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New Mexico reinstates indoor mask policy following COVID spike

  On Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that the state will reimplement an indoor mask policy, effective Friday, Aug. 20 until at least Sept. 15, due to an increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. This policy, which may be extended or lifted by the governor if necessary, is required of individuals age 2 and up regardless of vaccination status.  “We know that the pandemic is not over and that we’re in a pivotal moment in the state,” Lujan Grisham said at a COVID-19 update livestream on Tuesday. Lujan Grisham also said the state is enforcing “mandatory vaccines in the places where they make the most sense.” 


OPINION: Fake vaccination cards are dangerous and immoral

  With COVID-19 cases surging across the country, universities and employers have begun attempting to crack down on vaccine requirements. Although this signals a step in the right direction, the increasing number of fake credentials being used to cheat a verified vaccination status could very well land us right back where we started, or worse. Fake vaccination cards are not new in regards to this pandemic; a public service announcement about the illegality of fake cards was released by the FBI in March, near the time the vaccine was approved for the majority of adult individuals in New Mexico, proving that for as long as any place has required a COVID-19 vaccine, people have found ways to produce or procure counterfeit documents.

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Financial, academic hardships of unpaid student regent position encourage action

 On Aug. 10, Regent Melissa Henry, a former student regent, asked the Board of Regents Ad Hoc Governance Committee to consider policies that would provide a financial backbone for the unpaid student regent position after experiencing a lot of financial and academic distress during her past term. Ad Hoc Governance Chair and Regent Rob Schwartz hopes to bring this issue to the full Board of Regents at their next business meeting in October.   “It was very naive of me to take this position not knowing how it would impact my career and work opportunities at the University and off campus, and not only did I face the consequences of being in such a politicized, public position but my work and time to contribute to my academic program suffered,” Henry said. 

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Governor commits $5M for Chile Labor Incentive Program

  On Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico will put $5 million toward a wage supplement program administered by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, called the Chile Labor Incentive Program, for the chile industry due to a labor shortage. This program will provide funding, taken from the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan, to “chile growers, labor contractors and processors on a first-come, first-served basis to supplement the wages of existing and prospective workers as well as incentivize hiring and retention,” according to a press release put out by the office of the governor on Thursday. 


In policy reversal, UNM requires vaccinations by October

  After a sudden shift in policy, the University of New Mexico is requiring all students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus by Sept. 30, 2021. The reversal from the University’s initial decision to forgo a vaccine mandate comes after local and national rises in COVID-19 cases. This vaccine policy applies to “all UNM personnel and students who access UNM facilities, housing, programs, services and activities located on the main campus in Albuquerque, the Academic Health Sciences campus in Albuquerque, Gallup campus, Los Alamos campus, Taos campus and the Valencia campus,” according to the Bringing Back the Pack website. 


UNM reinstates indoor mask mandate on select campuses

  On July 29, the University of New Mexico reinstated mask mandates for all individuals regardless of vaccination status effective Aug. 2. Masks will be required indoors for everyone at locations on the UNM Albuquerque, Taos and Valencia campuses, as well as the regional site in Sandoval County. The shift in policy — which had previously allowed fully vaccinated individuals to forgo mask-wearing — was spurred by recent spikes in COVID-19 cases across the country. The CDC recommends that “masks be worn in counties with a 7-day average community transmission of more than 7 new cases per 100,000 persons,” according to an academic dispatch from the Office of the Provost sent on July 29. 

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UNM aims for 100% vaccination rate after forgoing vaccine requirement

  The University of New Mexico is encouraging all Lobos to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus for the fall semester on Aug. 23. The University has set a 100% vaccination rate goal after forgoing a campus-wide vaccine mandate. “I look forward to challenging and inspiring ourselves and our fellow Lobos to reach for that 100% in the coming weeks,” UNM President Garnett Stokes wrote in a campus-wide message on July 8. The University has an ongoing incentive program that offers students and employees the chance for cash prizes in exchange for proof of vaccination. 

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Controversy surrounds UNM vaccine policy

  When the University of New Mexico decided to forgo a COVID-19 vaccine requirement and instead encourage a 100% vaccination rate goal for the upcoming semester, controversy erupted through the student body and students are still deciding whether or not they feel safe with the administration’s decisions. In May, the University drafted a vaccine mandate policy that would have required most students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but has since abandoned the idea since the vaccine is still classified under Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA.

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UNM announces monetary incentive program for students, employees to get vaccinated

On Thursday, the University of New Mexico announced a reward-based incentive program to encourage students and employees to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations in order to “Vax the Pack.” After uploading proof of vaccination, students will receive $100 via bursar account, and main and branch campus employees will be entered into a drawing for one of 50 $1,000 prizes. This money is available through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Students must be registered for the upcoming fall semester to qualify. “We want all Lobos feeling as safe and supported as we possibly can,” President Garnett Stokes wrote in a campus communications email on Thursday. 

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OPINION: Public schools maintain tight grip on student speech despite recent ruling

  Protection of the First Amendment in high school has long been debated, and the Supreme Court often rules against the protections of the student. This just solidifies the feeling of powerlessness so many teenagers feel by eroding what should be their fundamental rights to free speech and free expression. Facing such a maelstrom, small victories should be celebrated wherever they may come. Last month, one such victory arrived with the news of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Brandi Levy, a Pennsylvania high school girl whose words — specifically, “fuck school, fuck softball, fuck cheer, fuck everything” — were reaffirmed as protected under the First Amendment.

