In the culmination of the fall 2019 semester defined by budget concerns, the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico held their final full Senate meeting of the semester on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
The liveliest debate of the night centered around Resolution 3F that supported Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposed "Opportunity Scholarship." Senator Matthew Zank decried the resolution as partisan legislation which would set a "precedent" for politicizing Senate business. He also took issue with the Senate passing a bill that Zank said not all students would agree with.
The resolution’s authors, Senators Ryan Regalado, Michel Rivera and Adam Lopez, defended their bill, noting that ASUNM supported the Lottery Scholarship when it began. They didn’t see the resolution as political, but rather supportive of access to education. Senators K Irving and Rivera both noted that there will always be students that disagree with certain bills.
The bill ultimately passed, as did the rest of the night’s business. Two student groups received appropriations: $1,597 for the Wilderness Alliance and $453 for Women in Computing.
Senator Gregory Romero took the opportunity to remind senators what could have happened without the one-time $500,000 funding block allocated by the Student Fee Review Board (SFRB). According to Romero, without the outside funding, ASUNM would only have had $5,000 to work with for the rest of the year. He announced that ASUNM currently has $79,000 left in its working budget.
Aside from finances, many of the bills passed on Wednesday night addressed organizational and grammatical changes to the ASUNM lawbook.
Bill 19F added a volunteer coordinator position to Lobo Spirit and clarified the responsibilities of other positions. Bill 21F added a senator accountability clause for membership on boards and committees within the University. Bill 22F rewrote definitions within the lawbook.
Bills 20F and 23F changed headings in sections concerning the office of the vice-president and the elections code, respectively. Bill 23F also removed the suggestion of advertising the election in the Daily Lobo or the ASUNM website.
Senators also passed condolence resolutions for the untimely deaths of two members of the University community — Nahje Flowers, UNM student and athlete, and Kendra Koivu, UNM political science professor.
ASUNM Vice President Madelyn Lucas commended this semester’s senators for the work they did this fall. Both Lucas and ASUNM President Adam Biederwolf said that increased outreach is their main focus for the spring semester.
Semester in review
From proposed financial cuts to unexpected monetary savings and last-minute legislation to special sessions, below is a recap of what undergraduate student government did this fall.
The "budget crisis"
Senators Romero and Regalado authored a constitutional amendment that would have raised all student fees by $5 for the ensuing spring semester. The amendment was framed by the authors and others as a necessary step in saving ASUNM from an impending "budget crisis" spurred by a drop in enrollment and without a government fee raise since 2002.
A lack of outreach to both senators and students was a major point of contention surrounding the amendment. After intense debates, interchanging opinions and a series of midweek late nights, the amendment was ultimately failed after a last-minute, one-time $500,000 funding block allocated by the SFRB.
One-time $500,000 funding
In a special meeting convened by Lucas, Biederwolf shared the news that UNM granted a one-time $500,000 funding block that would be doled out by SFRB and shared between Athletics and Recreational Services. During his speech, Biederwolf urged senators to vote against the original $5 fee raise.
The one-time funding did not solve the budget issues ASUNM faces, though. Rather, the funding essentially worked as an extension for senators to create "one cohesive bill" over the span of "four to six months instead of four to six days" for the next academic year.
This government fee increase will be on the docket for next semester’s Senate, according to Biederwolf, who has already created an ad hoc committee of senators and senators-elect to explore different fee raise possibilities.
Proposed constitutional cut to Student Publications
Senator Zank introduced rushed legislation that would have effectively cut the constitutionally required 8.5% of ASUNM’s budget to Student Publications, which is comprised of Best Student Essays, Conceptions Southwest and the Daily Lobo. The bill failed unanimously, with Zank acknowledging that he didn't put enough preparation into the bill.
Entire IncludeUNM slate elected for spring
Moving forward, all seven first-time senators from IncludeUNM, two first-time senators and one incumbent senator were elected. Biederwolf said the new senators "diversified ASUNM" and that these senators are much different from years past.
Lucas also offered some advice to the newly elected senators.
"Be patient in the learning process, ask lots of questions and communicate a lot," Lucas said.
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