Senators forget homework on failed resolution

Resolution 8S sought to ease admission and accessibility to UNM and its resources for the undocumented student population who do not have social security numbers.

However, confusion and debate over the structure and preparation for the resolution ultimately led to a general uneasiness about passing it. Sen. Kyle Stepp said the Senate passing the resolution without doing its due diligence is the wrong thing to do.

“There’s a lot of things that have not been answered that can affect this resolution,” Stepp said.

Contention over the resolution was mainly among senators who were looking at the big picture driving the resolution — supporting undocumented students — and those who believed it would do more harm than good in its current state.

The confusion primarily stemmed from lack of information by the Student Enrollment Department that was vital to the action the resolution strives to accomplish. Stepp brought that issue up to the Senate.

“Have any senators actually tried just going and asking if it can be removed?” he asked his fellow senators.

When no one answered, the discussion turned primarily to the lack of preparation on the part of the individual senators, as well as what exactly the resolution was trying to do.

Several senators, including Sen. Udell Calzadillas-Chavez, who sponsored the legislation, looked at its broader perspective, which was allowing access to UNM for those who may not already have it.

“I think the issue here is making a statement so that undocumented students feel comfortable,” he said. “It would take away that shadow of fear that transfer students and first-time applicants would have in applying to UNM.”

However, several senators, including Sen. Ashley Hawney, said they did not feel comfortable voting on the resolution because it is essentially contradictory.

“It is an option [on a paper application],” she said. “Just stating that we want [providing a social security number] to be optional … it already is.”

According to the Office of Admissions, online applications — the primary method for prospective students to apply — require a social security number. Paper applications do not.

Sen. Nadia Cabrera made the point that each senator should have done their homework beforehand to be able to make as informed a decision as possible. But she did agree with Calzadillas-Chavez that the resolution is making a statement about UNM’s accessibility.

“If anything, this resolution is increasing awareness to students from all around the country that we are here, you can apply here and we’re working to make it even more accessible to you,” she said.

The discussion even provided changes of stance on the issue. Sen. Caleb Heinz said that while he was previously in support of the resolution, he became “uneasy” about the issue after hearing what his fellow senators had to say.

“It seems like there is a system and it’s pretty solid,” Heinz said. “I think it should be changed to asking for immigration status instead, and only that — but then that’s a whole different kind of resolution with a different purpose.”

Stepp made a motion to table the resolution, meaning it will be held off for voting until the next senate meeting, by which time more information can be gathered about the application process. Hawney agreed with the move.

“If the senators in this room, even just one or two, have confusion on this, what is it going to do to the students?” she said.

However, ASUNM Vice President Jenna Hagengruber pointed out that, should the resolution be passed at the next Senate meeting in two weeks, it would be in place for less than a month.

It took multiple votes to call the resolution into question, meaning the Senate was ready to vote on the resolutions as it stood. The resolution was finally voted on after about an hour of animated discussion.

After four of the 19 senators present voted in favor, Sen. Travis Gonzalez said that most of the discussion on the failed resolution was directionless, calling it a waste of time.

“The reason I voted no is that by the end of the discussion, no one knew what was going on, no one knew what we were trying to do here,” he said. “The real message of this resolution was lost in the complications.”

Sen. Jorge Guerrero, who authored and introduced the legislation, said there were points brought up by the Senate that he did not previously think about. He plans on inquiring about them and making the necessary changes.

“Then, hopefully, (we can implement) them into the resolution and finally reintroduce it in committee and full Senate,” he said.

David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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Pop culture classes add substance to material

But UNM also offers several courses based on popular cultures that don’t seem to have educational value at first glance. A variety of pop culture-affiliated curricula are offered at UNM and its branches, including Rock Music Appreciation and courses centered on Route 66 and even food.

Yet instructors in these courses — like those focusing on hip-hop, Harry Potter and fashion — do feature typical academic approaches and concepts that serve higher educational goals.

Webster Matjaka, an American studies graduate student who facilitates a hip-hop music and culture course, said that by exploring the music genre’s origins, students learn about specific societal movements whose mark can be seen in history.

“What we like to teach in the American studies department is critical thinking skills,” he said. “What I mean by that is students being able to situate things or events in a broader context. I use hip-hop as a case study.”

Matjaka said that even though most modern hip-hop artists are driven by money and selling platinum records, it didn’t start out that way.

“It developed under conditions of people questioning society and their identity, as a way for people to comment on their social conditions in places of oppression,” Matjaka said.

Surprising as it may be, Matjaka said if students are at least interested in taking a certain pop culture course, they will find that the subject matter explores exponentially more than students initially expect.

Julie Hillery, a professor in UNM’s Honors College, teaches two classes focused on contemporary fashion and also said that by studying the subject matter, students can learn much about the world that they live in.

The majority of Honors College courses tend to delve into multiple academic fields, and Hillery said her class curriculum examines fashion from sociological, psychological, anthropological and business perspectives.

“[The courses] are very much rooted in social science, meaning we look at clothing in the context of society,” she said. “We can tell a lot about what is going on in society at any given moment by examining what people are wearing at a particular time. We look at topics such as beauty ideals, gender issues, aging and appearance, race and ethnicity and body modifications.”

