Election season for the Associated Students of UNM is in full swing, with early voting for the next ASUNM president and vice president taking place on Thursday. Election Day is March 29, while senatorial elections will be held in a few weeks.
The Daily Lobo reached out to the four presidential candidates on the ballot to find out what their priorities would be, if elected, as well as their previous ASUNM experience and their thoughts on UNM's current weaknesses and areas in need of improvement.
Justin Cooper, junior, international marketing and management
Previous ASUNM experience: Legislative coordinator, Senate, Finance Committee chair, ASUNM Lobo Spirit executive director.
Biggest priorities: "To educate students on how ASUNM can help all students and all student
groups. So many people have no idea that our student government even
exists. I want to be clear with everyone about what
it does for all of us and how it can help each student have the best
college experience. Whether that’s being clear with financials and
student fees or creating a safe and fun environment for all students."
On UNM's biggest weakness: "This is my third time running for ASUNM office, and to be honest it is absolutely heartbreaking and infuriating that our campus is not safe. Each year ASUNM campaigns focus their platforms around safety and it is frustrating that the students are constantly advocating for change and the UNM administration disregards measures to make our campus safer.
(Running mate) Mike Landgraf and I have the ideas to implement
safety measures that help students advocate for students when it comes
to safety. I don’t want to over-promise and
under-deliver, but I want to create realistic attainable goals that can
be achieved in a year-long term."
On long-term goals: "Three long term goals that I will strive to implement, whether elected or not, is to create a Student Safety Patrol, which would allow students to work with UNMPD and the Safety Committee to advocate for students who feel unsafe on campus, a new funding process from ASUNM’s Balance Forward Allocation that would help give more money to student groups in dire need of support rather than just the student government, and to promote Lobo Pride on campus by working with the city to change all of the street signs around campus to be cherry/silver Lobo pride theme."
On the importance of ASUNM being connected to the student body: "After meeting with dozens of student groups we realized how disconnected the students are to ASUNM and how absolutely disconnected ASUNM is to the students.
When we went to meetings there were so many individuals who had never heard about ASUNM events or ever attended a Senate meeting.
Our experience can help see what is broken and fix it. The Outreach and Appointments Committee has failed to reach out to these students in the past. We would utilize this committee and agencies to continue to talk to all students and groups so there are more than just 1,600 students voting."
Elena Garcia, sophomore, business
Previous ASUNM experience: Senate, Steering and Rules Committee
Biggest priorities: "My biggest priority as a candidate is bridging the gap between ASUNM and the students. Students need to know they have a voice at their university, and it is of the utmost importance that those voices are heard and taken into consideration always. I see a lot of potential in ASUNM and I want to see that potential lived out."
On UNM's biggest weakness: "UNM's biggest weakness is disconnect throughout the community. UNM is a commuter campus, and I know most students don't feel like this is their home. It's just a place they take classes and go home.
I think ASUNM should work to create a community and promote student involvement as well as involvement in the student government. To be involved in ASUNM is a great way to meet new people and have a huge impact."
On long-term goals: "I'm passionate about making UNM a destination university. I want to see students from other states coming to UNM because they're excited to be a Lobo. That's why I am so excited about promoting athletics and making our athletic program a defining aspect of this university.
I also want to ensure that the Lottery Scholarship be maintained for the long-term. That scholarship has impacted the lives of so many students at UNM, and I want to make sure every student has the opportunity for higher education, especially those who may not otherwise be given that opportunity."
On the importance of ASUNM being connected to the student body: "It is extremely important for ASUNM to be connected to the student body. Students should be aware that there is an organization making decisions which affect them, and they have the opportunity to have a voice and influence these decisions.
I want ASUNM to be a resource for students. I want students to always know that ASUNM is there for them; it isn't just this entity they need to fight with all the time."
Gabe Gallegos, junior, political science and strategic communications
Previous ASUNM experience: Emerging Lobo Leaders, Senate, Outreach and Appointments Committee chair, Director of Communications.
Biggest priorities: "Addressing the financial difficulties and disparities on campus. Students are taking out thousands of dollars in student loans to pay for their educational futures. By building community partnerships within ABQ and our state, we can meet real needs on campus by identifying problems and creating solutions with folks in our community who can help.
We need to continue to fight for a Lottery Scholarship that is sustainable for generations to come and ensure that our university’s student-focused initiatives continue to thrive."
On UNM's biggest weakness: "We have a hard time at the University coming to the table and negotiating about the important issues and challenges that are facing us. I believe that we as the student government can play an important role in bringing all stakeholders to the table to come up with solutions that will benefit all.
Another key challenge that UNM is facing is the continued University budget crisis. There needs to be open and productive dialogue with students represented at the table as we continue to grapple with the budget."
On long-term goals: "We need to change the culture of ASUNM to one that works for all students, not just a few. Every Lobo has a voice, and that voice should matter and have significant impact on our campus. Hand in hand with the 20,000 students on this campus, I want to build a student government that is inclusive, innovative and brings new voices to the table.
I want to create solid community partnerships that will benefit students to come. And I want ASUNM and the student body to believe in our ability to make a massive difference in our community."
On the importance of ASUNM being connected with the student body: "Without student feedback and student representation, we cannot effectively bring solutions to the University administration about the challenges we face as a university.
It is critical that ASUNM is hitting the pavement, student by student, to engage our peers about these important University-wide issues to gain their feedback.This campaign is about the real issues, and it’s going to take all of us to come up with solutions."
Previous ASUNM experience: Senate, Steering and Rules Committee Chair, Senate President Pro Tempore
Biggest priorities: "(Running mate) Sally (Midani) and I's biggest priorities are to end sexual assault on campus, streamline advisement and to make UNM a destination university.
We will do this by ensuring that all blue poles on campus are working properly, and by creating a resource guide for all survivors of sexual assault to inform them on the next steps they can take including who is a confidential and non-confidential reporter.
We will update the LoboAchieve website to expedite student advisement. And finally, we want to make UNM a destination university for students who want to study abroad by providing scholarships."
On UNM's biggest weakness: "UNM's biggest weakness, currently, is the safety of the students. Students have been saying for many years that they do not feel safe on campus. The way that we wish to fix this is by working with our connections in the state legislature to ensure that UNM can gain capital outlay funding for better lighting and blue poles on campus.
On long-term goals: "Our long term goal as ONE UNM, is to ensure that students feel safe on campus and are not worried about being sexually assaulted.
We also want to ensure that we can fix the advisement website and streamline advisement for students to ensure that students are receiving the best advisement possible. This will help enhance our four-year graduation rates, and eventually help make UNM a destination university."
On the importance of ASUNM being connected with the student body: "There should be no other goal of ASUNM than to be connected to the student body. We say that we, as ASUNM, are the voice of the students, but in all reality the students should be our voice."
Our goal is to create ONE UNM where ASUNM and the student body are one cohesive unit that work closely together in all decisions that are made."
David Lynch is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.