Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the author, and do not reflect that of the Daily Lobo.
Last night, the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico voted to remove a law requiring them to advertise their elections in the Daily Lobo. The bill passed 13 to 6.
As editor-in-chief, I find the nature of the bill and the way it was introduced a little more than concerning. Frankly, the opinions expressed by those who supported this bill proved exactly why recent election turnouts have been at some of their lowest points ever.
Firstly, one of the most baffling moments of the meeting came during a presentation Victoria Knight, Joint Council’s representative to ASUNM, made to the Full Senate. She said that President Becka Myers had asked the council how they would feel if they were in the Daily Lobo and this legislation was introduced?
This, of course, brings up a painfully obvious point — nobody from the Daily Lobo was ever contacted during the drafting and proposal of this bill. Not once.
Many senators voiced a variety of arguments before passing the bill. I would have loved the chance to respond to many of the points made — but since I couldn’t and no one had asked me beforehand, I’ll respond here.
Senator Jacob Silva argued that this legislation protects ASUNM from the Daily Lobo suddenly hiking the advertising rates to an unaffordable amount. What he did not know was that, prior to this year, advertising rates had remained static for 12 years. This year, the rate for students (which includes ASUNM) actually went down. The Daily Lobo has never had a history of suddenly raising rates. That’s just bad business.
I would’ve loved to have corrected his disingenuous claim, but he never reached out to me.
A few senators argued that since voter turnout for their elections has been so low, they should try a new advertising method, such as promotions on Facebook and Instagram. Many pointed to a survey of how students heard about the election, in which the Daily Lobo received the second lowest number of responses.
Besides the fact that it is bad practice to change entire laws based on one survey (taken during their lowest turnout in 15 semesters), the senate mostly ignored that the number one response on the survey chosen was “I know a candidate.”
It seems like students who vote in these elections typically come from the same groups as those who end up getting elected. At the very least, they’re not doing a great job of reaching new students not already familiar with the student government.
Senator Kristin Woodworth said that advertising in the student newspaper was unnecessary, because it was her “hunch that not many students read the Daily Lobo, unless it involves something with them or their group.”
This claim was, of course, backed with zero evidence or statistics. She could’ve asked what our readership statistics were, which we would have happily provided, but she didn’t. No one did.
Also, ASUNM elections involve every undergraduate student, because the decisions made by the student government affect everybody.
However, the most popular argument made in support of the bill was that it would allow ASUNM the flexibility to pursue other advertising options. These arguments were usually followed by a statement that they could still publish ads in the Daily Lobo.
That’s true, they totally still could advertise their elections in the Daily Lobo. But honestly, I’m doubtful. I would bet money that the next ASUNM election will include no advertisements in the student newspaper. I would love to be proven wrong.
I’m also very sure ASUNM is unaware of the dangerous precedent this bill establishes. From now on, ASUNM has the power to say “we don’t like the Daily Lobo’s coverage, so we won’t buy any ads for the election.” I’m not saying they definitely will, but that power now exists where it didn’t before, which feels personal.
And when a senator’s primary argument is based on a “hunch,” it feels very personal.
Of course, there were senators that argued and voted against the bill, many of whom made similar points to those in this column. However, the bill still passed and will now go to President Myers’ desk for her approval.
Final note: Senators, if you want to improve voter turnout and increase student engagement, talking to students about the bills that affect them is a good place to start.
Editor's Note: Kristin Woodworth's name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article. The error has been corrected. The Daily Lobo apologizes for this mistake.
Kyle Land is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kyleoftheland.