The Associated Students at the University of New Mexico kicked off their first full senate meeting of the semester on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The meeting consisted of the passage of three bills, the appointment of a new senator and the approval of funding for a student organization.
The first two bills, 1F and 2F, reduced the required open office hours to be held by senators from two hours per week to one. Bill 2F would also add a required one-hour weekly visit to senators’ sponsored student organizations, discounting the first week of classes and finals week, with their total outreach hours increasing from a 12- to 14-hour minimum.
Each senator sponsors between 10 and 15 student organizations depending on the amount that have been chartered that semester, according to director of communications Daniela Millan.
“I always thought having two office hours just being in the ASUNM office was problematic because the idea was you’re going to be relying on people coming to you rather than you going to people,” Rafael Romero-Salas, president pro tempore and co-author of bill 2F, said. “So really what this bill does is it allows us to be more present in people’s lives.”
Throughout the meeting, the discussion grew lively as senators questioned the semantics of bill 2F and eventually struck an ambiguous phrase from the text. The phrase in question read that the required hours be “completed either together or separately,” confusing senators about whether it meant the hours could be completed in one chunk or if one senator could complete hours with another senator. Romero-Salas welcomed the debate between senators.
“(Participation) was kind of lacking the last two semesters, so I’m really glad to see all the activity,” Romero-Salas said.
In the past, the open office hours have gone almost entirely unused, according to Attorney General Jackson Zinsmeyer.
The third bill, 3F, empowers the senate president pro tempore to approve numerous appointments to the executive cabinet and other agency positions, a task previously reserved for the now-defunct senate outreach and appointments committee.
ASUNM President Ian May has signed all three bills, according to Millan.
The senate voted unanimously to approve Alicia Torres as the 20th senator, filling the final vacant seat.
For this semester, 10 senators have been appointed rather than elected due to several resignations and a lack of candidates in the spring, according to Vice President Krystah Pacheco; When vacancies arise, Pacheco chooses a candidate from a pool of applicants and the senate votes for approval.
The senate also approved a $5,000 appropriation request from the UNM club hockey team to pay for refereeing services.
Former President Mia Amin and former Vice President Ana Paula Milan were present to offer words of encouragement, reminding the senators to keep in mind why they chose to be senators and urging cooperation between the executive and legislative branches. May echoed the same sentiment during the meeting’s opening remarks.
“I think it’s really important that we are putting a united front behind the student body this year,” May said.
ASUNM holds full senate meetings open to the public every other Wednesday. Their next meeting will be held on Sep. 14.
Gabriel Saiz is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gsaiz83