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New Mexico State University president resigns

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. >> New Mexico State University will begin a search for a new leader after President Barbara Couture stepped down today, effective immediately.

The state Board of Regents accepted Couture’s resignation in what board Chairman Mike Cheney described as a mutually agreeable separation.

The regents didn’t provide any specific reasons for Couture’s resignation, but said she has accepted a position as senior adviser for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

They said Couture has requested and been granted administrative leave through December, but won’t receive a salary from APLU while on leave.

The regents plan to appoint an interim president by Oct. 15. The search for a new president will begin immediately.

Couture didn’t attend the regents’ meeting today but issued a statement later.

“My experience here during the last three years has convinced me of the importance of affecting policy at the national level so that colleges and universities can do a better job of assisting students through scholarship and loan programs,” Couture said in the statement. “This will be the focus of my work as senior adviser for APLU.”

She said NMSU is a wonderful school.

“With improvements that we have made in faculty and staff wages and increased efficiency during tough times, I believe the university is well positioned to move forward under new leadership,” she said.

Couture has been on leave since early last week. Her unexpected absence and the silence it brought from the regents stoked speculation on the Las Cruces campus and criticism about an apparent lack of transparency.

“Transparency is a core value of New Mexico State and we remain committed to it,” said regent Javier Gonzales. “The public without question has a right to know what agreements are made by their university and what actions are taken. But these are sensitive negotiations. People’s livelihoods and reputations are at stake.”

Tim Ketelaar, chair of the NMSU Faculty Senate, said the regents “have made the right decision and they have done so in the right way.”

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