Resolution 5S comes in the wake of a New Mexico Senate bill that would remove the mandate ensuring the scholarship 30 percent of lottery profits.
If passed, Senate Bill 355 will allow the 30 percent minimum to be done away with in favor of an increased amount of money going to the promotion of the lottery as well as lottery prizes.
This isn’t the first time that the undergraduate student governing body has declared their opposition to possible cuts to the scholarship. However, ASUNM Vice President Jenna Hagengruber said there is added weight to Resolution 5S because there is official legislation now making the rounds in the state Legislature, whereas before it was only a possibility.
“We need to be forward in our opinions and vigorous in our attempts at finding a solution that is best for all of our students,” Hagengruber said. “This resolution that went through is important to show the students and our government that we are trying to stop a solution that will not actually benefit our students, but we can’t stop here.”
ASUNM senators made several comments in discussion of the resolution, saying that their timing is crucial. Sen. Victoria Pryor said it is a priority that they make their stance known.
“The session is going on right now in Santa Fe, so we have to raise a hullabaloo about it.” she said. “If you ask your mom if you can go to your friend’s birthday party and she doesn’t give you an answer, you ask her again in a different way. It doesn’t hurt to be redundant. It’s showing how strongly we feel about the issue.”
Sen. Mack Follingstad agreed with Pryor’s sentiments, declaring that saying nothing would cost far more than passing a repetitive legislation.
However, there is at least one senator who voiced her discontent with not only repetitive legislation, but also for symbolic resolutions. Sen. Nadia Cabrera said she advocates meaningful resolutions that propose tangible change for the good of UNM.
“Legislation means nothing unless we – senators, students or whoever – make it mean something,” Cabrera said. “The fact that (state) legislators went ahead with plans to remove the 30 percent minimum scholarship fund shows that they did not take our (previous) resolution seriously.”
Resolution 4S, passed earlier in the month, also declared ASUNM’s opposition to proposed scholarship cuts, although there was no senate bill at the time in Santa Fe. They also passed a similar resolution in the fall when the idea was first being suggested.
Cabrera said passing essentially identical resolutions reinforces the idea that ASUNM’s opinion can be disregarded.
“Instead, we should focus on strengthening the value of our legislation to catch and maintain the attention of administrators and legislators,” she said.
The student government of another school is taking an entirely different stance on the bill.
Bryce Smith, director of governmental affairs for the Associated Students of New Mexico State University said the members of ASNMSU strongly support the bill. Unlike ASUNM, Smith said the NMSU organization is focusing on the possible long-term effects of the proposed changes.
“If the lottery can grow sales,” he said, “they can use the extra funds to advertise and promote the lottery. They can also increase payouts. At the end of the day this means more money for students.”
Smith said he has had conversations with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and New Mexico Lottery CEO David Barden, which helped him formulate his stance.
“I believe they are both looking to help students and not hurt the fund,” Smith said. “I would ask that ASUNM look at and support the bill. We need to innovate and try new things to get the lottery growing again. We know the award will continue to fall unless we change things.”
According to research by Think New Mexico, between 1997, the inception of the lottery scholarship, and 2007, $28.6 million went to the lottery each year. Between 2008 and 2013, when the 30 percent minimum was in effect, an average of about $41.9 million was allotted to the lottery each year.
ASUNM President Rachel Williams vocalized the need for the 30 percent minimum.
“As students, we need to vocalize that in this time of uncertainty with the lottery scholarship and how long it’s going to take to solve it, that we need that 30 percent floor,” she said.
The bill is scheduled to be presented to the Senate Finance Committee today. If it passes the committee, it will again be presented on the Senate floor and voted upon at a later date.
David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.