For the last three months, the office of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico, nestled in a corner on the lower level of the Student Union Building, has been bustling with energy as students leaders work to govern the undergraduate student body.
The executive administration, led by President Noah Brooks, Vice President Sally Midani with support from the deeply layered ASUNM executive staff — Chief of Staff Mason Martinez, Director of Communications Noah Michelsohn, Deputy Chief of Staff Alice Vernon, Deputy Director of Communications Chelsea Kaban and Senate Aides Selina Montoya and Sara Midani — have been working to accomplish the administration's three campaign goals.
The goals include: preventing sexual assault on campus, continuing to improve the advisement process and making UNM a “destination university.”
In addition to that staff, the eight executive directors of ASUNM Student Service Agencies and 20 senators have been working — sometimes in tandem, sometimes not — to accomplish their goals.
The semester’s close doesn’t mark the end of work for ASUNM.
Once back from the break, ASUNM will be fighting for increased, or at least preserved, funding for the state Legislative Lottery Scholarship; support for big capital outlay going to numerous main campus projects and, ideally, a low student fee increase for the 2018-19 academic year.
In many ways, Brooks has his work cut out for him.
Last year, ever-shrinking state reserves pushed the percentage of tuition covered by the Lottery Scholarship down 30 percent, and slipping enrollment has pressured the Board of Regents to continue raising the cost of attendance, with tuition and student fees steadily increasing in recent years.
But Brooks says he and his team are ready for the fight.
“We weren’t just using words during our campaign,” he said. “We were actually passionate about these things.”
That is what he will be working to prove, at least.
While the semester has not left ASUNM without its battle scars, there have been numerous legislative accomplishments.
In October, an ASUNM resolution pressuring administrators to stock women’s restrooms tampon dispensers saw an almost immediate response from building managers. Senators also passed legislation that changed the election process to increase turnout and ASUNM diversity.
The following election saw the largest number of voters ever in a fall semester.
In collaboration between the executive office and the Senate, ASUNM has held monthly “It’s On Us” events to bring attention to sexual assault on campus.
In total, there were about a dozen bills and resolutions and tens of thousands of appropriation dollars that passed across the ASUNM Senate floor this semester.
“I’m really seeing senators connect with those (student) groups more than they have in the past,” Midani said.
Midani, who oversees the Senate, predicts next semester’s Finance Committee will face the largest budget process in recent memory, drawing from the ever-growing number of student organizations and a general increased understanding in the budgeting process.
With 11 new senators entering next semester, Midani hopes ASUNM can focus more on what students want “and what can be improved campus-wide.”
In addition to the legislative efforts, the executive office emphasized the numerous newly-formated ASUNM events born out of increased collaboration between ASUNM entities.
Chief among them, Party in the Pit — the first-ever party-style event hosted in the newly renamed Dreamstyle Arena — drew about 2,000 students, Brooks said. He gave gleaming accolades to the two student service agencies, Student Special Events and Lobo Spirit, which helped put on the event.
“We’ve stuck to (our goals), and we have accomplished some of them,” Brooks said. Next semester, he hopes to see more of the same.
Brendon Gray is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.