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New Mexico community members protest against NM nuclear waste plant development

  Many New Mexicans remain wary of nuclear contamination at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and on March 1, concerned citizens gathered outside the Statehouse to protest the Department of Energy’s announcement of their goal to send 30 large nuclear waste shipments to WIPP throughout 2022. Cynthia Weehler, co-chair of Santa Fe-based activist group 285 All and leader of the March 1 petition rally through the Nuclear Waste Partnership, continues to advocate for the greater New Mexican public by opposing the Department of Energy and WIPP in their plans for quiet expansion. “The federal government is expanding WIPP but doing it very quietly. 


UNM playwriting class holds silent gathering for Ukraine

  On March 2, a week after Russia invaded Ukraine, University of New Mexico visiting playwright professor Erik Ehn and his students organized a silent witness for peace at the University of New Mexico Duck Pond. “Whether people can stay for five minutes or for the full hour, I hope that it's something that just inspires people to assess themselves and be mindful of the people around them and to carry that with them outside of the hour and to check in with each other and to send peace always,” student Monét Taylor said.  While the silent witness did not have a large turnout, it was a somber moment of time and silence for those in Ukraine. 

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SRC construction causes unexpected disturbances for residents

  Construction on the Student Residence Center stairwells has caused complaints from residents on the lack of advanced notice of the project and early morning noise pollution. The first stairwell repairs began on buildings D, F and G Dec. 20, 2021 and are scheduled to finish by May, according to project superintendent Manuel Jimenez of ESA Construction, the general contractor hired by UNM. The Board of Regents approved the three-phase repair project on Aug. 19, 2021 after an inspection found the stairwells to be “very deteriorated and in need of immediate attention for repair and replacement,” according to the Board’s meeting minutes from that day.


ASUNM key advocate for legislative funding for UNM scholarships, infrastructure

  In the New Mexico legislative session that concluded mid-February, multiple bills were passed aimed at helping higher education students in the state, specifically for the University of New Mexico. Individuals advocated for funding for the lottery scholarship, the opportunity scholarship and infrastructure improvements at UNM. The bills are currently awaiting signatures from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to officially become law. These initiatives were advocated for in large part by representatives from the Associated Students of UNM, specifically the Governmental Affairs department, who spent time during the legislative session in Santa Fe lobbying for funding.

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Small businesses respond to mask mandate lift

  Although Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham lifted New Mexico’s indoor mask mandate in mid-February, small businesses have been deciding for themselves whether or not they really want to stop wearing masks. Matt Alexander, the owner of Picture Perfect Photo Lab, said he allowed his employees to vote on whether or not they wanted to continue requiring masks in store. “The employees aren't comfortable yet not wearing masks,” Alexander said. “We're asking the public to wear a mask when they come in, and we still have signs up asking to wear masks.”  Like Picture Perfect, Evolution Body Piercing has decided to continue wearing masks inside their business as employees don’t feel safe without them yet.

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Stokes’ State of University address covers COVID-19, new projects

  On Thursday, Feb. 24, University of New Mexico President Garnett Stokes delivered her annual State of the University address. Like last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was at the forefront of topics covered within the address. “Over the last two years, we've found many new ways of doing things in the interest of keeping our community safe — different ways of communicating, learning, collaborating and even different ways of celebrating,” Stokes said.  Despite the ongoing pandemic, she said the University has made strides to return to a somewhat normal college experience, citing both the recent in-person fall commencement ceremony and having students be able to come back fully to campus. 


Heinrich discusses UNM professors’ methane emission sensors on campus

  Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., visited the University of New Mexico on Thursday, Feb. 24 to discuss two UNM professors’ research on sensors designed to detect methane leaks along natural gas pipelines. Research associate professor Lok-kon Tsui and distinguished professor Fernando Garzon are leading the research, which was awarded $1.5 million from the Department of Energy, according to the UNM Newsroom. The meeting largely consisted of Tsui, Garzon and Kamil Agi, a representative of SensorComm Technologies, UNM’s partner in developing the sensor technology, explaining how the sensors detect methane emissions along pipelines.   “Over the course of the past two years, we’ve made a number of improvements to the design of our sensor.  


President addresses Russian attacks on Ukraine

  On Thursday, Feb. 24, President Joe Biden spoke at a press conference regarding the Russian attacks on Ukraine. In his speech, he condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attacks, announced a major sanction package against Russia and said although U.S. troops will not go into Ukraine to fight, he is committed to defending nearby NATO allies. “Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Biden said. His remarks come after Russia’s missile attacks on many Ukrainian cities on Feb. 24 Eastern European Time. 

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UNM programs support first-gen students

  With nearly half of all students enrolled at the University of New Mexico being first-generation college students, the University has a variety of support systems to guide these students toward success. First-gen student Danilo Franco, a junior majoring in computer engineering, accredited some of his success at UNM to the support he’s received from the University’s resources. “My freshman year I had way too many hurdles to get over, and the concern was how I would fill in the gap between what I was able to pay and what I got through scholarships,” Franco said. “I definitely utilize the resources on campus often.”  UNM’s College Enrichment Program provides resources specific to first-generation students through guidance from four advisors. 

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NM senator calls for release of Air Force chimps

  Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., is fighting for animal rights with his co-sponsorship of the Chimp Sanctuary Act, a bill that would prohibit Air Force bases in the United States from housing chimpanzees that are no longer needed for government research. The bill was introduced on Feb. 9 by primary sponsors John Kennedy, R-La., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and co-sponsors Heinrich and Bill Cassidy, R-La. The bill would restrict the housing of chimpanzees at any Air Force base in the United States, including the 34 chimpanzees currently housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, according to a Feb. 9 press release from Animal Protection New Mexico, a nonprofit organization devoted to preventing animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.


