Editor's Note: Justin Garcia had no editorial input on this article.
After lengthy discussion — and in a room packed with Daily Lobo staff — the Steering and Rules Committee of the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM) failed a constitutional amendment that would terminate student government funding for the Daily Lobo and two student-run literary magazines.
The bill was introduced and authored by Senator Matthew Zank, a former employee of the Daily Lobo, according to the Daily Lobo Editor-in-Chief Justin Garcia.
The bill failed to advance to a full Senate vote, with four committee members voting against and one member absent.
Zank presented the bill as a way to help salvage ASUNM’s budget, which Finance Chair Gregory Romero described during a recent ASUNM meeting as a "financial crisis." Romero edited the bill and, according to Zank, previously supported the idea.
In ASUNM’s Constitution, Student Publications is allotted 8.5% of ASUNM’s general fund "in support of the operations of the Student Publications Board."
Student Publications consists of the Daily Lobo, Best Student Essays and Conceptions Southwest. Student Publications employed 95 students and two full-time staff members in 2018-2019 fiscal year, according to documents Zank presented in the meeting.
The bill was originally presented by Zank as an attempt to be more "fiscally conservative" because of the ASUNM "budget crisis." Zank added that "newspapers are dying" during his introduction of the bill.
"I think they should be getting their money from some other place in the University," Zank said. "The goal isn’t to hurt the paper: The goal is to make them more fiscally responsible."
Only ASUNM President Adam Biederwolf and a Daily Lobo reporter were present at the start of the meeting, but as it went on, other senators and Daily Lobo staff filtered in to watch the proceedings. Initially, discussion had centered around if the bill should be passed on to the full Senate so all senators could give input, as was precedent with Bill 8F.
Bill 8F was the constitutional amendment that would have raised student government fees by $5 for spring 2019. Due to time constraints, discussion of this bill led to Vice President Madelyn Lucas calling for a special Senate meeting, where the proposal ultimately failed unanimously.
"In my opinion, we should pass it to full Senate and vote no in full Senate," said Senator Ryan Regalado at the start of the meeting. His position flipped over the course of the night, and he eventually voted against the bill.
Steering and Rules Chair Emma Hotz reminded the committee that they decide the legislation that goes before the full Senate, and if they disagree with a bill’s content, they don’t have to pass it. Even so, committee members continued to weigh whether they should pass it to be discussed in the full Senate.
"Throughout the semester, this committee passed bills to be seen by the full Senate, so it would be kind of shocking tonight to see you guys fail this bill," said President Pro Tempore Xavier Torres. "I’d like to hear the opinions of the rest of the Senate."
Torres reiterated his view that the committee isn’t supposed to make decisions for the whole student body and that the decision should be of the entire Senate.
Senator Ashley Varela disagreed with Torres’ assertion, referencing the special session Lucas called in order to pass the student government fee increase.
"We had to call a special meeting that wasn’t productive," Varela said. "We failed everything because Bill 8F wasn’t ready. This isn’t ready. Do we want another special meeting for it?"
Zank has been critical of the Daily Lobo in the past. Kyle Land, the Daily Lobo’s Editor-in-Chief from 2018 to 2019, wrote a column criticizing traditional fraternities and sororities. Zank responded on Twitter.
"The Daily Lobo’s obvious anti-Greek bias and lack of knowledge (given that members of our community are rarely able/asked to comment on articles) gets in the way of their credibility to report on anything that happens in our community,” Zank wrote on Twitter in Spring 2019.
Zank continued with the Twitter thread, acknowledging that Land’s article was marked as "opinion" and not the view of the editorial board. Zank said during the committee meeting that the bill was not in response to the column and instead an attempt to cut ASUNM costs.
Before the bill was taken to a vote, Zank urged the senators to fail the bill. Zank said he would redevelop the bill with more research if he were to propose a change to Student Publications funding again.
Romero also advocated against the bill because if it did go to the full Senate for a vote and passed, there would be "no backup plan." He added that if the Daily Lobo requested the actual funding needed, "it would be so much more money" than the current 8.5% allocated.
Zank amended part of his original stance in an interview after the committee meeting but remained unwavering on his intentions behind the bill.
"(The Daily Lobo) are the people who hold us accountable at the end of the day," Zank said. "I think you guys deserve way more funding than you’re getting, but I don’t think that that’s ASUNM’s job."
Zank acknowledged that he didn't put enough preparation into the bill before sending it to the committee. Senator Abby Aldrich expressed that this bill is another example of ASUNM failing to reach out to the undergraduate community.
"I’m personally disheartened by this bill, because it started off with the same issue that we had previously with the other constitutional amendment about (ASUNM) not really reaching out," Aldrich said. "Completely cutting (Student Publications) just doesn’t seem right."
The Daily Lobo will continue to cover any new cuts to ASUNM’s budget.
Alyssa Martinez is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amart4447
Alex Hiett is a beat news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Nmal1123