Archive for May 7th, 2009

In today’s Journal, the paper’s first-rate UNM beat reporter, Martin Salazar, has a story ($ sub. req.) showing that for the first time CNM — Central New Mexico Community College — has become the state’s largest higher education institution, surpassing UNM’s enrollment by 172 students.

After I read Martin’s story, two people came to mind, each retired from UNM after long and distinguished careers — David Stuart, former Associate Provost for Academic Affairs; and his wife, Cindy Stuart, former Director of Admissions.

I was curious to know their thoughts on the notion that CNM had surpassed UNM in student enrollment.

Here’s what David Stuart had to say:

“What it means to me is that CNM is meeting community needs, being efficient, being practical, being inexpensive — in other words, CNM is doing all the things UNM isn’t doing right now,” he said.

He elaborated a bit: “Even though it’s (CNM) not the same kind of institution, it’s meeting a lot of basic educational and community needs and it’s doing it very, very well.

“I don’t know why UNM can’t do that. If UNM hadn’t gone into the tank with so many high-priced administrative positions and PR campaigns that are sometimes just downright goofy, UNM would still be ahead of CNM. But it’s not. And it’s by its own hand.

“UNM is not offering enough courses to undergraduates; it continues to trim the number of sections offered to undergraduates, so kids are having a harder and harder time getting their basic classes; and I personally know quite a few kids in the coffee shops around campus who take a lot of their required courses at CNM. They’re enrolled at UNM, but they just transfer them in (from CNM) because it’s so much cheaper.”

His wife, Cindy, said: “I was on the phone with a UNM senior tenured research faculty member when all of a sudden he said: `Oh, my God, what are they are trying to do? Turn this (UNM) into a teaching university?’ I was stunned. I had no response. He wasn’t joking. He meant it.”

David Stuart then concluded the conversation: “This is a big story and it’s not a sign of the economic times. It’s a sign of the hubris times at UNM. UNM is behaving like General Motors: “This is what we think you should have and you’re going to buy it.”

“It doesn’t matter that it’s not needed or outmoded. UNM has a tin ear to buyer preferences, which is to say, student preferences.

“UNM says to its students: “You’ll take what we give to you,” he said.

I’m having a conversation (e-mail) with an old news pro, a guy who has been around the block more than a few times. The topic is Manny Ramirez, an odd creature formerly playing left field for the Boston Red Sox and now doing the same job for the Dodgers. He has been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for … something. I stopped reading the story before it reached that point. I just didn’t care what he had tested positive for.

Then an e-mail from the old news pro just happened to show up: “Are we all tired of Manny Ramirez? I am.”

He’d struck a nerve and I wrote back: Funny you should ask if I’m tired of Manny Ramirez. Yes, I am. I’m tired of A-Rod, too. I’m tired of the repetition, the 24/7 news cycle that demands news whether it’s there or not, the endless analysis and all the rest that comes with what we call “news” today. But I sure don’t know what to do about it. Any suggestions?

He had one:

“We need an automatic television editor. You punch in “Manny Ramirez”, and the minute the words “Manny Ramirez” are spoken by the announcer, the television switches channels to the nearest Yogi Bear cartoon, Clint Eastwood movie or whatever you program it to do. I choose Yogi Bear because he is slightly more relevant than Manny Ramirez.”

Are the two of us jaded? Worn out? I don’t know. But it does seem to me that an awful lot of what passes for news isn’t. It’s not so much the Manny story itself that ran today that bothers me. That’s a legitimate news story. What I have in mind is the next 72 hours of non-stop analysis that surely will follow today’s story.

Then of course there’s the perpetual A-Rod saga and … Oh, let’s not go there.