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SANTA FE – Gov. Richardson was greeted as a superhero at the College of Santa Fe Tuesday morning, where he promised to keep fighting to save the school.
Students and staff cheered state and city officials who promised to try again to save the college from impending bankruptcy. An emotional crowd spilled out of a standing-room only performance space to hear the announcements.
A bill that would have enabled the state to take control of the college died when the legislature ended Saturday without taking final action.
“Our object is to keep the College of Santa Fe open forever,” Richardson began.
“While I am disappointed that the bill that would have allowed one of our state’s universities to acquire the College of Santa Fe did not make it through the legislative session, I want to assure students, faculty and the community we are not giving up,” Richardson said.
“The college is too important to the City of Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico for us to allow it to close its doors and this Task Force will look at all ways to prevent that from happening.”
The potential demise of the state’s oldest institution of higher learning dominated the last days of the state legislature.
Richardson and several of the speakers referred to a last minute roadblock that has been blamed on Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Hidalgo, Luna and Sierra, the chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee.
House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, who said two daughters graduated from the college, agreed with the governor that it was undemocratic for one person to prevent the bill from being heard.
“It shouldn’t be one person who keeps a community from expressing their needs,” he said.
Richardson signed an executive order naming a high-level task force of academic, political, governmental, community and business leaders. Many of them attended the meeting, including three students from the college.
Among the political leaders named to the task force was Smith.
Richardson asked the task force to report back by the end of April with a list of options. He named his deputy chief of staff and education advisor Bruce Perleman to lead the effort.
The governor also announced the College of Santa Fe would be on the call for a special session that is planned for later this year.
In the audience, Carlos Negreros, a custodial supervisor who has worked at the college for 12 years, said he has been wondering about the rumors for the last six months. He said he had been to the legislature twice in recent days.
Erin Dunbar, a transfer sophomore from Nevada said, “I feel pretty exhausted at this point, disappointed and disheartened,” after the last week’s organizing and lobbying campaigns at the legislature.
“This is great if it works out,” she said of the announcements. “I don’t know that we quite believe it, but at the same time it’s great to hear,” she said.
Like many other students her future plans are uncertain.
“I could stay here, but I’ll probably have to leave and go somewhere else,” she said.
Some students met application deadlines for other schools; others will most likely miss the fall semester or the year, if their college goes under.