The Associated Students at the University of New Mexico plan to lobby for their capital outlay projects during opening day of the 56th session of the New Mexico Legislature on Tuesday, Jan. 17. ASUNM hopes to secure funding for three projects, all of which are centered around safety on campus. They will be decided on by the administration, with limited amounts of student input, according to ASUNM President Ian May.
Each year, ASUNM decides on a project that ASUNM legislative members will lobby for in Santa Fe via a capital outlay bill, according to May. Capital outlay projects are state infrastructure projects that are funded by bonds. After statewide projects have been budgeted and passed by the Senate and the House, the rest of the money is then divided equally to representatives to decide to fund other projects, according to the New Mexico State Legislature.
ASUNM chose three separate projects this year rather than just one, as seen in previous years. These were decided on by the ASUNM administration itself, rather than a public vote as they had done for last year's project: renovations to the bus stop at Redondo Drive and Yale Avenue.
“The reason we didn't really do that on our ballot this year is there weren’t enough ideas that, we thought, were in the price range that we were looking for to let students decide between. So even when we're talking back to when it was on the ballot last year, it was, ‘Okay, we have three projects that are kind of in our price range. We don't really have a preference. Let's put it up to students,’” May said.
This year, ASUNM is hoping to secure $610,000 to fund all three projects, according to ASUNM Vice President Pacheco. These projects include increased lighting in the GR parking lot by Greek life housing on Sigma Chi and Mesa Vista roads, funding to continue the next phase of improvements to the bus stop on Redondo and Yale and the creation of a student-led escort service.
One group that influenced the project decision process was feedback from Greek life, according to both May and Pacheco.
“Another thing that really ties in the focus on student safety was I received an email from one of the Panhellenic sorority presidents and with support from the other Panhellenic sororities that we have on campus, pretty much wanted us to bring awareness to campus safety,” Pacheco said.
Instead of a ballot question, ASUNM had those within the student government ask those around them where they think safety could be improved on campus.
“We started asking our folks to put out some feelers across the board. And one of the things that kept coming up, and this also looped into some stuff we had heard from the Greek folks like early on in the year, that prompted us to … (look at) safety in Greek life in general,” May said.
The overarching theme of this year's capital outlay projects center on campus safety, a goal that Pacheco said has also been sought after in other ways including a resolution by Mickenzie Chessman, ASUNM’s president pro tempore, that advocated for increased funding to the UNM Police Department. That resolution was voted on on the same night that three students were detained by law enforcement during a peaceful protest on campus.
The additional funding for the bus stop is a continuation of the capital outlay projects that ASUNM had lobbied on behalf of in 2022 but is still in need of additional funding to complete the renovation plans, according to May.
The decision to seek funding to create a student escort service was motivated by a growing existence of similar programs at other college campuses across the country — including New Mexico State University, according to May.
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“That's a little bit more driven from our experience and going to NMSU (and) seeing that they had this; me reaching out to my high school friends and being like, ‘Hey, do y'all have this at your university?’ and getting unanimous yeses,” May said. “So I think it's something that's becoming pretty common in higher ed and UNM really needs something like that.”
A past capital outlay project that is currently coming to fruition, is the $400,000 “UNM” installation on Central Avenue and Girard Boulevard, which was decided on by the 2020 ASUNM administration, according to both May and Pacheco.
As the upcoming legislative session commences, ASUNM will have representatives in Santa Fe lobbying throughout the session, along with on UNM day — a day organized by the ASUNM governmental affairs agency to bring UNM students and other members of the campus community, to lobby in support of legislation that would benefit the University, according to the agency's website.
“(For UNM day), a bunch of other UNM departments that are going to be there because there's also a lot of other requests on the institution that go into capital outlay … It's not just going to be students. So that's a big push there, especially to get a lot of students' support for what we're doing within ASUNM,” Pacheco said.
Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddogpukite