Voting for a $5 fee raise and on student body presidential and vice-presidential candidates is just over a week away.
Beginning at 8 a.m. on March 9, undergraduate students can log onto their my.unm.edu account or make their way to the Student Union Building to vote on the constitutional amendment (Bill 5S) and for one of the two presidents and vice presidents vying for the positions.
The constitutional amendment would upcharge all undergraduate students $5, bringing the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico-mandated student fee to $25 per semester. The bill was touted by many senators as a more transparent option when it passed on Feb. 13 because it would clearly label the $25 amount as a government fee on the Bursar's website.
The fee raise push came after widespread consternation and monetary cuts to student organizations.
As previously explained by ASUNM Chief of Staff Jacob Silva, the student government fee has not been raised since 2002. In the nearly two-decade interim, the number of student organizations — such as the women's rugby team, men's ultimate frisbee and the Iranian Student Association — have nearly doubled.
Atop of the boom in student organizations, inflation has made it more difficult for the money to adequately cover their bills. $20 in January 2002 was worth $29.13 in January 2020, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI inflation calculator.
If the fee raise doesn't pass, some senators have conceded that ASUNM would not be able to function properly and student organizations would continue to endure financial cuts.
As for the candidates, Mia Amin and Jacob Silva are running for ASUNM president alongside their respective vice presidential running mates, Ana Milan and Emma Hotz. Although the pairs are running coordinated campaigns — known as slates — students can vote for any combination of the candidates.
The president's duties include management of the executive branch, the eight ASUNM agencies and board participation, as written in the ASUNM constitution. The vice president oversees the Senate and makes appointments to committees.
This election comes after the passage of Bill 3S on Feb. 12, which allows ASUNM officials — with the exception of Elections Commissions — to endorse anyone running for ASUNM office. The bill's language attempts to force ASUNM senators to adhere to UNM Policy 2060, which bars University students and employees from using UNM resources — such as office supplies, social media accounts and logos — to participate in political activity without previous approval.
Elections Commissions Executive Director Todd Moe said he holds concern over the possible rift this election cycle may cause within ASUNM from "having to pick a side or the other" because only two slates are running. Moe previously spoke out against the bill before the full Senate during public comment.
ASUNM President Adam Biederwolf has also spoken about the tricky nature of endorsements as it relates to a ban on office chatter regarding elections and compliance with Policy 2060. According to Moe, there is no concrete protocol to handle violations of Bill 3S, but penalties can range from a verbal callout to outright disqualification, depending on the severity.
"The way we're trying to enforce it is kind of everybody to police themselves," Moe said. "Basically, it's hard to enforce because we can't be everywhere at once — I don't have access to everyone's social media, so I don't know if they even are posting or when they're posting."
Social media adds a complex layer to this election. Not only can campaigning on social media during work be counted as a violation of Policy 2060 and Bill 3S, but even campaign helpers who post support on social media can impact the candidates, according to Moe.
Moe said campaign helpers are anyone who consistently shows support for a candidate.
"In the past it's been friends, colleagues, sometimes people who are just like 'hey, I like what you stand for, so I'll campaign,'" Moe said. "That can count from someone just reposting on their social media, like their Instagram story, or it can be somebody that's out there on the plaza handing out flyers and asking them to vote."
This is significant, because if a campaign helper violates any rules candidates are bound to — such as reporting all finances spent on their campaigns, like chalk, costumes or flyers — the candidates themselves would take the penalty. There is no official process in becoming a campaign helper.
Director of Student Activities Ryan Lindquist warned the candidates of the divisiveness that can result from contentious elections and asked them to weigh their decisions carefully while campaigning.
"I know we have four very smart, competitive individuals that are running for this and competitiveness can sometimes boil up and get the best of us and maybe cause us to act out a little bit in some ways that we may not usually," Lindquist said.
The election will begin on Monday, March 9 at 8 a.m. and conclude on Wednesday, March 11 at 5 p.m. Students can vote via their my.unm.edu account or at the SUB on March 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and March 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A presidential debate will be held on Monday, March 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the SUB Atrium followed by an endorsement forum.
Alyssa Martinez is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amart4447