By Billy Huntsman
This is the sixth installment in The Round Up/Oncore Magazine‘s 14-part series investigating professor turnover at NMSU.
The Round Up/Oncore Magazine attempted to get into contact with all 10 professors. Only Brown, Durán, Luna, and Rodríguez responded (in addition to Porras’ email).
Despite the time gap between when Eber’s study was published in 2008 and when the 10 professors abovementioned started leaving NMSU in 2011, there are striking similarities between Eber’s respondents’ comments and those of Brown, Durán, Luna, and Rodríguez.
Brown worked in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders within the College of Education. She worked at NMSU for 10 years, leaving in 2014, a year after being promoted to full professor. She says such a move after being promoted is unusual.
“I refuse to work at an institution, and specifically in a college or department, that has the leadership, or lack of leadership, that they did,” she says. “And I specifically told (Provost Dan Howard) that I was leaving because our current department head (Marlene Salas-Provance) was unacceptable.”
Brown says, between Summer 2013 until the end of the 2013-2014 school year, six faculty members, all women, left the SPED/CD Department alone, Brown included, two without replacement jobs, because of how “hostile” the work environment was.
“I refuse to work for someone as disrespectful as she is and (for) someone (such as former College of Education) Dean Morehead, who allowed it to happen,” Brown says.
Brown says she had intended to retire at NMSU, “regardless of the lack of competitive salary.” She says she loved the students, Las Cruces, and loved NMSU until Salas-Provance took over as department head in 2010. Morehead spoke with SPED/CD faculty to get their take on Salas-Provance being promoted to department head, and Brown says there was much objection, particularly from SPED faculty.
“I told (Morehead), ‘If she becomes chair, people will leave, she is a polarizing personality, and people will leave,’” Brown says. “And that is what has happened.”
She says Salas-Provance’s department headship “was downhill from day one.” Brown gave an example of behavior on Salas-Provance’s part she found objectionable.
“When we serve on search committees or promotion and tenure committees, the chair (department head) is supposed to be removed from the committee’s process because she or he has their own independent evaluation that they’re supposed to do,” Brown says. “But (Salas-Provance) manipulated those committees and the chairs of those committees who she put in charge of those committees so that she could do this, so that either the people that she wanted to have hired got hired or so that their letters for promotion and tenure reflected what she wanted them to reflect, so that whoever it was that was going up, it was made sure that they got promotion and tenure.”
Brown says she and other faculty members reported such practices, which “is against policy,” but Morehead “did nothing” because “they’re (Morehead and Salas-Provance) close friends.”
Brown says she had decided to start looking for a position at another university shortly before being promoted to full professor. After her promotion, she says, NMSU made no moves to try to retain her.
“I pretty much made it clear that it was a done deal, if (Salas-Provance) was going to continue to be chair of the that department and Morehead was going to continue to be dean of that college, there was no way I was staying,” she says.
Morehead was “forced out” later in the summer after Brown left.
“That’s a positive move for that college,” Brown says.
Though Salas-Provance continues to serve as SPED/CD department head.
“That’s not a good thing,” Brown says.
Brown says if Salas-Provance and Morehead had been removed from the department and college, she would have “absolutely” stayed at NMSU.
Brown says many students were “left in limbo” by the six faculty members leaving between 2013 and 2014. Doctoral students in the SPED/CD Department were especially hurt, Brown says.
“I know one of the faculty members who left and she had three or four doctoral students left to get done,” Brown says. “And she applied to be Graduate (School) faculty but off-campus, and Marlene denied it.”
Brown says she is unsure why this happened, but speculated this was done out of “spite.”
Further, the faculty who remained in the department received excessive amounts of students to advise.
“There’s no morale in that department,” Brown says.
Brown says students get the impression the department is not stable, so why would they want to major in SPED/CD?
Despite the faculty members addressing such concerns with Provost Dan Howard and Dean Morehead, Brown says she got the impression NMSU’s attitude toward losing professors is, “Well, we’ll just go get another one.”
“(After speaking with the provost) I didn’t feel any desire on his part to do anything,” Brown says.
Brown says one reason at least 136 professors might have left in 13 years was a perception of instability on the university’s part, specifically the fact that, in 10 years, NMSU has had three presidents.
“I won’t have anything good to say about that institution until it makes some serious changes,” Brown says. “It’s unfortunate that the last three and a half years that I was there was so unpleasant that it totally trumps the first six and a half years I had that was great.”
Despite multiple requests for comment from Salas-Provance, TRU/OM received no response.