The University’s undergraduate student government on Wednesday addressed the removal of parishioners in UNM’s Aquinas Newman Center.
The Associated Students of the University of New Mexico Senate passed Resolution 7S a vote of 12-7 with one abstention at a meeting that night.
The resolution aims to improve communication between the Newman Center and Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan, following his decision to remove the Dominicans, who have resided over the Newman center since 1950.
“I am really glad it passed because I feel it represents a group of students that are just trying to have their voices heard,” Sen. Jenna Hagengruber said. “They felt like they weren’t being heard. They felt like they weren’t being represented properly, and that’s what ASUNM is here for.”
Hagengruber said she believes that regardless of the religious element involved in the issue, senators should voice the concerns and opinions of their constituents.
“We are not writing resolutions saying that we are in support of Catholics or we’re not in support of Catholics, or we believe in this religion or that religion,” she said. “What we are doing is representing students. Any student organization can come to us and ask for our help.”
Sen. Ayham Maadi said he believes that by watering down the resolution, with the removal of biases, it now failed to voice the concerns of those it was originally intended to represent.
“We have amended this resolution so much that I don’t confidently know that this resolution, as it stands, is accurately representing whatever group of students that drafted this bill,” Sen. Maadi said.
Through a series of amendments in the meeting, senators decided to remove all clauses in the resolution that initially discussed the removal of the Dominicans from the center. Senators claimed that these clauses were biased.
Sen. Grace Liu said she believes that by removing the biases, the resolution actually became stronger because it brought into consideration oppositional views.
“I think the changes actually make the resolution stronger in the sense that we are also representing the students that came here today to voice their opinions,” Sen. Liu said. “So now we are essentially representing both sides.”
Sen. Colt Balok said he believes communication between the two was never an issue, and that it was unnecessary to reach out to Archbishop Sheehan by means of ASUNM.
“I don’t see why we are writing this particular resolution because anyone can write (the archbishop) and voice your opinion,” Sen. Balok said. “You don’t need this resolution to help him read letters, he already reads them.”
Several students showed up and voiced their opinion that ASUNM should not involve themselves in issues regarding the Catholic Church and the center.
“These are matters that are the sole responsibility of the archdiocese and not of ASUNM.” said UNM student Ralph Pesce. “To consider a resolution such as this and to think that it can be sent to the Holy Father himself shows ignorance of the workings and authority of the Catholic Church.”
Pesce said he is pessimistic about the resolution.
“This resolution will have no effect on how the Archdiocese makes his decisions going forward,” he said.
UNM student Zoe Macknick said she recognizes the removal of biases within the resolution. But she said she is not totally comfortable with its passage because she said she feels it does not truly represent UNM’s Catholic population.
“Even after a lot of the amendments have been made I still don’t feel comfortable with it because it is not an accurate portrayal of the students who go to UNM, who are Catholic,” Macknick said.
Those in favor of Resolution 7S say communication between the Archbishop and the Newman center is the main cause of their distress, not the removal of the Dominicans.
“We respect the ability of the Archbishop to make these changes in staffing,” said UNM alumna Catherine Loweree. “However, the way this change was brought about was heartbreaking.”
She said the refusal of the archbishop to meet with parishioners and gain better insight into various opinions held at the center has been frustrating.Through the resolution, she said she hopes that the Dominicans and other religious groups will gain more respect.
“We desire only the chance to share with whomever we can the profound impact of the Dominicans message of love and service has had on the thousands of students that have passed through Newman’s doors over the past sixty plus years,” she said.