Governor Bill Richardson held a press conference at the College of Santa Fe this morning to announce the formation of a task force whose job it will be to find a financially viable way to keep the College of Santa Fe from closing its doors after the spring semester.
Before signing the executive order to create the task force Richardson's Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Perlman, Cabinet Secretary of Higher Education Reed Dasenbrock, House Speaker Ben Lujan, Representative Lucky Varela and Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, all members of the newly formed task force, spoke to approximately 200 students, staff and faculty in the O'Shaughnessey Performance Space.
The task force comes after House Bill 577 was, according to Richardson, "drowned out in the last few days of a very difficult session." Richardson also acknowledged how hard the CSF community rallied throughout the session, especially in the final days and said he is "extremely disappointed that we did not get a hearing" on the bill but that the steps forward will allow the college to "keep going in, perhaps, a stronger way."
House Speaker Lujan spoke out in support of the Governor's move and echoed the Governor's dissappointment that HB 577 was held up in the Senate Finance Committe, pointing the finger at SFC chairman John Arthur Smith saying it is "undemocratic and unamerican for one person to deny the community to be heard."
The task force, which includes politicians, educators, local business leaders and students includes Highlands University President Jim Fries, Santa Fe Community College President Sheila Ortego, University of New Mexico Executive Vice President and Provost Suzanne Ortega, New Mexico Cultural Affairs Secretary Stuart Ashman, Lensic General Manager Bob Martin, students Irina Zerkin, Keith Murfee and Adam New. Surprisingly the task force does not include any current CSF faculty though CSF President Stuart Kirk and Vice Dean Susan Marcus were named as members.
Immediately following the press conference the task force went to work. Its preliminary report is due on April 30 to Richardson, who acknowledged that many of the students and faculty have been actively looking for other institutions.