Dr. Carmen Fernandez is against renaming one of the buildings of the Northern Marianas College in As Terlaje campus after the college’s former president, Agnes McPhetres.
In her comments on House Speaker Rafael Demapan’s (R-Saipan) bill, the current president, Fernandez said this could jeopardize the college’s accreditation.
House Bill 20-133 would rename Building P in the Saipan campus as the “Agnes Manglona McPhetres Administrative Building.”
Fernandez stated in her letter that while she agrees with the aim of the bill, H.B. 20-133 remains unconstitutional, citing Section 2(a) of Article XV of the Commonwealth Constitution. Fernandez said the CNMI Constitution states that, “The Board of Regents shall…have autonomy in the administration of [the college’s] affairs.”
Fernandez also pointed out that previous Commonwealth Supreme Court rulings have recognized NMC as an autonomous agency.
Fernandez said she believes it is up to the NMC Board of Regents to decide the “most appropriate action to honor [McPhetres’] pivotal role in the success of the college.”
“We raise these issues about autonomy because, in the past several years, legislative interference has resulted in adverse actions by NMC’s accrediting body. And, while House Bill 12-122 means well, it may be viewed as political interference because it attempts to assume duties that rightfully belong to the NMC Board of Regents,” she said, adding that the college is in a “good place with regard to accreditation” and that she wishes to “prevent any [sanctions] from being levied against NMC.”
According to Fernandez’s letter, NMC is currently clear of sanctions.
Rep. Edwin Aldan (R-Saipan), a member of the House Judicial and Governmental Operations Committee, disagrees. According to Aldan, McPhetres deserves “recognition [for] her efforts.”
Aldan said he fails to see any adverse effects on NMC’s accreditation pertaining to the renaming of a building.
Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) pointed out that a building within the NMC campus was previously named after someone as well.
Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan), who was acting chair in the absence of Rep. Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan), said the committee would table the bill while their legal counsel reviews NMC’s claim.