WNMU Enrollment over the last three years

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Looking toward tonight’s “Focus on the Future” event at Western New Mexico University, I threw together this chart to highlight the growing problem of declining enrollment at the school.

WNMU Credit Hours

In blue are the credit hours for lower division courses, while the numbers in green and red indicate upper and graduate division courses, respectively.

To understand the significance of this chart (aside from the way the blue line is moving) you need to know how colleges in New Mexico are funded. It’s an incredibly complex formula, which I will condense for you thusly: schools are compensated by the state for the classes they teach. For every credit hour at WNMU, the state pays the school based on the type of course taken. Graduate level courses mean more money than lower division classes.

WNMU has been trying to increase enrollment in upper and graduate level courses (since those pay out more) and it looks like the trend there is OK. Upper level courses are increasing, while credit hours for graduate classes remains basically flat, though trending down. That’s not bad, if you have the lower-division courses to back it up.

We can expect to here more about this from Counts this evening.

Oh, for a look at the numbers as provided by the Higher Education Department, download this: WNMU_Enrollment FY05-06.pdf (Acrobat reader required).

Liveblogging WNMU’s Focus on the Future forum

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Tomorrow evening, univesity President John Counts will present a forum called “Focus on the Future,” at Western New Mexico University. I’ll be attending the event, and, thanks to the wonderful Wi-Fi access at the school, hope to live-blog the forum as well.

I’m interested in hearing what Counts has to say about WNMU, which has seen some stunning successes in the past few years. The university received the Zia Award for quality in 2004, and continues to excel with its nursing and education programs.

Unfortunately, a drawn-out battle for unionization and a large drop in enrollment have also impacted the school.

I think enrollment will continue to be an issue, and I wonder how well the university will adapt. If Eastern Arizona University’s plans to become a four-year school are approved, that might siphon some propsects from our western neighbor who might otherwise attend WNMU. In addition, a low unemployment rate might play a role.

Counts has about three years left on his contract. When he leaves, he’ll have served as president for something like 17 years. It might be time to start planning for a legacy…

Anyhoo, stay tuned tomorrow — if the wi-fi is working, I’ll start blogging at 6 p.m.

Un-snubbed

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Looks like I’m heading to the WNMU “Focus on the Future” forum after all. Carmen Maynes, in the president’s office at the school, called today to offer me a seat. The event will be packed, apparently — Maynes said she didn’t get an invite either.

Snubbed by WNMU

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Several things have been happening with Western New Mexico University recently to suggest the school is working on its image. The first sign was a call from university spokeswoman Julie Morales several weeks ago, when she told the Daily Press that university president John Counts would be meeting one-on-one with members of the community.

We were told at the time that a meeting with Daily Press staff would be scheduled. Then, we heard nothing.

Last week, two invitiations were sent to our office for a ‘presidential forum,’ to be hosted by Counts on August 3. While the university is my beat, invitations were sent to our publisher, Tina Ely, and my colleague Mary Alice Murphy.

Now, Tina wasn’t going to be able to attend, so when Mary Alice called and RSVP’d, she informed the university I would be going instead. This morning, we received a call from the president’s office stating the event is “invitation only,” and that those not on the guest list would not be allowed inside.

I guess the university doesn’t want me there.

Obfuscation 101

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Most of my regular readers likely read the Daily Press as well, and, therefore, most of you know about the elevator shooting story I wrote for Friday’s edition. This post, however, is some background behind the story. In light of the recent controversy surrounding WNMU and the Chamber of Commerce, I thought it might be educational for you to know what I go through when writing about WNMU.

I first heard about the incident on Wednesday, when I was in Rejuvenation with three friends, one of whom is a student at WNMU. I received a phone call from somebody who told me that a campus police officer had become trapped in an elevator and had reportedly fired his weapon in response. The student quickly confirmed that he had heard of the incident as well.