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UA-UNM’s first contract with University admin begins July 1

  On July 1, the landmark contract between the United Academics of the University of New Mexico (UA-UNM) and UNM will go into effect, marking the first active bargaining agreement between the Union and the school’s administration over terms and conditions of employment. Both UA-UNM and UNM’s bargaining unit have signed the agreement, and the Union is in the process of finalizing the contract language. The contract, ratified on June 11, is split into two units for faculty: Unit 1, which covers different levels of professors, lecturers and instructors, and Unit 2, which accounts for temporary part-time instructors, adjuncts and term teaching faculty.

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Three-day Juneteenth celebration in ABQ commemorates new federal holiday

Music, dance and empowerment floated through Albuquerque as Burqueños showed up to celebrate Juneteenth over a three-day period at Civic Plaza. The event, entitled “To a Higher Ground,” lasted from June 18 to June 20. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the emancipation of enslaved people in America on June 19. The holiday originated in Texas in 1865, when the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation was applied after the end of the Civil War. The theme for Albuquerque’s celebration this year was “Ujamaa,” or the idea of cooperative economics based on democratic principles and participation. The City of Albuquerque’s website said the event was meant to “celebrate Black-owned businesses, artisans, vendors, performers and more.”

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Hispanic fraternal order sues Santa Fe Mayor over obelisk removal decision

  On June 17, the Union Protectíva de Santa Fé announced their plans to sue the city of Santa Fe and Mayor Alan Webber for the decision to remove the Soldiers’ Monument, the obelisk in the center of Santa Fe Plaza. The lawsuit comes after Webber’s call to remove the obelisk back in June 2020, and after a group of protestors tore down part of the obelisk during a demonstration on Indigenous Peoples Day last October. There is not yet a timeline for the removal.   “What our lawsuit seeks is an injunction preventing the mayor from replacing this historic obelisk with anything other than repairing it and restoring it,” attorney Ken Stalter said at a press conference on June 17.

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Stansbury sworn into Congress after special election victory

  WASHINGTON D.C. — On June 14, Democrat Melanie Stansbury, former representative for the 28th District for the New Mexico House of Representatives, was sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives to represent New Mexicans in the state’s 1st Congressional District.  In the ceremony, Stansbury was sworn in by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Stansbury then gave a speech on the house floor, where she was flanked by New Mexico Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, as well as Washington Senator Maria Cantwell. 

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Despite $10M federal bailout, UNM athletics budget remains in deficit

  At the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the University of New Mexico’s Athletics budget was left bleeding. University Stadium sat eerily quiet, devoid of cheering fans, the air notably lacking the smell of concession hot dogs and beer, and The Pit’s blaring airhorn, once signaling the end of a decisive quarter, lay silent. And a massive, multi-million dollar deficit loomed amid the empty stands. But the U.S. government offered a saving grace in late December: federal stimulus money allocated for colleges and universities through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds II (HEERF II). 


UNM’s proposed COVID-19 vaccine policy draws support, objections and legal questions

The University of New Mexico revealed a draft proposal on May 3 that would require COVID-19 vaccinations of most students, staff and faculty in order to attend the University in person for the coming fall semester, drawing both praise and scrutiny from UNM community members. The short proposal has not received a final ruling from the University administration. Instead, UNM’s “Bring Back the Pack” website has installed a feedback button alongside the link to the proposal, encouraging those who read it to provide their thoughts.


Canvas selected to replace Blackboard as next learning management system for UNM

Canvas was selected as the future learning management software (LMS) for the University of New Mexico, according to an email sent by Campus Communications on April 22. A pilot program for Canvas will roll out in the upcoming semester, and the full transition will happen in the summer of 2022. The decision to move to a new LMS was brought about due to the limitations encountered on Blackboard Learn amid the transition to online learning, according to the email. UNM will be joining six other New Mexico-based colleges that use Canvas. “It was painful to have (Blackboard) be another barrier for people to have to jump over in order to engage with their courses,” Pamela Cheek, associate provost for student success, said.


‘NSO … To-Go!’ 2021 aims to promote student community bond

Incoming students at the University of New Mexico are being welcomed virtually with an online New Student Orientation (NSO) experience for 2021 called “NSO …  To-Go!” This mandatory two-day summer program is meant to prepare new freshmen for college life, and sessions for first-year students will be held from June 1 to Aug. 18. This year’s NSO will include self-paced modules about UNM, personalized degree information and UNM’s sexual misconduct training. Zoom presentations about being a new student, paying for college and more will be included. There will also be a virtual Ethnic and Resource Center open house, as well a discovery fair to showcase what available resources UNM holds. 

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Academic Communities Program helps transition first-year students to college

The Academic Communities Program is a first-year-exclusive experience for students at the University of New Mexico. This program allows students to take special courses that will not only count toward their degree progress, but also provide a community space to explore how college works best for them. There are five sects to the Academic Communities Program: first-year learning communities (FLC), transition communities, big questions, deep dive and academic foundations. Each section provides a different type of experience for first-year students, and a quiz can be taken to see which academic community best fits you.

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Racist “Three Peoples” murals to be covered after decades of controversy

The University of New Mexico has made the decision to cover up the “Three Peoples” mural from Zimmerman library after community members called for its removal due to its racist images. The mural panels will be covered with removable shades by the end of this month or next, unable to be completely removed due to legal standings. “Critics have long derided the ‘Three Peoples’ murals at Zimmerman Library as racist in their various depictions of Native Americans, Hispanics and Anglos,” Jessica Dyer wrote for the Albuquerque Journal. “Kenneth Adams’ 1939 artwork was defaced multiple times in the 1970s, triggered a wave of debate in the 1990s and more recently led library staff and faculty to complain about a hostile work environment.”

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