by Brad Johnson, campaign manager for Forecast the Facts
By a 3–2 vote on Monday, May 6, the New Mexico State University Board of Regents selected Garrey Carruthers, who questions the science of climate change, to be the next president of the land-grant institution in drought-plagued Las Cruces, despite widespread concern from faculty, students, alumni, and local legislators.
After news reports that Carruthers chaired a tobacco-industry front group in the 1990s and is a global warming skeptic, four New Mexico state representatives sent a letter to Board of Regents chair Mike Cheney questioning the wisdom of his candidacy. Last weekend, over 300 New Mexico residents signed a Forecast the Facts petition to the Board of Regents, saying: “Don’t select Garrey Carruthers, who rejects the science of climate change, to be the next president of New Mexico State University.” The petition was delivered to the board by an NMSU student.
Board of Regents Chair Mike Cheney, a local businessman and one of the three supporters of Carruthers, told reporters that he did not speak with the legislators concerned with Carruthers’ ties to Phillip Morris and his questioning of climate science:
On Monday, Cheney said he had not talked to Carruthers about his involvement in TASSC and still hoped to speak to several of the legislators about their concerns about Carruthers’ work on behalf of Philip Morris.
“When we began the search process, we realized immediately that our next president must clearly understand the environment,” Cheney said without a sense of irony.
In a comment on the Forecast the Facts petition, Dr. Stephen S. Mulkey, the president of Unity College in Unity, ME, urged against the selection of Carruthers:
Higher education should be leading our civilization in addressing the causes and impacts of climate change. It matters little whether or not Mr. Carruthers is a scientist or economist. What matters is that he respect and accept the overwhelming consensus of the experts, and that he lead his institution in responding to what is simply the greatest threat to civilization in the modern era. College and university presidents have an ethical obligation to this generation of students. Given the clarity of the scientific reality, failing to accept this charge should disqualify any candidate from a leadership position in higher education.
In April 2007, NMSU President Michael Martin signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. As part of the commitment, NMSU submitted a comprehensive Climate Action Plan which lays out a framework for “climate neutrality” by 2050, with zero net greenhouse pollution. This commitment is institutional, and not subject to changes in the presidency — in 2012, the university reported major progress in cutting greenhouse pollution. The Presidents’ Climate Commitment website has been updated to reflect President Carruthers’ responsibility in carrying out the action plan.
Carruthers has not yet commented publicly whether he will ensure the NMSU Climate Action Plan is followed.
Carruthers was previously the Republican governor of New Mexico from 1987 to 1991. From 1993 to 1998, Carruthers served as chairman of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), an organization funded by Phillip Morris to deny the health risks of smoking and other public health threats. TASSC has labeled global warming “junk science.”