distraught, discouraged... I know they answered what they could answer. I didn't feel like I came out with any much more than I did before today's meeting," said local elementary student Tommy Esparza.
Couture will be on administrative leave until December 31. Regents appointed provost Wendy Wilkins to take over presidential duties. The day-to-day business continues under the direction of each unit vice president or college dean.
Regents said they expect to have an interim president appointed in two weeks.
"If everyone will move forward with business as usual and if we all pull together and create a stronger future for this university then we are gonna select a new person to go forward and it's going to be a good day for New Mexico State," said Cheney.
Counsel for the regents said Couture has accepted a senior advisor position at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
According to the separation agreement between the board of regents and Couture, the university will continue to pay Couture until the end of the year. NMSU will also give her a lump sum payment of more than $453,000.
Local 4 News has attached a copy of the Couture's Settlement Agreement.
|NMSU Barbara Couture Settlement Agreement and Release of Liability 10.01.12.pdf ||1.33 MB|