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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Student Cabinet proposed amid fee review furor

news@dailylobo.com

UNM President Robert Frank is forming a new student group in an attempt to increase inclusiveness at the University.

A statement released by the president’s office stated that the group, to be called the Student Cabinet, is intended to serve as another avenue for students to participate in University affairs.

“The Student Cabinet is designed to be another venue for dialogue between students and the administration, in addition to the existing channels of communication with our student governments,” the document stated, “(Associated Students of the University of New Mexico) and (Graduate and Professional Student Association) are, and will remain, the official representatives of our students in many critical university activities, including many university committees and processes.”

The document stated that the president’s office will announce the nomination process this week. It added that the office will solicit nominations of students across campus, and that members of the cabinet will be expected to serve multi-semester terms.

“Our current thinking is that two-year terms are appropriate, with half of the Cabinet cycling off each year to allow for new perspectives while providing stability and continuity,” the document stated. “We are optimistic that we can have Cabinet members selected over the course of the next month, with meetings of the group beginning in the fall.”

According to the document, the cabinet aims to incorporate students who normally are unable to participate in University goings-on in the traditional sense provided by ASUNM and GPSA.

“It will act as an additional forum for dialogue between students and the administration on a wide array of issues that are important to students,” the document stated. “Our student body is diverse. This additional student group can help capture even more opinions and perspectives from students all across campus.”

GPSA president Priscila Poliana said President Frank needs to begin the process of improving student involvement by improving his communication with ASUNM President Isaac Romero and herself.

“If the intent is to increase our student participation, he could start by meeting with Isaac and (myself),” Poliana said, “If he’s not willing to meet with the elected leaders, how can we ever make the Student Cabinet something that is effective and inclusive?”

Poliana said Frank has not answered her emails since he proposed changes to the Student Fee Review Board. She said effective communication can only happen with trust, and the student government welcomes the chance for Frank to regain the trust he lost by going back on his deal with GPSA and ASUNM.

“Even though we support and appreciate all attempts by administrators to build a bridge of communication between students and administration, in our capacity as elected leaders we want President Frank to be responsive to us,” Poliana said. “I am requesting that President Frank come to our meeting on Friday, a meeting that is being promoted by both GPSA and Our UNM.”

The meeting will take place at 3 p.m. Friday in the Student Union Building’s Santa Anna room.

On April 17, Frank invited Poliana and Romero to a meeting to inform them that he would remove Athletics and University Libraries from the SFRB recommendations. Poliana and Romero said they believed they had an agreement with Frank that no changes would be made until fall.

Romero said that he supports the cabinet initiative, but that it was not at all expected.

“I guess it kind of came out of nowhere. I think it’s a great initiative — we support this initiative, I do of course,” he said. “It gives students a voice and allows the administration to communicate with students, which is what we’re all about. That is the reason why we exist in the first place.”

However, Romero said the cabinet does not address the problem of Frank taking away ASUNM’s and GPSA’s input in the SFRB issue.

Romero said he and Poliana would like to discuss the cabinet with Frank further in order to make sure that the future of communication between student government, administration and students does not suffer.

“We love the idea and we do want to meet and discuss it with him,” he said. “We want to make sure that nobody is stepping on anyone’s toes.”