The ASUNM Senate approved a constitutional amendment that proposes elimination of all funding the undergraduate student government allocates to the New Mexico Daily Lobo — which is $38,000, or 5 percent of the paper’s budget.
The bill eliminates student funding of the paper but increases funding for Conceptions Southwest and Best Student Essays from 2 percent to 3 percent of the student fees the Associated Students of UNM receive annually.
The measure now goes before ASUNM president Jennifer Liu. If she vetoes the measure, the Senate has the option of calling an emergency meeting to override her decision. If Liu signs the bill or it is moved forward by Senate action, all undergraduate students will vote on the issue during the April 11 election.
If passed, the measure must be approved by University Counsel, the Executive Cabinet and the Board of Regents.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Daily Lobo managing editor Iliana Lim¢n said that Nichols introduced the bill because of a $50,000 shortfall in student fees that are allocated to student organizations.
Nichols said the Daily Lobo had $70,744 extra after 1999, and the $38,000 allocated through the constitution goes to a “rainy day” fund that is not used and could benefit other student organizations.
John Varoz, a Daily Lobo advertising representative, said the money is needed as a cushion for emergencies that are possible at a newspaper that distributes 12,500 copies daily. He said the paper has to plan for printing price increases or the possibility that computers will crash and need to be replaced.
Sen. Joshua Aragon said that student organizations are not allowed to have a surplus in funds and must give extra money back to ASUNM for re-distribution.
“We are contributing to a roll-over when we don’t do that for any other groups,” he said.
Sen. Andrea Gunderson clarified later during the meeting that the student newspaper is not a chartered organization or student group.
Senators yielded more than 30 minutes of their speaking time to finance chairman Grant Nichols so he could explain the bill.
Nichols said the cut would provide money for 30 new work study positions at $1,200 each and would give student groups 152,000 more miles of travel. He said it would also provide student groups with 57 full-page ads in the Daily Lobo at $660 a piece.
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When a senator yielded his time to Lim¢n, she told the Senate that the removal of funding would cause the Daily Lobo to have to cut back on its Web and photo departments and could cause two to 30 students to lose their jobs. She added that if the bill passed, it would likely force the paper to raise advertising rates for all student organizations.
Nichols says the Daily Lobo should not receive 10 percent of undergraduate student fees without going through the budget process that student organizations must complete to get ASUNM funding.
During the budget process, student organizations must give a report to the Finance committee on how they plan to spend their money. The Daily Lobo does not go through the process because its funding — which is 10 percent of student fees — has been mandated by the ASUNM Constitution.
“All student groups are held to a level of accountability,” Nichols said. “I do not think the Daily Lobo should be any different.”
James Barron, editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo, said the paper is held accountable daily because it has to put out a paper for 24,000 students. He said the Daily Lobo provides jobs for UNM students where they can gain journalistic and business skills.
Barron added that with so many numbers being thrown around, it would be best for the newspaper and senators to review the bill in a more relaxed atmosphere. Sen. Andrea Cook pointed out that the bill would have to pass during Wednesday’s meeting in order to make it on the spring election ballot for an April 11 student vote.
Sen. Josh Ewing told the Senate that Daily Lobo funding should be increased, not cut. He moved to increase the allocation to the Student Publication Board from 12 percent to 15 percent. He said the Daily Lobo allows students to exchange ideas and it promotes UNM to those outside of the University.
Ewing was the only senator to vote against the cut, with two others abstaining.
“It’s bullshit,” he said.
During the same meeting, the Senate passed funding of $1,680 for the UNM Rodeo Association, $950 for the Engineering Student Council, $1,960 for the Agora Crisis Center, $1,970 for the Ultimate Frisbee Club and $1,010 for the UNM College Democrats.
Many senators commended Nichols for taking the time to compile the Spring Budget — a list of past and present funding for student groups, organizations and executive agencies for the fiscal year 2001-2002 — which passed unanimously.
Toward the end of the meeting, Vice President Chris Mansfield moved to give Sen. DaVonda Bowens a demerit because he said he thought she flipped him off after he denied her motion to end a discussion.
Bowens said she did not flip Mansfield off, though she made a joking gesture with her hands. The Senate voted against giving her a demerit.
Following the meeting, Mansfield acknowledged that people occasionally joke around and forget to follow rules, but said the Bowens incident was different.
“She is the only one who has crossed the line far enough to where I felt she deserved disciplinary action,” he said.
Bowens said she did not mean to disrespect the Senate’s presiding officer or anyone else, and that she is determined to file a grievance against Mansfield.