On May 19, the United States Forest Service issued a Stage 3 forest closure for the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands, in effect until July 18 or until rescinded. The closure comes in response to the high fire danger in the forest and grasslands in a continued effort to combat and prevent wildfires across the state. “The primary reason for the Stage 3 forest closure is to protect human life, property and natural resources. Fire danger remains extreme with record conditions,” Cibola National Forest public affairs officer Patricia Johnson said.
Researchers from the Medical Cannabis Research Fund at the University of New Mexico recently published a new study titled “Cannabis consumption and prosociality.” The study found that undergraduates at UNM who had levels of THC in their system, when compared to nonusers, showed more empathy, pro-social behaviors and moral decision making. The data shows the statistical magnitude in the differences between the two mean values of the results of the two respective groups.THC users all scored higher than nonusers in measures of prosocial relations, empathy, a moral foundation of harmlessness and a moral foundation of fairness; THC users did score lower in measures of in-group loyalty, though.
As incoming graduate workers find their way onto campus this coming fall, they will have the opportunity to join the recently recognized graduate workers union. Returning graduate workers will continue to fight for fair wages and better working conditions in bargaining sessions scheduled throughout the summer. The United Graduate Workers of the University of New Mexico had their first contract negotiation sessions with the University’s bargaining committee from Wednesday, May 4 through Friday, May 6, reaching a heavy point of contention on the third day. The University pushed back on articles surrounding anti-discrimination and contracts, something the Union went on to speak about during the public comment at the Board of Regents meeting on Tuesday, May 10.
The University of New Mexico will be receiving a potentially controversial but possibly long overdue upgrade to its online infrastructure as Canvas by Instructure was selected as the new academic learning management system starting summer 2022. UNM began a vendor engagement with Instructure in early 2021 but didn’t start a trial integration until spring 2022, according to the Canvas Implementation page. Now, all courses for the summer semester will be available through Canvas, and UNM will finalize the migration of all available courses by the start of fall 2022.
As new and returning students walk into any of the libraries on the University of New Mexico’s main campus this fall, they will be greeted by newly constructed turnstiles. Construction on the turnstiles began May 11 and is anticipated to be completed during the summer months, according to Lea Briggs, the department administrator for the College of University Libraries and Learning Sciences. The University is implementing these turnstiles in an effort to increase safety at the libraries on campus. UNM’s libraries are currently accessible to the public, with only select online resources being reserved for the UNM community, according to the University libraries help page. UNM libraries will continue to allow non-UNM affiliated community members to use the libraries, but they must show a photo ID to enter, according to Jason Shoup, senior operations manager at Zimmerman Library.
On the morning of Thursday, May 12, employees at the University of New Mexico Hospital held a picket line outside of the hospital’s entrance on Lomas Boulevard to speak out against severe understaffing, an issue that has endangered both patients and employees alike. Amanda Gutierrez works in the neurology unit at UNM-H and was a part of Thursday’s picket line. She said that short staffing at the hospital recently led to her receiving an injury on the job.
As graduation draws near, most every senior is working to navigate next steps. Disabled students, however, have the unique challenge of preparing to move into a new environment where they may not necessarily have access to resources they have previously been able to obtain through their university. “It definitely sucks to be cut off from those resources because it is really nice to know that there is someone in a position of power that has your back as a disabled person,” graduating senior Micah Glidewell said. Glidewell has been receiving accommodations from the University of New Mexico Accessibility Resource Center since his freshman year and has worked at ARC for the past year.
Albuquerque community members took to the streets again on Saturday, May 7 to protest the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, cases that provide constitutional protection for abortion in the U.S. under the doctrine of privacy granted by the Fourteenth Amendment. The protest was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation to continue motivating people to fight back and not fall into apathy while calling for the Democrats in Congress to act to protect abortion rights. “We have to keep up the energy, and we have to remind people that we can't stop just because we came out right after it happened.
On May 14 at 9 a.m., the University of New Mexico will be holding its in-person commencement ceremony at the University Arena. The ceremony will be only the second ceremony in which guests are allowed back in person since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We're thankful that we can get back to having families and guests there and celebrating our students for this wonderful accomplishment,” University Secretary Nancy Middlebrook said. The event will feature keynote speaker Mark Herman, CEO of Dion's, along with performances by the UNM Brass Choir and the singing of the national anthem by Cameron Smith, a graduate student in the vocal performance program.
Protesters gathered at the Pete V. Domenici U.S. Courthouse in Albuquerque on May 3 in light of a leaked draft of a majority opinion from Politico written by Justice Samuel Alito that signifies the court’s decision to overturn Roe V. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, both landmark cases that provide constitutional protection for abortion in the U.S. under the doctrine of privacy granted by the Fourteenth Amendment. The protests, one in front of the courthouse organized by the Party of Socialism and Liberation and one kitty-corner in front of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court organized by Planned Parenthood, were each attended by hundreds of people.
