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President Stokes discusses athletics, campus safety during town hall

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article contained misquotes and incorrect paraphrasing of both President Stokes and UNMPD Chief Kevin McCabe. Correct quotes have been obtained through a livestream of the town hall on Facebook. The Daily Lobo apologizes for these errors and to those affected by them.

University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes held a town hall in front of UNM students, faculty and community members on July 23. The town hall was held in order to address some issues facing the University, as well as allowing members of the public to question Stokes on their various concerns. 

Stokes began the town hall by discussing her "listening and learning tour" this summer, during which she talked to New Mexicans at the various UNM branch campuses around the state.

"I had some great visits at all four of our branch campuses," Stokes said. 

She said once the tour finishes, she will begin addressing some of the biggest priorities the University faces in the upcoming months. One of these concerned student veterans at UNM. 

Stokes discussed some of the new resources that will be available for student veterans, including a dedicated students veteran advisor and new training for staff and faculty. 

"We want them to be successful, both academically and personally," she said. 

Another priority discussed was campus safety. Stokes referenced an article, first published in the Albuquerque Journal, that revealed that UNM is number one among all universities in terms of car theft. She said one goal is to get UNM out of the top 10 in this category. She also mentioned various investments made toward campus safety, including new bikes for campus police officers and $10,000 for Campus Safety Week. 

Stokes then talked about one of the biggest news to come out of UNM this summer — the cutting of four sports from the Athletics Department.

"I'd hoped that we'd have this behind us before I arrived," Stokes said.

The president mostly discussed the process that went into making the decision alongside UNM Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez. 

At this point, Stokes asked if anybody attendance would like to ask her a question directly. 

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Felicia Rider, administrator for the chemistry department, explained how her department, while growing in terms of research, is struggling from the lack of administrative positions filled. She specifically referenced a hiring moratorium that has made filling such positions difficult.

"There's a lot on my plate," Rider said. "You're going to burn me out. We are all doing way more than we signed up to do." 

Stokes said more discussion was needed on this issue.

"It sounds like I need to have further conversation with leaders about what it means to be a critical position," the president said.

Another person asked for President Stokes' personal opinion on the value of athletics to a university. 

Stokes said she "thinks that athletics is the window for community members and alumni to continue to be engaged with the University." 

She added that athletics is just one way that a University can both attract students and keep an engaged faculty. 

Devorah Romanek, curator of exhibits at the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, pointed out that they are the only museum that contains an exhibit on human evolution west of the Mississippi, and asked how faculty and staff can help each other across different departments.

"One of things I discovered that is a challenge is that people don't know what we have," Stokes said, adding that barriers between different parts of the University need to be broken down in order to increase collaboration. 

An employee from IT asked what exactly what was being done to combat the pervasive problem of car thefts on campus. University of New Mexico Police Department Chief Kevin McCabe spoke to the crowd about new camera systems designed to lessen to the amount of thefts. 

McCabe explained how one person stole a car in only 12 seconds. 

"These guys walk up to a car like they own it, punch the lock out, get in the car and then the car's leaving," he said. 

The final question came from a staff member who asked how the staff can help Stokes in bettering the University. 

"Make sure we're aware of what it would take for you to be happy working at the University of New Mexico and what your colleagues need to feel like they're supported," Stokes said.


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