Hillery said it is common for students to judge her classes simply by the word “fashion” and envision an easy class. She said they turn out being surprised at the academic value her courses hold.

“I believe that there is definitely a stigma concerning fashion classes and that many of them think of the classes as blow-off courses,” she said. “I have had many students tell me that they didn’t expect to learn as much as they did, and that the classes were much harder than they expected.”

Michael Rogers-Oty, a sophomore East Asian studies major, said he was surprised and excited to see the Honors College’s Harry Potter course, and signed up for it based only on its reference to the popular book and film series’.

According to the syllabus, the course highlights character analysis and compares views of standards of morality in the series to real-life philosophies and theological theories.

“It’s a bit more than I expected,” he said. “I guess from reading the description I didn’t fully grasp the kind of materials we’d read. I’ve learned more about Harry Potter and just the general theme of the class: good and evil in the world.”

Rogers-Oty said it was hard beforehand to see the educational value in something so mainstream. He said the teacher, Sheri Karmiol, has even had to defend the legitimacy of the course because it is so engrained in culture as a topic of entertainment, not academics.

“The majority of people at UNM grew up with Harry Potter and a lot of people see it as something for kids and therefore see no value to the class because it is so entwined with Harry Potter,” Rogers-Oty said.

Matjaka said students come into his course curious about what exactly they’ll take from it, but he starts the semester by hoping that their perspectives about hip-hop change as the class progresses. They usually do, he said.

“One of the things I was afraid of was that students would think this class is too easy. That they can just come in and take the class and think they can just have fun,” he said. “Most students who come in this class are very interested in hip-hop. They come in curious. What I find is that there are changing interests from the beginning to the end because they are learning new things.”

David Lynch is a staff reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached atnews@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

Growing Chicano studies program gets votes from faculty senate

Irene Vasquez, director of the program, said that growing the program has been an ongoing process since 2011. In 2013 a bachelor’s degree was installed, and in the fall it will get even bigger.

Departmentalization allows for better infrastructure, something that Vasquez said was a huge obstacle for success when developing the plan for a major.

Vasquez said the faculty senate’s vote was an event she’ll never forget.

“It was a wonderful moment that I will cherish in my memory. We had a very large turnout of students and community members and staff and faculty who were there with the most positive intentions to be able to celebrate what we anticipated would be a positive vote for departmentalization,” she said.

Most of the faculty in the program is either joint appointment, meaning instructors are primarily with other departments like American studies or history, or they are hired on a year-by-year basis.

“So you can imagine that doesn’t give the program the stability it needs,” Vasquez said. “It makes a world of difference to be a department because we can attract our faculty who are rooted in the field and then we can promote and tenure them.”

Now Vasquez said she has her sights on developing a graduate program for Chicana and Chicano studies, a goal which has been a part of her master plan since the beginning.

“When we established the major, what we began to do was structure the whole degree around offering high impact practices, [which are] strategies and approaches in teaching and learning that are more likely to retain graduate students,” she said.

Vasquez said it is all about creating a support system for students in the program, giving them the resources they need for when they go on to graduate or professional school, something that is a common target for her students.

She would like to have a master’s program within two years, and a doctorate program within four. That timetable, Vasquez said, is for the benefit of her students.

“I can say with absolute certainty that we have cohorts of students that are interested in studying Chicana and Chicano studies at the graduate level,” she said.

Departmentalization of her program, Vasquez said, will help UNM fulfill the promise of diversity and multiculturalism. She said the program will play an important role in leading the forefront to assure that those students who move on to graduate programs are a diverse group.

“When we look at who is graduating with graduate degrees, we are falling short,” she said. “Our program will really help the state of New Mexico become more diverse in terms of education and getting students into all kind of professions, career and economic opportunities.”

Divana Olivas, a senior majoring in Chicano and Chicana studies and Spanish, said that she has been fortunate to bear witness to the evolution of the program.

“The very first class I took in my first semester was an introduction to the Chicano movement, and three and a half years later seeing that it’s become a department on campus and has really established its identity as an academic and intellectual space on campus makes me really happy,” she said. “It’s really special.”

Olivas said the program has helped them form their identity by asking the questions they never previously thought were important to ask.

“Personally I’ve really found who I am, and that’s just more than you can say about other programs on campus,” she said.

For Claudia Avila-Mitchell, a graduate student studying American Studies, those questions included where her family came from and the lifestyle they endured.

Avila-Mitchell said she never saw the value in asking her mother and grandmother about what they went through, and that she realizes what she missed out on.

“Now that I’ve been exposed to all these things they’ve done or even just critically asking what they’ve been through…those are things that I’m thankful for that have helped me grow a lot,” she said.

Avila-Mitchell says she would like for the program to install a graduate degree as quickly as possible so that she can jump right into it.

Olivas advocated Vasquez’s drive to acquire a graduate degree for future students.

“In terms of faculty mentors and more funds to be able to do research or get to travel, those opportunities are going to be priceless for students in the future once the departments really gains more status and prominence on campus,” she said.

David Lynch is a staff reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.