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Graduate students ward off budget cuts

UNM graduate students won’t accept budget cuts without a fight.
Somber, red-clad graduate students lined the back wall of the SUB ballrooms during Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting and raised signs to contest the current 3.2 percent and proposed 5 percent budget cuts.

Graduate student Liza Minno-Bloom helped form Graduate Employees Together (GET), a committee advocate for graduate and teaching assistants. She said its message is simple: The group doesn’t condone further budget reductions.

“The budget cuts and the plans to implement the budget cuts reveal UNM’s priorities,” she said. “As we understand it from analyzing the budget, we have a healthy set of reserves here at UNM that could be used for a rainy day, which it appears to be.”

In response to the protests, UNM acting president Paul Roth said further cuts would not be as drastic as originally planned.
“There will be no across-the-board, 5 percent cut at this University,” he said.

GET member Gino Signoracci said the University administration’s methods are contrary to its educational goals. He said affected programs require little new equipment, technology and other supplies to function.

“If you are going to run the University more like a business, you might make profits at the top which is often where they are made, but at what cost?” he said. “These budget cuts are unmanageable, and as it stands, some of these programs will liquidate. These departments can’t shoulder these cuts. They operate on a small budget as it is.”

Students are paying more in tuition and student fees each year without seeing returns on their investments, Mitchell said.
“UNM has been neglecting its core educational mission for far too long, and the recent 3.2 percent cuts disproportionately affect departmental operating and graduate student systems,” he said. “The proposed 5 percent cuts for the next academic year that have already been discussed would do massive damage to the quality of education that UNM provides.”

Lack of financial support is making graduate students work harder for less, Faculty Senate President Richard
Wood said, diminishing education quality.

“The picture is atrocious at the front-line level of departments where most students, staff and faculty spend their time,” he told the regents in his opening statement. “Not in all departments, but in far too many on main campus, meeting budget cuts is wreaking havoc on UNM’s academic mission.”

Provost Ortega said in her Monday Morning Message the Office of the Vice President for Research, Graduate Studies, Title V, GPSA and the Program for New Mexico Graduates of Color are offering a graduate student funding assistance to help defray costs. “(It will include) workshops, web resources and hands-on training to help graduate students obtain external funding to support their graduate studies,” she said.

Under the circumstances, Wood said, limiting damage to departments and UNM’s academic mission is imperative. “The cuts we have faced and the cuts we foresee mean that we stand at the precipice of eroding our core mission — and some departments may slide off the edge,” he said.

GET member Euan Mitchell said the regents were not expecting such substantial turnout for the cause.
“I think we made a really big statement today, and I think they are going to realize they have to pay attention to us,” he said. “We are not just going to let them quietly do whatever they want.”

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Other items discussed at Tuesday’s regents’ meeting:
Regents approved the relocation of Albuquerque Fire Department Fire Station No. 2 from Gold Avenue and High Street to University-owned land on the north side of Gibson Avenue. In exchange for use of University land, the city is giving UNM two acres on Fourth Street. The south campus development will receive faster fire response with the fire station.

In accordance with main campus’ Strategic Housing Plan, American Campus Communities presented plans for Phase I of new student housing. The proposed location is east of La Posada — currently occupied by Santa Ana and lower Johnson Field. The plan for moving students out is being debated with students showing up to oppose a winter break move-out date. Concerns will be addressed in the company’s Strategic Student Housing plan to be presented in December.

A breakdown of the Provost’s fiscal year 2010-11 allocated $1.5 million for faculty hires to compensate for enrollment growth and $1.7 million for scholarships and financial aid.

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