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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Q&A with GPSA presidential hopeful

Marisa Silva, a GPSA Representative from the history department, is the sole candidate for the GPSA presidency next year. She spoke with the Daily Lobo about what she hopes to accomplish if she is elected and what qualifies her for the position.

Daily Lobo: Why did you decide to run for office?

Marisa Silva: I decided to run for office because I wanted to pursue the goal of continuing increased fiscal responsibility, and also promoting graduate assistantships.

We are living in a time of fiscal crisis and nationally we are seeing some cuts; however, I feel that graduate assistantships are something we cannot afford to make at the University, especially as they’re related to promoting undergraduate and graduate recruitment, retention and completion of degrees.

I’m a native New Mexican and I feel that we have many people from outside of the state (running the University). Some of them are very talented and I respect them very much, but many out-of-state faculty and administrators occupy leadership positions, and I feel that as a New Mexican, we need someone who knows our community’s needs and I really wanted to put diversity at the forefront of the UNM hiring processes, especially relating to faculty.

I was willing to challenge (Current GPSA President) Katie Richardson (as an in-state leader) despite my tremendous amount of respect for her leadership (Richardson is from California). I feel that it is vital to put this diversity issue on the front page, and to continue in some of the great work that GPSA and (Richardson) in particular have already been doing to increase private assistantship funding for graduates. I have served on special sessions related to assistantship funding as a representative of the History Graduate Student Association.

DL: What are your top three goals?

MS: My three top goals are to increase graduate assistantship funding at the University in order to promote graduate and undergraduate degree completion. The second would be to continue working toward greater fiscal responsibility at the University level in general, and that includes addressing this proposal by the regent majors during spring break to increase students fees and student tuition by 3 percent … This would hurt the goal of recruitment and degree completion. My last goal is to promote the hiring of faculty as well as collaboration across the University between student groups.

DL: (un)Occupy Albuquerque protesters have been banned from protesting on UNM’s campus without a permit. Do you think it is appropriate for groups to apply for permits to protest, or should any group have that right at any time?

MS: This University is a state institution and should be held to the First Amendment. Any group should have the right to free speech and non-violent assembly, especially at an institution of higher education. I do not believe you should have to apply for a permit to exercise a constitutional right.

DL: What specific measures would you take to increase the funding for assistantships?

MS: I was on the committee with GPSA and Graduate Employees Together (concerning assistantships) and we have already drafted a resolution on the issue. There have been overtures made by the provost saying that he is on board with increasing those assistantships, but the official resolution is still subject to a vote with GPSA. That resolution has been drafted through six different departments and I imagine that will be on the ballot for our March 31 meeting.

DL: Several bills GPSA advocated for at the State Legislature that would have increased funding for graduate students and created hiring incentives for recent graduates failed this year. How would you ensure that future bills supported by GPSA have a better chance at passing?

MS: I know that those were very close and it was a matter of time running out, not a matter of the language, which was very positive and received a positive response from legislators. What we can do is make sure to generate more visibility through the media and partnerships with the community, and this will provide more of an incentive for legislators to hear the bill earlier in the session. It was a matter of time — the clock literally running out.

DL: What specific measures would you take to ensure more diverse faculty are hired?

MS: One of the things I need to do is research how faculty are hired. I am not sure what the areas of consideration are for faculty hiring and how points are assigned. But if there is a student voice that is clamoring for faculty that closely resembles our diverse population, that will be heard. I am hoping to keep in close contact with the Faculty Senate and ethnic centers and student organizations.

The first phase of this would be a needs assessment of this committee. A wide variety of organizations would likely support greater diversity because it promotes retention. Retention of diverse groups is improved by diverse faculty. In undergraduate students, the attrition rates of men of color, for instance, are very low at this institution so I believe there is a sound rationale for hiring faculty to retain them through graduation, and these men would be able to help mentor at-risk younger students.

DL: Have you considered trying to get a student voice on boards that hire faculty?

MS: Historically I need to do more research on that, but absolutely I think that would be an excellent step.

DL: What qualifies you for the office of the presidency?

MS: I have a long history of service to New Mexico in public school. I have seven years of experience teaching in Albuquerque and Las Cruces. I worked as a substitute teacher and education assistant, a high school teacher here at Valley High School in Albuquerque for five and a half years.

I’m a bilingual educator and I feel that the multicultural diversity in New Mexico needs to be addressed by somebody who knows it. … I also have a very strong network with the student resource centers, including the Women’s Resource Center, the American Indian Student Services, African American Student Services and El Centro de la Raza.