Last week the Daily Lobo caught up with the recently-elected ASUNM president and vice president-elect, Noah Brooks and Sally Midani, to discuss the future and what they plan to do in their respective roles.
DL: Why did each of you decide you wanted to be leaders in ASUNM?
Sally Midani: I just really wanted to make my family proud, and I think being able to represent a minority in student government was something that was really a huge pushing point for me. I’m excited because it’s actually motivated some Arab American students to run for senate.
Noah Brooks: I’m really passionate about the student body and making sure that the administration is also passionate about the student body, because the student body is the most important body on our campus.
DL: Can you tell me about your campaign goal to streamline advisement?
NB: When we were talking to students before we were running as senators, we’d always hear that advisement was an issue for students and we’d had that personal experience where advisement could be an issue. I thought I was supposed to graduate in three-and-a-half years and I got set back to four, which isn’t a huge deal. But that was a huge eye-opener for me.
When we were campaigning on streamlining advisement, one of the things we talked about was trying to work with IT to update the Starfish website and the LoboAchieve website that you use to make appointments with your advisor, because that website can sometimes be really hard for students to navigate.
SM: Almost every student I talked to said that website is terrible, or it could use a button that says ‘Make an appointment.’ It’s not really user-friendly.
NB: We know that some colleges and departments already have surveys for their advisors, but we want to ensure that every student in every advisement they go through has that option for feedback for the advisors. If a ton of students are having the same issue with one advisor, that advisor may not even know that students are having that issue.
With these feedback surveys, advisors will be able to better the way they’re advising students. The students really seem to love that idea and it’s an inexpensive, cheap way that can help make our University better in the long run.
DL: How will you combat sexual violence on campus?
NB: We know that we can’t totally end sexual assault in one year on our campus. What we really want to do is start that conversation on campus with the students. We want to make it so loud that once we’re gone, that conversation doesn’t stop.
SM: Something that we don’t have are resource guides. Those could provide really helpful information for not only students that have been sexually assaulted, but for undocumented students, or students from other countries, students seeking legal help for various issues. (We want to make) those a really big part of our website, and allowing resource centers to incorporate those in their websites and making them accessible to the students who are accessing their centers. We really want it to be something great for students in general.
In this day and age, technology is so large and having that face-to-face interaction about something that’s so touchy can often be difficult for students, especially if they don’t know who to speak to, who’s a confidential reporter. Providing that information electronically could be a great way for students that may be hesitant at first to seek help for themselves. It could change the environment on this campus. Talking about it more, hopefully, will deter people that seek to assault students. They’ll know that UNM takes it more seriously, the student government takes it seriously.
NB: With every email that I send to the student body, I want to attach the sexual assault resource guide to that email, so that even if students can’t find it on our website, or can’t find it online, they’ll be able to find it in the emails that we send out. We want to work really closely with the resource centers on campus.
DL: Have you already reached out to other organizations on campus, like LoboRespect or the Women’s Resource Center?
NB: Yeah. While we were in the process of trying to get elected, we reached out to Women’s Resource Center and LoboRespect and we never got a sit-down meeting with them, but we have met with them in the past. I have worked with them in the past through Senate. I have a relationship with them and (with) anything combatting sexual assault, the resource centers are really big on those efforts.
DL: On the goal of making UNM more of a destination university, your specific way of doing that is transportation to athletic events. Are there other components to that?
SM: It’s really hard to turn a campus into a destination university in a year. That overarching goal we hope to achieve throughout the year, through the communication we have with administration and with students in terms of finding out what they want to see.
Our role as liaisons in different campus projects happening, like in Smith Plaza and Johnson, being liaisons for what students want. I think in that way we can work toward being a destination university. It’s kind of difficult to create new projects in the fiscal environment we’re in, but it’s important to be a voice for what students want.
NB: We believe that one of the big things about a destination university can be the ability to study abroad. A lot of students want to study abroad, but they can’t afford it. ASUNM has several scholarships that we give out every year.
Something that we want to do is either make one of those scholarships for study abroad, or find money from other places to create those scholarships to help other students study abroad. So like Sally said, when we talk about making our campus a destination university, we can’t expect it to be a destination university in a year, but we want to start making these small changes within our University.
DL: One goal is to have free transportation from campus to all athletic events, right?
NB: The athletic events that we can get students to. Like tennis, baseball, football, soccer and volleyball. The things that are around campus that students don’t have to travel a half hour or an hour to. We have really good athletics teams that a lot of students don’t see — if we can get shuttles to those events to, then we can really help grow our athletics teams.
DL: Do you foresee any challenges in implementing any of these goals?
NB: I think the fiscal climate that we’re in right now could really challenge the free transportation to athletics games. I think that PATS (Parking and Transportation Services) is really willing to work with the student body and I think that’s something that we can accomplish.
Luckily, everything else we’re doing is really inexpensive and is something we can do with our budget or even for free. The resource guides won’t cost any money. We can have our director of communications build that resource guide and distribute that.
SM: I think that prioritizing the things that we want to do is a challenge, especially when there’s a lot that goes into our responsibilities. It depends on the team that we’re working with. Hopefully we can all get behind these ideas.
NB: I can also see challenges with advisement. Normally, making changes on campus can be kind of slow. I wouldn’t expect any of the changes with advisement to be implemented next fall, and maybe not even next spring. But hopefully by the time we’re done with our term we can implement these changes.
DL: Do you expect next year’s Senate to be supportive of your goals?
NB: I think our goals are really something that everyone can get behind, especially combatting sexual assault. I don’t know of a single person that doesn’t support combatting sexual assault on campus. As far as advisement and transportation, I think those are things that the Senate will be able to get behind.
SM: I think we’re going to be taking more initiatives in the upcoming year of having senators — regardless of what committee they sit on — be accountable for not only what they ran on but for the outside efforts that ASUNM is putting on to improve campus.
I know Outreach does a lot in terms of accessing students, but just because you sit on Finance and you’re preoccupied with appropriations, doesn’t mean that you can’t do something in the two weeks between full senate, or even on a weekly basis, to improve the student body.
DL: So you want to change the expectations of those committee meetings?
SM: Yeah, and also there are opening comments and closing comments — encouraging senators to use those comments better and talking about not just what occurred in the meeting but what issues they’re working on around campus.
DL: Is there anything else that you would like to add about becoming the next ASUNM leaders?
NB: This is something we’ve talked about since we ran for Senate together in fall 2015. We’re just really excited that we’re here and we’re still able to advocate for students. Even though the work’s going to be hard, it’s going to be fulfilling and worth it.
Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.