LAS CRUCES, N.M. - After being on leave for all of last week and with her future in doubt, Barbara Couture is no longer the president of New Mexico State University.
The announcement was made by the NMSU board of regents at a public meeting at NMSU's Corbett Center on Monday afternoon.
The open meeting followed a two-hour closed session where the board discussed personnel and legal matters. This was the fourth closed session in the last month and a half.
At the open meeting, the regents announced a motion for a mutually-agreed upon
separation agreement with Couture. The motion was approved.
Board members refused to comment on any details regarding Couture's resignation.
"I'm not going to comment on rumors in my business, and I'm not going to comment on these kinds of rumors," board chairman Mike Cheney said. "Personnel issues are exempt from public discussion to protect Dr. Couture and to protect the university, so we will not discuss the specifics behind the decision."
Cheney said Couture initiated her annual leave last week. He said the board did not decide on accepting her resignation until 10 minutes before Monday's meeting.
She will be on administrative leave until Dec. 31 and will receive full benefits and salary in the meantime.
At Monday's meeting, the regents appointed Provost Wendy Wilkins to overtake president's administrative duties. Regents hope to have an interim president lined up by their next meeting on Oct. 15.
Last week ABC-7 reported a source close to the university told us Couture would be out of her position soon. Our source said Couture was forced out for various reasons that matched up with Regent Javier Gonzales' list of issues plaguing the university.
"There is no understating the challenges we are facing as a university. We've seen falling enrollment, decline in our research dollars, unreliable and inconsistent state funding, an athletic program that's in danger of finding itself with no conference to play in, a nursing school that just lost its accreditation and much more," Gonzales said at the meeting. "As regents we know the buck stops with all of us, and it's our job to address the many challenges facing our great university."
The board is adamant they had nothing to do with Couture's resignation.
"None of this came about as a result of any type of pressure from any regent or any university constituency," Gonzales told ABC-7.
Counsel for the NMSU regents said Couture has taken a senior advising position with the Association of Public Land-Grants Universities.
Couture chaired the Executive Committee for the Council on Academic Affairs for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities from 2008-2009, according to her bio on the NMSU website.
Couture was scheduled to give the State of the University Address "Our Partnerships, Our Future,"on Oct. 10. Regents said all of Couture's public appearances for at least the next two weeks have been cancelled.
In Nov. 2009, the NMSU board of regents appointed Couture as the university's 25th president. Couture assumed the office in Jan. 2010 and led the land-grant institution with four community colleges, cooperative extension offices in 33 counties, a network of off-campus agricultural science centers and the university campus in Las Cruces.
According to Couture's original contract, she was supposed to receive a $500,000 retention bonus in her fifth year. The contract clearly states if she left her position for any reason, she was not entitled to any portion of that bonus.
According to her settlement with the university, she will receive a lump sum payment of $453,092.72 in January.