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A peculiar path to Senate

Three replacement student government reps up for confirmation Wednesday evening after not running in the spring

The cohort of new Associated Students of UNM senators elected in the spring have had the summer to prepare for their new roles as representatives of 25,000+ undegraduates on campus.

But for three of the news senators, fall classes had already begun, not a thought about being a part of ASUNM on their minds, before the opportunity to fill a seat at the undergraduate student governing body’s table presented itself.

“My initial response was to say yes, but I had to consider the fact that I’m taking 18 credits, I have several jobs and I have my own family,” said Sadé Patterson, a UNM senior who was approached about serving as a senator just last Thursday.

“I talked to my husband about it and we prayed over the decision, and I just felt a lot peace to move forward,” she said. “I’m thrilled for this new opportunity.”

Patterson, Ted Olguin and Ryan Ansloan will serve one semester on ASUNM Senate following their official confirmation during Wednesday evening’s first full senate meeting of the fall, filling seats left vacant by indivudals who were elected in the spring but have since had a change of heart.

“I want to do right by the students I’ll be representing, and the other senators,” Ansloan said. “I hope to bring the perspective of someone who has been commuting to campus, working a job and has been involved in multiple student organizations my entire time here.”

The need to find and nominate replacement senators isn’t uncommon. In recent semesters, there have been a handful who decided to give up their seats in pursuit of other opportunities, or otherwise thought they might not be able to devote the time.

What is peculiar, however, was the manner in which Patterson, Olguin and Ansloan were sought out.

Typically, in accordance with ASUNM policy, when an elected senator turns down their seat, the candidate from the last election with the next highest number of votes is approached about serving on Senate.

If that individual also refrains from serving, ASUNM goes on to the candidate with the next highest vote total, and so on until a replacement is found.

The problem this time around? Not one replacement could be found using this tried-and-true practice. Meaning, none of the other candidates who ran in the spring but weren’t elected accepted a seat at the table.

Thus, the task fell to ASUNM Vice President Cheyenne Feltz, who had 14 days to find potential replacements. It’s a tall order, but she said it’s all thanks to an immense amount of involvement and input from senators, ASUNM agency directors and experienced advisors that she was able to find three in time.

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“We collaborated with everybody to make sure it was as fair and neutral as possible,” Feltz said. “We just wanted to make sure we were getting people that represented the demographics of UNM’s population, so we just did our best to make sure we were representing everybody.”

When the three nominees were voted in by at least three-fourths of the Senate on Wednesday evening, they officially began their terms as senators. ASUNM policy dictates that they only serve one semester.

It’s all the result of a strange turn of events, one about which Student Activities Director and ASUNM Advisor Debbie Morris says, “In my many years working with ASUNM it rarely has happened.”

And that’s concerning one individual gaining a senate seat in this way, let alone three.

A seat sans a prior candidacy

While both Ansloan and Olguin have had unsuccessful bids for ASUNM Senate in previous semesters prior to 2016, Patterson has never ran for the office, despite being heavily involved on campus.

She said she had been approached by others in the past who pushed her to make a run for the seat, but other commitments hindered her from following up on their suggestions.

“I was sad to have missed that opportunity, but I didn’t think I would be able to commit more of my time to another role,” said Patterson, who is a mother and the former president of Students for Life, UNM chapter.

“Now that I am finishing my last semester and have passed Students for Life UNM on to the next president, I feel like I have more time and energy to be a senator.”

She may not have had much time to prepare, but Patterson already has a bevy of initiatives she would like to work on, primarily improving access and resources for pregnant and parent students at UNM.

She said she hopes to help bring to campus parking spaces for expecting mothers and diaper-changing stations in all restrooms, among other “simple policies and projects.”

Her focuses stem from her own experiences.

“I had to take a final in the delivery room because my teacher wouldn’t give me an extension, and was mistreated while trying to breast feed on campus,” she said. “I want students who are pregnant or who have children to feel empowered to come to school and to be protected by some small changes that will go a long way.”

Feltz said Patterson’s presence and influence on campus was apparent to many who were involved in the process of contributing potential names for senators, despite her not having run for ASUNM in the past.

“Everyone spoke so highly of her,” Feltz said.

Olguin, meanwhile, was preparing for another opportunity just as fulfilling when he got offered the position last week.

He says he received an e-mail from Feltz offering the seat “about a few minutes” before embarking on an interview for an intership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Working with both entities can be a lot to handle for any student. So which did Olguin choose?

“I’ll be doing both,” he says. “I ran (last fall) with the hope of being elected, and that obviously didn’t happen. So I couldn’t turn down the appointment.”

Olguin says his internship work allows him to be flexible, thus his decision to devote his time to both ASUNM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Olguin, a Native American, said he hopes to bring a fresh voice and perspective to Senate, while potentially breaking down walls in the process.

“I truly believe that my population is very underreprestend, and I hope my appointment will open up the door for other minority students to take part in organizations like ASUNM,” he said. “My allegiance is truly to the students.”

ASUNM Senate meetings are every other Wednesday at 6 p.m., and held in the Lobo A and B room of the SUB. A full schedule of meetings can be found on the ASUNM website.

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