In a special session held last night in the Kiva classroom, the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM) unanimously failed a constitutional amendment to raise student government fees from $20 to $25 after receiving news that UNM granted a one-time funding block that would be doled out by the Student Fee Review Board (SFRB).
The one-time funding of $500,000 to the SFRB will be enough to keep ASUNM functioning at status quo, with some of the money also going to athletics and recreational services. Senators will now have the spring semester to work on creating a single, comprehensive bill to raise fees that all senators can agree on.
Vice President Madelyn Lucas elected to convene the special session at last Wednesday’s full Senate meeting, when discussion about the bill grew into a nearly four-hour debate before the Student Union Building had to close. It was decided that the special session would be held after committee meetings on Wednesday.
In a surprising turn of events, ASUNM President Adam Biederwolf opened the meeting with a speech explaining the new information to the 19 senators present and about the nature of the fee raise.
Biederwolf told senators that he believes they should fail the bill because the SFRB secured the one-time funding that will allow ASUNM to function effectively for the rest of the school year. He iterated that the senators will now have “four to six months instead of four to six days” to work on “one cohesive bill” that would raise student fees for the next academic year.
“If we come together in these next couple of months to push one bill, our message to the students will be much more impactful,” Biederwolf said.
Noah Dowling-Lujan, a sophomore majoring in Political Science, expressed his frustrations surrounding the bill during public comment.
“I don’t know why we have to have this fee increase,” Dowling-Lujan said. “It’s not fair to us (to pay more) to support an organization that doesn’t represent us.”
Dowling-Lujan went on to question representation within ASUNM, asking senators who are not in greek life to raise their hands. Only four of the 19 senators raised their hand.
“My point is just the cut we give right now is enough,” Dowling-Lujan said. He cited previous Daily Lobo coverage of Senator Ashley Varela, saying that “81% went to ASUNM and 19% to organizations. We’re giving it to an arm of greek life, which isn’t fair.”
During discussion, Varela gave a presentation outlining ASUNM’s current financial situation. In the presentation, she corrected her previous statistic given at last full senate, stating that 66.91% of funding goes to ASUNM agencies, 26.06% goes to student organizations and 7.04% goes to student publications. Within ASUNM’s constitution, 8.5% is supposed to go to the Daily Lobo, which is a student publication.
Dowling-Lujan finished by saying that the increase “wouldn’t help anyone” and that he “thinks (the senators) know that, which is the most frustrating part.”
When the Senate moved to discuss Bill 6F, every senator that spoke cited Biederwolf’s announcement as a reason to fail the bill.
“I don’t think senate’s very transparent with what we do,” Aldrich said. She believes they should “expose” what they do and “educate” the student body about the “financial crisis” they are in.
Many senators also expressed wanting to move forward with another bill in the future with more student input and more effective student outreach.
Bill 6F was the original bill that proposed the emergency $5 increase. Following last Wednesday’s heated debate over the contested bill, two more bills (Bill 8F and Bill 9F) were written as more detailed and alternative responses to the original proposal. It was understood that if none of these passed, ASUNM would be left with $14,000 until June.
Bills 8F and 9F were written before the news of the SFRB one-time funding was known, and both of the new fee-increase bills were subsequently failed during the special meeting.
The night ended with grammatical deep dive into a resolution that explained why the fee increase will be needed to keep ASUNM functioning in the upcoming years.
“There is still urgency,” Hotz said. She also said that this resolution will demonstrate to students that the senators take the “budget crisis” seriously.
Senator Abby Lutz advocated for passing the resolution as well, adding that “this (resolution) will be enough to get the students attention.”
The resolution was the only legislation that passed during the special meeting. Continuing onward, ASUNM senators plan to draft a single bill that would increase fees for the next academic year. For now, the one-time funding from UNM will keep ASUNM afloat.
The Daily Lobo will continue to track what happens with ASUNM fee increases in the future.
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