This past Wednesday, March 1, University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes delivered the State of the University address during her sixth year in office. The speech highlighted achievements by the University over the past year, and its plans for future projects and goals. However, it failed to touch on several other events from the past year.
Stokes talked about safety at the University and spoke about projects the University has worked on, including Wayfinder — a website to navigate support options after being harmed or harassed — keycard access to buildings, along with requesting money for more keycard readers and lights. However, she failed to mention the shootout that took place on campus in November 2022 that led to the death of a New Mexico State University student.
On the topic of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Stokes used the three word phrase, “We did it” to summarize the University’s position. The University has recently discussed repealing the vaccination mandate; as of publication, 87% of students have reported receiving their booster vaccinations. The lift of the mask mandate last March resulted in concerns for many immunocompromised students.
“As we continue our work together, delivering more to our citizens in the form of the services they need and deserve. We are committed to providing our health professionals with the resources they need to do their jobs not just locally, which means getting them into rural and under-resourced communities where we are needed most,” Stokes said.
With the ongoing pandemic, hospitals have continued to face capacity issues, according to the Albuquerque Journal, and staffing shortages, something Stokes did not mention. Stokes did discuss the new program to provide accelerated Bachelor of Science in nursing degrees.
Stokes also spoke about a new “First Amendment Student Activism Task Force,” which will discuss how to safely and legally express personal freedom of speech and examine current protocols for “speech events and activism on campus.” This past September, students of color were denied entrance to a Turning Point USA speaking event, which was met with counter-protesters. Following events were also met by protesters, including one in December where three peaceful protesters — including a student — were detained by New Mexico State Police officers.
Stokes talked about development on campus, which included things like breaking ground in the past year on the College of Nursing and Public Health Excellence Building, Behavioral Health Crisis Center in Bernalillo County and the continuing work on the new tower for UNM Hospital. She also mentioned the new ROTC unit at the old Alpha Chi Omega house and utilizing general obligation bond funding for a new psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents as well as a new facility for the College of Fine Arts.
Stokes also discussed the UNM seal change, a process that students have advocated for since 2016, began institutionally in 2019 and was implemented in 2021. She also spoke about the covering of the racist murals in Zimmerman Library that occurred in 2021 and said that, currently, the University is working toward changing names of public spaces.
The accessibility of the buildings on campus was also talked about. Stokes mentioned the Integrated Campus Plan, which she said should be ready by November. Ineffective ADA measures have been of concern to students, which can be partially attributed to the historical buildings on campus.
Stokes also discussed the development of the land on South Campus next to Lobo Village. The area would be developed via a Tax Increment Development District, meaning the project would be funded via new city, county and state tax revenue. The idea is that the new development would increase tax revenue in the state — thus supporting the TIDD, according to the Lobo Development Corporation and KRQE. Ideas of what would be developed in that area include new retail centers.
“To enhance community services, create new jobs and stimulate economic activity, the TIDD will revitalize an underutilized, unsightly portion of the city,” Stokes said.
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Stokes also briefly spoke about the campus commitment to the UNM 2040 climate goals, which specify a commitment to reduce impact to the environment and to diversify sources of revenue. In her speech, she discussed this goal in relation to research within the University. She did not mention calls from UNM Leaders for Environmental Foresight, a student group, for UNM to stop investing in fossil fuels. In 2021, LEAF filed a complaint to the attorney general to investigate those investments.
“Engaging in the kind of long-term thinking, planning and investment in the necessary resources — human, financial and physical — to achieve our aspirations while protecting our environment. This kind of long-term planning requires innovative thinking, and we are perhaps at our most innovative when it comes to our research,” Stokes said.
Other achievements Stokes celebrated included University enrollment being up by 35%, the College of Education and Human Sciences having launched their Native American teacher preparation program, and the opening of the new Department of Africana Studies.
Ian May, the Associated Students at the University of New Mexico president, attended the speech and said he thought it was a positive outlook on UNM, but he wishes more students would attend.
“I really think that the State of UNM Address is really for those moments of building UNM up. The only thing that I saw missing is it would be cool to get more students … I think that that's a message that more people need to hear,” May said.
Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @maddogpukite