The city of Albuquerque is currently undergoing a redistricting process as is required by the city charter following every census, the latest of which happened in 2020. The redistricting committee has been meeting since early March to discuss potential new district lines and hear community input; their latest meeting took place on Wednesday, April 27. Redistricting has a substantial effect on how the city government operates as it ensures that the populations of different districts are equally represented within the City Council. Some districts have grown unevenly in the 10 years since the city was last redistricted. The redistricting process can also be used to ensure that marginalized communities' voices are being adequately represented and heard.
April 28 marked a historic event for the University of New Mexico’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community with the official opening of the Asian American Pacific Islander Resource Center (colloquially pronounced as ay-perk). The ribbon-cutting ceremony boasted a large turnout of students, community members and notable guests. Although AAPIRC has been open for some time now, this marks one of the first large public events in the space with socializing and lots of tasty food. Farah Nousheen, the Associate Director of AAPIRC, led the ceremony, opening it with a series of warm welcomes.
Destruction continues throughout the state as the combined Calf Canyon and Hermit’s Peak fires are currently the largest wildfire in the United States, having burned down 103,908 acres of land as of Sunday, May 1. Across New Mexico, there are currently 49 active wildfires as of Sunday, May 1 caused by severe to exceptional drought conditions, a leading cause of the wildfires that have been ablaze since early April, impacting communities and workers across the state working to keep everyone informed and safe. Intense wind conditions and years of drought have rapidly increased the speed at which the fires have grown, according to KOAT.
Areas with people of color, low-income residents and immigrants have historically been forced to endure environmental racism around the U.S., but New Mexico locals are fighting against it. Santa Fe’s south side and Albuquerque’s South Valley continue in their efforts against unjust environmental decisions that disproportionately affect marginalized groups. In Santa Fe’s south side, Associated Asphalt and Materials received a permit from the New Mexico Environment Department last summer to consolidate its two plants — located on both sides of Highway 599, north of Airport Road — to only the west side of the highway.
Sustainability was the topic of discussion at the 12th annual University of New Mexico Sustainability Expo on Thursday, April 21. Fresh farm products, other food and goods for sale drew crowds in as live music drifted across Cornell Mall. At the event hosted by UNM’s Sustainability Studies department, local farmer’s markets and gardens provided students with different resources and tips to promote a more sustainable lifestyle and live demonstrations taught attendees about the ecosystem in New Mexico. “The event provides the University community with an opportunity to support local and sustainable small businesses,” ABQ Stew, a UNM Sustainability Studies blog, reported.
The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, a group that advocates for the conservation of wild land, issued a letter on March 17 that called on the Bureau of Land Management to conduct a formal audit of inactive wells on federal land. “What we're looking for with the audit is for BLM to actually do a full analysis of how many (of) what we call orphaned or abandoned wells really do exist on BLM lands in New Mexico,” NM Wild staff attorney Logan Glasenapp said. Glasenapp said the group wrote the letter asking for the audit right now because the acting state director for the Bureau of Land Management, Melanie Barnes, has a background in biology as opposed to a background in the fossil fuel industry, as prior directors have had.
More New Mexicans can now opt in to using renewable energy to power their homes after a year of rulemaking done by the Public Regulation Commission. The new Community Solar Rule will mandate that 30% of the electricity produced by shared solar facilities be distributed to low-income communities and the organizations that support them. Individuals who may benefit from this rule include those who qualify for Medicaid or food assistance programs. It also doesn’t limit solar energy options for those who rent the property they live on or for those who live in government-funded housing. Eligible service organizations may include places like homeless shelters or food pantries.
A teach-in and benefit concert to stand in solidarity with Ukraine will be held at the University of New Mexico’s Rodey Theater on Thursday, April 14 at 7 p.m. This event, which is a personal choice of entry for free or by donation, will feature musicians as well as activists, and all proceeds raised will go toward Ukrainian refugee relief efforts. Vitaliy Osmolovsky, an activist and grassroots organizer, will be joining from Poland via Zoom for the event. All funds raised will go to his organizing efforts, for which he has a supply list that addresses many different needs, some of which are for physical and mental health aid.
Over 30 years have passed since the Americans with Disabilities Act was first signed into law in the U.S. by former President George Bush. While the Act was a step forward for addressing accessibility issues, students and staff with disabilities at the University of New Mexico still face mobility issues due to ADA standards for historically significant buildings as well as construction and maintenance. Any building that was built before March 14, 2012 is not required to comply with the 2010 ADA revised codes, titled the ADA Standards for Accessible Design, and are only required to bring the building up to code if they are planning a major renovation, according to Disability Rights New Mexico coordinator Bernadine Chavez.
Despite a long list of positive effects, cannabis use still remains a taboo subject for some. While medical cannabis was legalized over a decade ago in New Mexico, recreational marijuana was only legalized last summer with retail sales having started on Friday, April 1. Jacob Vigil, associate professor in the University of New Mexico psychology department, and Sarah Stith, associate professor in economics, are married and have done both joint and separate research on cannabis specifically. Through this, they have found that it’s largely more beneficial than a lot of people think and believe it should be normalized in society.