The University Administrative Policies (UAP) at the University of New Mexico are getting a makeover after members of a UNM task force charged with reviewing the policies for equity and inclusion found an opportunity for an unexpected collaboration.

The UNM Policy Office and the School of Law Library are proactively reviewing the 166 policies in the University Administrative Policies and Procedures Manual to ensure each is up-to-date with state and federal regulations and statutory requirements. The manual serves as the guiding document for UNM’s administrative functions including details on everything from recruitment and hiring to how the University establishes tuition. Many of the policies are in place to ensure the University follows state and Federal law, with some linking directly to regulations and others referring to them more generally as applicable laws.

As time passes and laws and web URLs change, listed regulations may become outdated, whether from hyperlinks pointing to prior versions or a reader’s misunderstanding of which state and Federal laws each references. Now, staff and post-doctoral fellows at the UNM Law Library will review every policy and flag outdated links, statutes that have changed, and places where the text can more specifically cite legal references.

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Sherri Thomas

Sherri Thomas, associate dean of Institutional Climate and Equity at the UNM School of Law and assistant director of the Law Library, identified the opportunity for the Law Library to collaborate with the Policy Office while working on the University Policy Equity and Inclusion Lens (PEIL) Taskforce. The task force was charged with reviewing administrative policies to help make them more accessible and equitable in harmony with UNM 2040. 

“We want to make sure that anyone who reads the UNM administrative policies, regardless of their reading level, is able to understand them. The language should be precise and there is no guessing at what they mean. It’s absolutely necessary that UNM stays on top of changes not only with New Mexico law, but we’re looking at Federal law, as well,” Thomas said. “There are links to different agencies in New Mexico and different agencies at the Federal level, so it’s absolutely indispensable and incredibly important work,” Thomas said.

The initial process will involve a full review of all links and citations followed by a secondary review to identify specific statutes and laws certain policies reference generally. The work requires extensive knowledge of the law and has an approximate value of $150 an hour. To have the work completed in-house by the highly-trained Law Library staff was a dream come true for Sidney Mason-Coon, the University policy officer.

Sidney Mason Coon
Sidney Mason-Coon

“We didn’t reach out and request this, but I think I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes when the offer was extended because it will serve us so well in the quest and desire to improve our policies,” Mason-Coon said. “I keep calling the project the ‘Best of the Best’ because it is some of our University’s best-trained employees collaborating with us to make the best possible policies.”

Staff at the Law Library will spend three to four months completing a full review of the administrative policies. The initial review is being completed by Logan Migliore, the Reference and Public Outreach librarian at the UNM Law Library. After this initial extensive review of the policy manual, the policies will be reviewed annually by post-doctoral fellows at the UNM Law Library. Law Library post-doctoral fellows must hold either a J.D. degree or a Master of Library Sciences degree from an accredited program but often hold both degrees.

“One of the reasons that I think the law library specifically is a really good partnership with the Policy Office is the part of our training that allows us to identify accurate, official sources of information versus things that have perhaps been republished. With a traditional library, information is information as long as you get it from a place that has some sort of reputable background,” Migliore said. “Being able to identify right off the bat that somewhere may not be the right place to get information even though it may technically be correct — that level of efficiency is a big part of what our training helps with, and it’s how we help the general public and how we help our students find information that is not just accurate, but directly from the source.”

In future years, the annual policy review will provide post-doctoral fellows with the opportunity to work on a legal research project and develop efficiency in their referencing process. The fellowship is annual and can be renewed for up to five years, allowing fellows to learn reference skills, research, teaching and more.

Still, no one from the Law Library will provide legal advice. Instead, they will flag policies for the Policy Office to further review and help inform them of potential changes for the office to explore with the departments that own and oversee each policy and the University’s legal counsel. When all of the work is done, the heart of the policies will remain unchanged but should be up to date and in compliance.

The project is an extension of the services already offered at the Law Library, which includes assisting students, faculty and the public in legal research, as well as preparing law students for their future careers.

MichelleRigual
Michelle Rigual

Michelle Rigual, associate dean for Information Services and Operations and Law Library director, said the Law Library’s primary goal is to get law students ready for the responsibilities of providing legal services including research. The Law Library teaches two classes on legal research and assists students and faculty in identifying legal information.

For Rigual, the policy project speaks to the importance of working with people outside your immediate team, which in this case happened because staff from both departments are embedded throughout the University.

“Committee work can be a burden, time-wise, but it creates these relationships with expertise from various fields collaborating. In the end, it will turn into a great time-saver that makes the University run much better. It wouldn’t happen if we were all in our silos. It can be hard to get out of those, but projects like this make it rewarding,” she said.

The project was made possible not only by the interdisciplinary efforts of University faculty and staff but also by the efficiency of the Policy Office. Rigual, Thomas and Migliore were all quick to express their gratitude to the Policy Office for its staff’s excitement for improving policies and their high level of organization and project management of the PEIL Taskforce and the policy review collaboration.

“Sidney Mason-Coon and Rachel Lucas from the Policy Office have done an incredible job creating the infrastructure for how this project is being implemented from setting up the Team space to organizing the Policy sections in a way that makes them super easy to access and where we can all see the recommendations being made and work being done,” Migliore said. “Rachel and Sidney basically did the hard part for me.”

The Policy Office’s management of the PEIL Taskforce created strong infrastructure and organization and enabled its members to focus their efforts on reviewing policy. 

“Sidney and Rachel created an environment that made this work possible,” Thomas said. “I was put into an environment that made it easier for me to see the connections and to see the need. I was able to focus on the work the taskforce was supposed to do, and sometimes with committees that is not always the case.”

After the review is complete and any updates are made by the Policy Office and UNM Legal Counsel, faculty and staff can expect the policies to remain largely unchanged but may notice enhanced access to the statutes and regulations and precision of language.

Other UNM departments and members of the public who need help identifying statutes, laws or other legal information can chat or book a research consultation with a law librarian at the UNM Law Library. Librarians cannot provide legal advice but can help answer research questions.

Image at top: Logan Migliore pulls a book from a shelf at the UNM Law Library (Carly Bowling/UNM).