The nearly five-year tenure of Dan Arvizu as top leader at the New Mexico State University System ended Friday with a “mutual separation” announcement following a tumultuous six months that included the suspension of the main campus’ men’s basketball team amid hazing allegations.
Arvizu, 72, had been expected to depart following the end of his contract in June, with regents in December authorizing a search for a new chancellor.
In a message to campus, Arvizu said Friday he believes “accelerating this transition will allow the university to put its full focus on finding its next permanent chancellor,” calling the decision to step down early “truly mutual.”
A statement Friday from the New Mexico State University Board of Regents also referred to the separation as mutual. The regents named Jay Gogue, a former president of the Las Cruces campus from 2000-03, as interim chancellor. Gogue most recently served as president of Auburn University in Alabama.
The Las Cruces (New Mexico) Sun reported that Arvizu will be paid for the remainder of his contract. The Sun reported Arvizu’s annual compensation as between $500,000 and $650,000, depending on incentive pay. Arvizu began his tenure working with a president of the Las Cruces campus, but in January 2022 he moved to consolidate the chancellor and president positions into a single job.
The December announcement of a search for a new chancellor highlighted some accomplishments under Arvizu, including the university last fall having its largest freshman class since 2009.
But gun violence and reported hazing involving men’s basketball players were black marks for the institution.
Allegations of repeated instances of sexual hazing that involved spanking and touching of a player’s scrotum led the university to suspend the team’s season on Feb. 10, with the university soon after firing head coach Greg Heiar.
In November, a New Mexico State men’s basketball player shot and killed a University of New Mexico student while on a team trip after being “lured” at 3 a.m. to the campus, according to state police. The player, Mike Peake, sustained a gunshot wound during the altercation, and no criminal charges have been filed against him.
A law firm hired by the university to conduct an external investigation into the shooting found that the university met its legal obligations in its response, but recommended the university consider a revised weapons policy and having clearer curfew guidelines for athletic teams.