African American Student Services hosts final 2022 Black History Month events

  The University of New Mexico’s African American Student Services center has been hosting events throughout Black History Month and is wrapping up this week with “Our Black is Beautiful” on Thursday, Feb. 24 and “Black Grad Mixer” on Friday, Feb. 25. “Our Black is Beautiful” will be a discussion held at AASS led by UNM associate professor of law Sonia Gipson Rankin. She said the event will largely focus on the term “ubuntu,” which has African linguistic roots based on the premise that “I am because we are” and the connection “from person to person.”


Governor lifts state's indoor mask mandate

  Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that the statewide indoor mask mandate would be lifted on Thursday, Feb. 17, effective immediately. During the press briefing at the New Mexico state Capitol where it was announced, Lujan Grisham explained that this decision was due to a projection of lower hospitalization rates despite continued high case counts. There has already been a 37% decrease in hospitalizations, which has freed up hospital resources, according to a Feb. 17 press release from the office of the Governor.

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UNM to begin grad union contract negotiations after PELRB petition approval

  Contract negotiations between the United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico and the University are in sight as the two jointly filed a petition, which specifies bargaining unit modifications, with the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board on Monday, Feb. 14. The petition, which clarifies that only graduate students with assistantships are in the bargaining unit, is likely to be approved, after which contract negotiations will begin immediately. If PELRB accepts the petition, UNM will drop their appeal dating back to November on the board’s decision that gave grad workers the right to unionize, according to UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair. 


Fetishization’s negative effects on women of color

  Dating can have different obstacles for everyone but the concern that a romantic partner is only interested in you as an exotic object of sexual desire is particularly prominent for women of color.  Fetishization is the treatment of a person as an object, and factors of ethnicity, race, skin color, culture, language and facial features are targeted. Pornhub released their most popular searches in the United States in December 2021, and “Asian,” “Latina” and “Black” were among the top categories.  “I know I’m about to get sexualized from me speaking Spanish and Spanglish,” said Ashley Varela, a political science and international studies major at the University of New Mexico. 

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Paid family, medical leave task force memorials pass Senate and House committees

  Legislators celebrated tremendous victories after both Senate Memorial 1 and House Memorial 3 passed in the memorials’ respective committees, which makes New Mexico one step closer to the potential creation of a paid family and medical leave task force. These memorials, which will now move forward in the legislative process, are an effort to support families in the state and help deal with the worker shortage crisis. If one of the memorials passes to become law, $160,000 would fund a diverse task force that would introduce a paid family and medical leave bill in next year’s legislature.

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Vigil, rally held to commemorate community member killed by APD

  On Saturday, Feb. 5, a rally and vigil brought together the family of Valente Acosta-Bustillos as well as community members to commemorate his legacy. A descanso — cross — was placed in front of his house where he was fatally shot by Albuquerque Police Department officer Edgar Sandoval in March 2020. This event allowed for not only a time and place to grieve but also highlighted ongoing issues of police brutality. The gathering was organized by the family of Acosta-Bustillos and community activists involved with the Albuquerque branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. It served as both a time for family members to talk about their memories of him and as a call for the arrest and charging of officers Sandoval and Joseph Bush.


Community member dispels stigmas about unhoused individuals

  From being formerly unhoused himself, David McKibben has seen the worst of what Albuquerque has to offer and wants to take an active position in changing the inhumane treatment of the unhoused community. With his own plans for making the city better, he encourages others to dispel the negative and untruthful stigmas around unhoused communities. McKibben came to Albuquerque in 2012 hoping to find a job within the first two weeks of being here, but fell down into a slump when that didn’t happen. In addition to that, his former drug use further intensified his situation, something many other unhoused community members struggle with as well.

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Minimum wage increase lightens financial burdens on college students

  Since New Mexico increased its minimum wage from $10.50 to $11.50 with the start of the new year, many college students have felt some weight lift off of their shoulders as they attempt to navigate the financial woes of being a college student in 2022. For Tallulah Begaye, an intercultural communications major at the University of New Mexico, the dollar increase could create positive changes in her daily life. “I’m very dependent on my check. My parents and I have a deal: my tribe’s scholarship pays for a half, my parents pay for a fourth and I pay for a fourth (of my tuition). Then I also pay for my food and anything that I want that’s not for school,” Begaye said.

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Death of UNM Director of Bands Eric Rombach-Kendall leaves profound impact, legacy

  The University of New Mexico suffered a great loss with the death of professor and Director of Bands Eric Rombach-Kendall on Monday, Jan. 24. Survived by his wife Julie and children Michael and Rebecca, Rombach-Kendall is remembered not only for his musical genius but also for his heartfelt impact on the lives of those around him. Rombach-Kendall served as director of bands at UNM for nearly 30 years since 1993. Previously, he was a conductor at Boston University and Carleton College, and he taught in the Washington State public school system for six years. Rombach-Kendall was recognized nationally when he served as the president of the College Band Directors National Association from 2011 to 2013.

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Grad union rallies for negotiations with congresswoman's support

  In a union fight that’s been ongoing for over a year, the United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico urged the University to start negotiations with them at the rally they held on campus Wednesday, Jan. 26. Calling on UNM to improve pay, working conditions and more, the grad union notably had the support of Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury at the rally, though she wasn’t able to physically attend. The rally came after the Union received official certification, consisting of a finalized signed card count and ruling from the Public Employee Labor Relations Board chair Mark Meyers, on Jan. 4, 2022, according to a press release, after over a year of fighting with UNM administration over graduate workers’ right to unionize.

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