The distribution of cards by the Associated Students of New Mexico during UNM Day in the state legislature last week is the cause of complaints among students and members of a local organization.
Virginia Necochea, a UNM graduate student and member of the New Mexico Coalition of Equity and Justice, said the cards misrepresented the UNM student body’s support for raising the GPA requirement of the Legislative Lottery Scholarship to address its insolvency.
“The way it reads, it’s a blanket statement on behalf of ‘the students of the University of New Mexico,’” she said. “I am very offended by this because I am a graduate student in the University of New Mexico, and I completely don’t agree with this.”
The cards stated that “the students at the University of New Mexico would like to see the lottery scholarship GPA requirement increased to 2.75,” and were attached to chocolate gold coins when they were distributed to lawmakers and attendees on UNM Day.
Necochea said she was immediately disappointed when she was handed the card.
“There were greeters there, these ASUNM reps, and they were handing out these cards for whoever who was passing by,” she said.
“I was given this card with chocolate attached to it and I thought, ‘Awesome, chocolate.’ Maybe they were just advertising. When I started reading the card, I just stopped.”
But ASUNM President Isaac Romero said that the distribution of the cards was an oversight.
ASUNM and student governments from other New Mexico universities initially decided to distribute the cards to reflect their support for the GPA increase, Romero said. But on the night before UNM Day, he said, representatives met and collectively decided to withdraw their support for increasing the scholarship’s GPA requirement.
“As the session started to progress and roll through, we, as a coalition, determined that right now is certainly not the political climate for the GPA increase,” he said. “We were hearing from our constituents that it was not what we wanted to see moving forward. We still distributed (the cards). It was an oversight, I admit, on ASUNM’s part, when it was something that we had decided not to continue with.”
Still, Romero said the cards were not an intentional misrepresentation of the UNM student body.
“I can throw up the same argument of Barack Obama saying, ‘OK, gay marriage is going to be legalized.’ Is that representative of everybody’s views?” he said. “Probably not. We came up with the best decisions that we could moving forward.”
Necochea said her main concern about the cards was that their claims were not attributed to ASUNM.
“Nowhere on here do you see ‘ASUNM,’” she said. “So the general public, what they leave with is the impression this is general UNM literature information … ASUNM is not representative of the entire student body. If they’re going to take that position, that is their position … I don’t think that just because they’re ASUNM and they’ve been elected, it gives them the power to misrepresent the entire student body.”
And she demands that ASUNM publicly apologize for the oversight, she said.
“When it’s already been handed out … what can we do?” she said. “What is necessary here is for there to be a clarification on the part of ASUNM, especially (from) President Isaac Romero, to explain how this card was endorsed.”
Necochea said that, according to data gathered by the New Mexico State University, raising the required GPA and course load for the scholarship would hurt low-income students. She said students’ GPAs should not be indicative of their eligibility for the scholarship.
“As a teacher for 15 years, I’m coming from that angle,” she said. “I know that the GPA of a student is not indicative of a student’s worth. I entered college leaving high school with a 4.0 GPA. Then I dropped below 2.75 because I was a biology major, not because I wasn’t working hard. It’s because my high school did not prepare me.”
Necochea said she disapproves fully of Senate Bill 150, which aims to raise the GPA requirement for the scholarship.
But Romero said that any fuss about SB 150 at this moment is unnecessary.
“I heard (on Monday) from the Senate education committee,” he said. “The way I understand things, they took all the bills that were passed through the Senate and they pretty much took no action on any of them … They plan to come together and find something the entire committee agrees on.”
Although the deadline for legislators to introduce bills for this year’s legislative session was Wednesday, senators can still edit SB 150 through committee substitute, Romero said.
Romero said he does not support increasing the GPA requirement through SB 150 at the moment, but added that doing so in the future may be possible if the scholarship’s insolvency issue persists.
“I am a student that comes from the South Valley — born there, raised there, my family still lives there,” he said. “I also receive Pell Grants. I am a student that identifies with this group. However, I believe that students can strive to do better … Everybody has the potential to reach beyond what limits society says.”
Romero said ASUNM will also be more careful with its mass marketing in the future.
“ASUNM will strive to be more thorough with our distribution of materials,” he said.