The office of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico, tucked behind the stairs on the lower level of the Student Union Building, has been bustling with energy as new President Noah Brooks and Vice President Sally Midani gear up for a busy semester.
First and foremost, the administration is looking to follow through on campaign promises.
To do so, the pair has three main goals: work with administration to get free student shuttles to and from home games, continue to streamline advisement and work to prevent sexual assault on campus.
While the new Lobo Achieve website was implemented over the summer, the other objectives still require attention.
When it comes to addressing sexual assault, Brooks has big ambitions.
“Hopefully one day there will be no sexual assault anywhere,” Brooks said.
In the near future, ASUNM hopes to sponsor one sexual assault prevention event each month, Brooks said. The goal for the 2017–2018 year is to create a campus climate where students feel comfortable reporting and talking about sexual assault.
As for shuttles, Brooks said he and his team have had meetings with Parking and Transportation Services during the break. He hopes giving students more access to games will increase school pride and boost enrollment.
However, boosting enrollment may be hard to accomplish.
Enrollment in New Mexico’s public postsecondary institutions has dropped 14 percent over the last six years, according to state Higher Education Department data.
And with a diminished Lottery Scholarship — which was cut 30 percent after the New Mexico Legislature approved decreased funding — the trend of shrinking enrollment could continue.
The news that Lottery Scholarship recipients would have to cover more out-of-pocket costs came roughly a month after the new ASUNM administration was installed.
In a campus-wide email earlier this year, Brooks urged students to contact their representatives and ask that they “keep the hardworking students of New Mexico in mind” during the special legislative session held this summer.
The following week, the scholarship fund was cut.
The administration was dealt another blow after the UNM Board of Regents chose to implement student fee increases and course premiums despite urgings from Brooks not to raise the cost of attendance.
Now that the fall semester is starting, the executive branch of ASUNM — consisting of Brooks, Midani, their staff and other agencies — will have the help of the legislative branch.
The legislative branch, consisting of 20 student senators, writes bills amending the ASUNM constitution and resolutions, which express the sentiment of the Senate.
The Senate consists of three committees, each with five to seven senators. The Outreach and Appointments Committee handles Senate outreach and coordinates appointments; the Steering and Rules Committee reviews bills and resolutions before they go to the full Senate; and the Finance Committee oversees all appropriations.
Midani oversees the Senate and ensures meetings go according to procedure. As vice president, she has voting power only in the event of a split.
Meetings are weekly, with committee and full Senate meetings every other week. The first gathering will be a committee meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23.
The Judicial Branch makes up the third and final branch of ASUNM. The ASUNM Chief Justice and all Associate Justices are appointed by Brooks and must be approved by the ASUNM Senate.
This year, Midani, who acts as a liaison between the executive office and legislative branch, wants to see the two branches collaborate. She also wants more focus on diversity.
“The most important goal (this year) is to bring in diversity,” she said. “Giving as many people on campus the resources they need to do what they want to is a big goal for me.”
Brooks would also like to see more diversity within ASUNM.
“There’s always the stigma that student government is from Greek life,” he said. To combat that, Brooks said the Elections Commission — which is staffed by the president — is working on implementing strategies to reach a greater student population.
Last year, 2,400 undergraduate students made it to the polls, the highest student turnout since the spring elections of 2014, the Commission reported.
Though the highest in recent years, the vote only brought out about 13 percent of all undergraduate students.
All undergraduate students are eligible to vote. Senate elections take place every semester, and presidential elections every academic year.
Brendon Gray is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.