The Vice President of Student Affairs, Eric Scott, appeared as a guest speaker at the most recent Associated Students at the University of New Mexico full Senate meeting.
Scott addressed ASUNM through a presentation speaking the on Student Affairs’ mission and took more specific questions from senators regarding the Lobo Pantry. Scott brought up the possibility of needs testing for access to the pantry.
The Student Affairs mission is, “creating infrastructure so that no matter who you are, and no matter where you’re coming from, you have the opportunity to be successful at the University,” Scott said.
Scott addressed the goals currently laid out by Student Affairs – a major one being student access to basic needs support. Basic needs, like food and housing, are necessary to meet a minimum standard of living.
The 2023 state wide Basic Needs study found that of 15,000 university students, staff and faculty in New Mexico, 67% experienced some form of basic need insecurity.
One of the points of focus for Student Affairs is to “attend to the health and well-being of campus through continued stabilization of student health and counseling,” Scott said.
Sen. Miriam Barba asked further about basic needs resources existing outside of SHAC, more specifically regarding UNM’s Lobo Food Pantry.
“Lobo Food Pantry is supposed to be used as a last resort, and for a lot of students it is being used as a first resort, so how does Student Affairs plan to tackle basic needs around campus” Barba said.
The University’s food pantry has been established as an open-use pantry, meaning there is no restriction to who is allowed to utilize the resource. The only documentation needed is a valid student ID, as stated on UNM’s food pantry webpage.
While there is currently no plan to change the pantry’s open-use policy, Scott mentioned the possibility of implementing needs testing where one would have to meet certain criteria, demonstrating the need to be granted access to the pantry.
“In consideration of potentially moving into needs testing, it would have to be something that would be very closely analyzed,” Scott said. “We want to really be thoughtful about identifying those metrics.”
Scott expressed his concern, seeing the food pantry as a heavily utilized resource.
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“One of the things that always challenges me is that on the day that it’s restocked, there’s a line out the door and around the corner, which is clearly demonstrative of a significant need,” Scott said.
Scott spoke further about educating the student body on the utilization of the food pantry, as well as the concern of acquiring more food, as it remains open-use.
“How do we analyze what it would mean to send the right messages that (the pantry) is meant to be a last resort, but also how do we just increase the amount of food,” Scott said.
Currently, the food pantry is primarily funded through private donations, Scott said.
Beyond the Lobo Food Pantry, there have been strides made in student access to healthcare, Scott discussed.
In August of this year, SHAC expanded student access to resources through the adoption of TimelyCare – a virtual health and well-being provider. It is an online health portal that students can use for free, granting 24/7 access to resources including online counseling and scheduling in-person appointments.
Sen. Adrianna Casaus asked if any plans were in place to further expand the resources available from SHAC. Scott did not mention any future expansions currently planned but noted the recent hiring of a Director of Operations.
“Our intake processes are smooth so that insurance billing is easy, so that scheduling is tighter,” Scott said when referencing the Director of Operations role.
The role has been filled by James Shrum since January of this year, according to Shrum’s Linkedin.
ASUNM’s full Senate is set to meet again on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Full Senate meetings are open to public comment.
Jaymes Boe is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org