I spoke with my editor, and was green-lighted to begin looking into it. I traveled to WNMU to speak with university public information officer Julie Morales. Before I had finished asking my question, she handed me the following written statement:

“The incident is under investigation. Because of legal considerations and privacy concerns, the university has no further comment.”

Until this point, I had no official confirmation that anything had happened. Now, however, Morales has confirmed the incident had occurred, but wouldn’t discuss the details.

On Thursday, I attempted to contact Morales by phone, to try and glean more information from her about the shooting. She offered to transfer me to the president’s office, where I spoke with Carmen Maynes, executive assistant to President John Counts. I asked if she could give me more information, and she said she could not because of the investigation. I also asked when the investigation might be completed — she replied that she did not know. Being an investigation, this was reasonable.

I also placed a call to campus police chief Debbie Martinez, to inquire about obtaining a copy of the incident report. She said I would be required to file an information request with the president’s office, but said there wasn’t any paperwork yet. Martinez then said Maynes was handling the investigation.

This line of answers generated new questions. Why was Maynes conducting the investigation? Where students present at the time of the incident? What, exactly, was so concerning about the situation that the university was clamping down so hard?

On Friday, I attempted to contact Morales again. I spoke with her and informed her that I knew she would likely be unable to respond to my questions. I just wanted to ask the questions and give the university a chance to respond, because it has been suggested in the past that we did not afford them that opportunity.

Morales said that she could not answer any additional questions, and that the only thing she was authorized to provide was the written statement. So, printed the questions I had planned to ask, and faxed them to the public information office, requesting a reply by 11:00 a.m. At 9:46 I received the written statement. Prior to the deadline (which is our deadline for publication on Fridays), Morales called and said she had sent a revised statement, which I received at 10:52:

“We have received your questions regarding the discharge of a firearm on campus. No one was injured. The investigation concerns a personnel matter. Due to privacy concerns, we do not discuss personnel matters.”

The story was then published.

First Floor ElevatorSecond Floor Elevator
(click to enlarge)
So, now that you know what happened during the latter half of last week, I hope you’ll stick around for some observations. First and foremost: I never asked for the name of the officer involved, because it simply was not necessary at the time.

Second: while speaking with my mother this morning (I’m a good boy) I remarked to her that I did not believe, after working as a journalist in Silver City for almost three years, that I could be surprised by WNMU, until this incident. That the school would not even say on what day the shooting reportedly occurred speaks volumes of the lengths to which the administration will go to keep a lid on things.

Two bullet holes were in plain sight in the newest building on campus, and even students knew what was happening. But when an institution begins to prevent information from becoming public, the public questions what the institution has to hide. The incident itself is no longer the focus of the story — the cover-up becomes the central theme.

So, that’s what happened. I included the above pictures because I think, visually, they’re very exemplary of what’s happening at WNMU. The first shows the door leading to the elevator on the ground floor, while the next one shows the door leading to the elevator on the second floor. There are inconsistent messages coming from within the school, and some of them are outright false (painting? — the elevator door has two holes in it). All the while, the door is unlocked, and anybody can go inside and see what’s happening.

Salt of the Earth screening in ABQ in two weeks

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This seemed like a good time to post this, considering all the work being done to establish a union at Western New Mexico University:

The seldom seen and controversial independent film, Salt of the Earth, will be screened at Albuquerque’s Guild Cinema on May 1-4, accompanied by panel discussions and more. If you’ve never seen this movie, you’ve missed an important, powerful film. If you have, this is a good chance to see it again in the company of other good people.

Filmed in New Mexico in 1953-54, during the height of Senator McCarthy’s witch hunt, Salt of the Earth is an earthy and factual look at union action in the face of a mining company’s brutal treatment of its Hispanic workers. Rare for its time, the movie takes a pro-feminist tack in highlighting the courage of women on the picket lines. It’s based on actual events at a 1951 miners’ strike against Empire Zinc that took place in Bayard, near Silver City, NM. Many strike participants acted in various roles in the film.

From Democracy for New Mexico.