LAS CRUCES - In a special meeting on Wednesday, members of the New Mexico State University Board of Regents chose not to extend Chancellor Garrey Carruthers' contract.
"Is it a political decision? asked Debra Hicks, the chair of the board. "No. The decision is based purely on what the needs are for New Mexico State University students and what is best for our state moving forward."
Hicks insisted that this was a decision made over a long period of time as the regents evaluated how to raise enrollment and research dollars. Even though the chancellor celebrated his 78th birthday a day earlier, Hicks insisted age wasn't factor.
"It has nothing to do with that," Hicks said.
Carruthers announced his retirement in early August, stating that he would step down after his contract is over in July 2018. In the weeks follow his announcement, several prominent politicians in the state of New Mexico have come forward, asking that the Board of Regents offer a contract extension: all of them democrats.
State Sen. Mary Kay Papen, who represents District 38, was a vocal opponent of the regents' decision not to extend the contract. She spoke exclusively to ABC-7 a week after his announcement.
“(I find it) just appalling," Papen said. "I have to say I have a real heartburn over it as do many of the other legislators, and I think many of the students as well."
Another week passed, and another politician stepped forward.
"Carruthers has stayed the longest," said State Rep. Bill McCamley, who represents district 33 in New Mexico. "He's brought stability to an institution that didn't have it for about twenty years, and that means something and it's important. So if you're doing a good job and people want to see you stay in the town, why is he then being fired?"
Following the legislators' comments, Carruthers issued a statement, saying he would be happy to continue his role as president of the university.
"I recognize the decision about the extension of my contract belongs to the Regents," said Carruthers, in his statement on August 23rd. "Should they change their minds, I am willing to serve. If not, I will honor their decision and work diligently over the course of the next 10 months to continue to advance this great institution and its teaching, research, and service mission."
In the days leading up to the Regents' special meeting, another democrat came to Carruthers' defense: Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima.
"I'm trying to respectfully request them to consider extending his contract," Miyagishima said. "You know, I think it's crucial that the university maintain Chancellor Carruthers. He's done a fantastic job. I know that they know that, but I think the fact that he's willing to stay on - we hope that they would reconsider and possibly consider extending an offer to him."
Several students, faculty and alumni also spoke on behalf of Carruthers. Not a single attendee of the meeting spoke negatively about the Chancellor.
"He's willing to work with everyone to sail us through these stormy seas," said Tim Ketelaar, Associate Dean of NMSU's Honors College. "Although the seas of higher education are getting a lot calmer these days, we still have many challenges ahead of us. Today, I'd like to express to the Board of Regents that I value keeping Captain Carruthers at the helm of this ship."
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, every single politician that came to Carruthers' defense was a democrat, defending a former republican governor in the state of New Mexico.
The Board of Regents is under the leadership of Governor Susana Martinez, who accused those state legislators of trying to subvert the constitution by placing pressure on her Board of Regents.
"I don't think the politicians should subvert the constitution by trying to get involved in something that obviously Chancellor Carruthers chose for himself and his family - to go ahead and resign," Martinez told ABC-7 following an event in Santa Teresa.
ABC-7 asked Governor Martinez if she would consider becoming the new president of New Mexico State University.
"Oh no," Martinez said. "No, no, no. I am not interested in being a chancellor or president of any university."
ABC-7 will have live coverage and updates of the meeting throughout the day. Stay with us on-air and online.