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As college classes have been forced to switch to online or hybrid instruction during the pandemic, many University of New Mexico students have called for lowered tuition in response to a perceived decrease in the quality of online education.

An online petition demanding a reduction of tuition has garnered more than 4,000 signatures and has spread throughout the UNM community.

Students at campuses across the country have been making similar demands. According to Inside Higher Ed, students at University of California campuses and the University of Chicago have called for a reduction in tuition, while students at Miami and Drexel Universities have filed a class action lawsuit for tuition refunds.

While the rest of the Southwest opened up its doors and gathered for July 4 festivities and birthdays, those in the Navajo Nation and in pueblo communities remained at home.

A fraction of those who remained at home are Native American college students, including some who are students at the University of New Mexico and some who will make their college debut this fall.

When I learned that UNM was taking a hybrid approach to classes for the upcoming semester, my first thought was about those Native students and exactly how this approach would likely affect them.

As a Native student and a Native core writing instructor in the English department, I found the decision disconcerting.

Among the slew of challenges people experiencing homeless face with a sometimes difficult, oftentimes punishing existence rests an ugly injustice: being targeted with criminal trespassing arrests.

It’s a trend that some cities have taken steps to change. Last year, San Antonio District Attorney Joe Gonzales said he had started instructing his prosecutors to dismiss cases “if it appears that the only reason the person was arrested was because they were homeless.”

Albuquerque, on the other hand, hasn’t taken quite the same approach.

Over a nine-day period in June, the Albuquerque Police Department made at least seven criminal trespassing arrests. Police reports obtained by the Daily Lobo detail officers arresting people in parks and — in two separate cases — in an arroyo and near an abandoned building.

Dion’s in, Pi out as SUB’s fast food revolving door spins once again

Dion’s Pizza announced on Tuesday that a location of the venerated local pizza chain will open in the University of New Mexico’s Student Union Building, with the grand opening expected to happen at the start of the fall semester.

Dion’s will take over the space formerly occupied by Pi, another pizza, pasta and salad outlet that was operated by the University’s food service contractor Chartwells. Pi took the space over after WisePies, another local pizza chain, left the SUB.

Dion’s joins a fast food lineup in the heart of main campus that already has local franchises like Blake’s Lotaburger, Satellite Coffee and Twister’s and the national chains Subway, Chick-Fil-A and Mandalay Express.

Pedestrian safety, COVID-19 transmission remain top concerns as ART resumes operations

The Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) system has resumed service, sporting a bright red coat of paint along the UNM section of its route.

“We wanted to make sure that pedestrians especially knew there was a difference, that the buses would be going east and/or west,” Albuquerque transit director Danny Holcomb said regarding the pavement’s color change. “We wanted to make sure that if they saw that red paint, they would stop and pause and say ‘wait a minute, maybe I shouldn’t cross here.’”

After three-plus years of delays, ART operations began last November. Since opening,  ART has accumulated an extensive array of accidents, including one fatality. The transit system has also been involved in at least 30 collisions with other vehicles, according to the Albuquerque Journal, and has hit two pedestrians.

APD union contract negotiations delayed indefinitely

In the month since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd, police unions have come under national scrutiny for their role in shielding the police from accountability.

And Albuquerque has been no exception.

The contract between the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) and the City of Albuquerque was set to expire on July 1, but because all city union contract negotiations have been put on hold amidst the pandemic, it will remain in effect until negotiations can take place at an undetermined date in the fall.

“Negotiations for all of the City’s unions, including the APOA, are currently on hold due to uncertainty about finances in the wake of COVID-19,” Jessie Damazyn, a spokesperson for Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s office, said.

ASUNM President Amin refuses to sign Black Lives Matter resolution

Members of the University of New Mexico community decried last month’s increased police presence on campus amid the apex of Black Lives Matter protest activity in the state, taking particular issue with UNM President Garnett Stokes’ milquetoast response to the image of snipers atop UNM’s George Pearl Hall.

On June 11,  ASUNM passed Resolution #1F during a special session meeting which announced the student government’s support of the abolition of the modern policing system and urged Stokes to reconsider UNM’s ties with external police forces.

While the vote passed by a wide margin, ASUNM President Mia Amin pocket vetoed the resolution by declining to sign it.  She cited concerns that ASUNM “is a non-partisan organization” and said that it is her “job to serve (UNM) students by staying neutral”, per an email announcement shared with ASUNM senators.

Governor signs revised budget, revives Opportunity Scholarship funding

SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the fiscal year 2021 revised budget late Tuesday afternoon after an unprecedented special session convened to try and blunt the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic and spiraling revenue from curtailed oil production in the Permian Basin.

The budget, which will go into effect on July 1, totals $7.22 billion, down from the $7.6 billion plan approved by the Legislature in February.

The approved budget includes a 4% reduction for Instructional and General support and a 6% reduction for Research and Public Service Projects across all higher education institutions, according to an email from the governor’s press secretary Nora Sackett. As of the time of this article’s publication, the details of which projects would shoulder the cuts were still unclear.

‘Deplorable, deeply disappointing’: Student Family Housing to close permanently

Next spring, just after finals conclude and dissertations are defended, many University of New Mexico students with families will be looking for another place to live.

The closure of the Student Family Housing complex was confirmed in a June 29 email sent to residents by Wayne Sullivan, the director of Residence Life and Student Housing.

"The University made the difficult decision to close the Student Family Housing (SFH) complex on May 31, 2021," Sullivan wrote. "For nearly 50 years, we have had the pleasure to provide affordable housing to our outstanding students and have truly enjoyed developing relationships with all of our residents."

With the decision to "decommission" the Student Family Housing complex in just under 11 months, the University will eliminate the only student housing that catered specifically to students with families, including a large percentage of international and graduate students.

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