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An "Associated Students at the University of New Mexico" sign is located in the ASUNM office at UNM Student Union Building.

‘What does ASUNM do?’

Low senatorial voter turnout begs the question of student government’s role

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this article reported that the ASUNM student fee is set to increase annually. This has since been corrected to reflect that the fee will increase every three years.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, The Associated Students at the University of New Mexico’s Election Commission announced the results of the fall 2022 senatorial election, in which ten undergraduates were elected to serve as full-term senators for the spring 2023 semester. Though ASUNM represents the entire undergraduate population, only 425 students voted in the election, a small percentage of the entire student body.

Funded by an estimated 5% of total student fees, ASUNM and the Graduate and Professional Student Association operate based on the investment from the students they serve. For ASUNM, this fee is a $35 charge assessed to each undergraduate per semester; this fee is set to increase by $5 every three years until the fee reaches $50. That money pays for a variety of student services and events throughout the academic year, according to ASUNM President Ian May. This includes the Daily Lobo and student publications, who receive 8.5% of this fee.

“That’s what pays for student orgs through the appropriations and budget process, big events like Red Rally and Fiestas, which we will be having this year, Silent Lights and all that stuff, and even small ones,” May said.

Those on the Student Fee Review Board — May, Vice President Krystah Pacheco, and other members of the legislative and executive branches — have direct say over the funding recommendations passed to the budget leadership team, UNM President Garnett Stokes, and the Board of Regents. Through SFRB, all student organizations receive their funding.

“The president of ASUNM every year is either the chair or the vice chair of the Student Fee Review Board, and that’s where we decide where millions of dollars of student fees get allocated. Voting for the president or being aware of and communicating with ASUNM is important for that because we decide how resource centers get funded, how Johnson Center gets funded, pay into student tickets for Popejoy and tons of other programs,” May said.

This position of student advocacy is one of the principal responsibilities of the executive branch of ASUNM, according to May and Pacheco.

“There’s a lot of rooms that (we) are expected to be in where we are the voice of the student body, so oftentimes the UNM president or others will ask us for the opinion of what students think … The person in these positions has a lot of impact on small or big things as they come up … (and) the impact they can have on not only what administrators ask of us, but what we ask of them as well,” May said.

The senate sees four different types of legislation: financial business, resolutions, condolences and commendations. Though condolences and commendations affect the UNM community, resolutions and financial business are the most direct way the senate affects community members on campus.

“Resolutions as a whole are essentially what the UNM (undergraduate) student body believes ... There's never going to be a statement that is believed or representative of the entire student body, but it's saying that the elected leaders of the students have this belief as the spokespeople,” May said.

ASUNM also funds and oversees a variety of student service agencies intended to get students involved in the UNM community. These organizations each have a different focus, from providing underclassmen with mentorship opportunities, to hosting film screenings, to lobbying efforts in Santa Fe. A complete list of student service agencies can be found on the ASUNM website.

“These agencies have different focuses and they work on programming for the overall student body. They each have different events they host throughout the year — most of them have one or two big events that the student body is aware of — and then they have smaller programming throughout the year,” Pacheco said.

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On top of the executive and legislative branch, ASUNM also features a judicial branch in the student court, which focuses primarily on internal election appeals and protecting the student government from lawsuits. In the future, May hopes for the student court to have a larger direct stake in the student experience.

The student service agencies also provide opportunities for student engagement.

“The special thing about ASUNM is that there’s so many different pathways you can take … it’s really whatever you want to do, if you want to work with the students on a personal level, you can do that and uplift those voices, and, working in conjunction with myself and Ian, you can pass those voices up to UNM leadership,” Pacheco said.

The next ASUNM full senate meeting is this Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Student Union Building’s Ballroom C.

Spenser Willden is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at or on Twitter @spenserwillden


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