As the new Associated Students of the University of New Mexico administration prepares for the upcoming fall semester, Vice President Madelyn Lucas is looking to address three main policy areas: enrollment, campus morale and accessibility.
Lucas defined accessibility in two parts: first the University’s compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) , and second is undergraduates’ access to ASUNM. Lucas expressed that the ambiguity of what undergraduate accessibility would actually look like in legislation is a part of the challenge in achieving this goal.
Lucas’ most well-established role as Vice President is to oversee the senate by appointing chairs, facilitating discussion, setting the agenda and making sure all legislation is in place. Typically, senators are popularly elected for 2 terms based off of the results of the most recent election. For example, if a candidate won a seat in the most recent spring 2019 election, they would serve for the fall 2019 and spring 2020 sessions, at which point they can resign from the senate or run again. Since the most recent senate election in April, there have been shifts in who exactly will be in the senate.
Mohammed Assed, a three-term senator and presidential candidate who lost to current president Adam Biederwolf by 115 votes, has left the ASUNM senate. Mohammad Jaber, who was re-elected and received 366 votes in the most recent April senate election, has also left the ASUNM senate. According to Lucas, the two will be replaced by first-time senators Michel Rivera and Taysear Ali, who were the next runner-ups in the most recent senate race.
When asked if there would be any more changes to the senate, Lucas said she was uncertain.
“So as of right now, we don’t need to elect new senators. There may be changes — I’ve heard that there are some that may not do it — but as of right now, we have enough seats,” Lucas said.
When there are not enough seats, the open positions go to the runner-ups, and if there are not enough runner-ups, Lucas will have to appoint people to the positions at her discretion.
Changes in the senate matter because what the senate chooses to focus on is critical in producing legislation that resolves issues raised in the last senate session. According to Lucas, this administration has been “encouraged to finish what was started” last year.
Last term, legislation that would have effectively added 10 seats to expand representation in the senate failed to pass committee. Lucas said the goal of expanding representation of the undergraduate body is difficult because it depends on how senators choose to approach the issue.
“We almost had too many ideas and we didn’t know what to do with them,” Lucas said. “We thought that maybe we could elect through the resource centers, but we saw problems with that. Then we thought about adding seats or changing committees.”
According to Lucas, part of the reason why there is such a large focus on accessibility is because of the criticism ASUNM has faced over being inaccessible in the past.
“There have been a lot of complaints of people saying that ASUNM is exclusive, so we want to make ASUNM more accessible, and make all the student organizations more accessible,” Lucas said.
Aside from accessibility, campus morale is a major goal of both Lucas and Biederwolf, though how exactly campus morale is measured and achieved is currently unclear.
“As far as campus morale goes, we’re [Biederwolf and Lucas] working with our agencies,” Lucas said. “But we also met with athletics, and we really want to make sure we are partnering with the right people on campus to just make it feel more inclusive overall.”
Lucas and Biederwolf ran for their positions as talk of low enrollment were at the forefront of conversations around the University. Lucas acknowledged that enrollment is not something she could directly change, but expressed that she believes the small changes add up.
“With enrollment, it’s more of a big-picture idea,” Lucas said. “We can’t specifically make people come to UNM, but I think that if we work on a bunch of little things, we overall can work on building our reputation.”
For Lucas, raising enrollment starts with adequate funding for student resources.
“Enrollment is kind of just the endgame for us because we want to make sure that our students have all the resources they can have, and that starts with funding and making sure that more students can come here as well,” Lucas said.
All in all, Lucas remains hopeful for the upcoming fall senate session.
“I’m just excited to see what the senators come up with their legislation ideas because that’s the best part about senate: it can be somewhat unpredictable at times,” Lucas said.
Alyssa Martinez is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amart4447.