You know what sucks? The price of school. You know what’s worst? People getting car jacked in A lot. You know who has the power to change that? The Board of Regents.
Most students will probably never meet a member of the board. Some undergraduate students, however, go out of their way to meet and influence them. They’re called senators, and they are a part of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico.
If you’ve been around UNM long enough, you’ve heard the perception of ASUNM as being simply a popularity contest for Greek Life. Chances are, if you’re reading a column about voting for student government, you have your own opinions about the character and effectiveness of ASUNM, good or bad.
I won’t try to convince you of the character of ASUNM — that’s not my job. However, I will try to convince you to vote in this semester’s senate election. Here’s why.
Believe it or not, ASUNM is responsible for far more than just giving out a few hundred dollars to student organizations for snacks.
Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has the opportunity to stack the Board of Regents. Next year, Regents Thomas Clifford, Bradley Hosmer, Suzanne Quillen, Michael Brasher and Student Regent Garrett Adcock will all be gone. Grisham also expressed her discontent with President of the Board of Regents Robert Doughty and Vice President Marron Lee on the campaign trail.
What this new group will look like — and the position’s they support — is anyone’s guess. The only thing we know for certain is that the names and faces of at least five of the seven regents of our university will be different.
The decisions they make will change the courses of students’ lives as they trudge through the muck that is earning a degree. Whether they like or not, the regents have to (at least act like they) listen to the undergraduate student body. Who will they chose to listen to?
The ASUNM President, Vice President and Senate’s most essential responsibility is to represent the undergraduate student body to the president of UNM and to the regents.
Some of that responsibility is institutionalized. Many bodies require a student representative. The Student Fee Review Board, which reviews and recommends how student fees should be spent and whether they should be raised, is co-chaired by the ASUNM president and contains a number of senators.
The SFRB’s recommendations go before President Garnett Stokes and the Budget Leadership Team, who in turn presents a plan before the Board of Regents. They make the ultimate decision, which can have serious ramifications on a multitude of entities at UNM, including resource centers, the Athletics Department and even the amount of tuition students have to pay.
That makes the power of the student — our power — entirely dependent on the relationship between the Board of Regents and the fellow students we elect. For better or worse.
Only about 700 students, about three percent of undergraduates at the time, voted in the 2014 Fall Senate Elections. Last spring about 1,400 students voted, roughly eight percent of the nearly 19,000 undergraduates enrolled at UNM that year.
Low voter turnout makes it difficult for University administrators to take the students’ voice seriously. It implies that we, the students, don’t really care about the future of our university.
A higher-voter turnout would do two things.
First, it would show the regents, new and old, that we are trying to make things better. School is getting more expensive, while services are being cut. People are not safe, as crimes in and around campus continue to become more frequent. All of that remains shrouded in corruption and institutional prejudice we have yet to really combat. Things have to get better — voting is one way to make that happen.
Secondly, a high turnout would pressure ASUNM into being that voice. Standing up for people is hard, and it takes a lot of courage and resiliency that most of us simply do not have. It’s much easier when tens of thousands of your peers are behind you.
That responsibility falls on you, the student, for the simple reason that you are still reading this column. Clearly, you care. Clearly, you want things to get better. That moment can begin now, but you, and the rest of the student body, have to force it.
Justin Garcia is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @Just516garc.