Q & A: Kyle Biederwolf on his last days as ASUNM President

This story first appeared in the Daily Lobo, and can be viewed on DailyLobo.com.


Two weeks before the end of his term as Associated Students of UNM President, Kyle Biederwolf has a spotless desk. He’s wearing his characteristic cheery demeanor and an ASUNM T-shirt with a shade of red that almost blends him into the similarly-colored wall behind him. His suit jacket is draped over his chair.

A year after being elected to his office, Biederwolf looks like he’s without battle scars, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows too much has happened — and continues to unfold — at the University for that to be the case.

“One week, six days, 23 hours and 55 minutes,” is exactly how much longer Biederwolf said he has as president on the cold, rainy afternoon when I met him in his ASUNM office. It’s a humorous gesture more than a signal of someone who hasn’t appreciated the opportunity to serve as President, having also served two terms as ASUNM Senator.

But right now, Biederwolf’s priority is assisting in the transition of the executive leadership to ASUNM President-elect Noah Brooks and his team. In the midst of that work, I talked with him about the interesting year UNM has had, and his role in being the voice of the student body during the past 12 months.

DL: So, budget crisis. Lottery scholarship solvency mess. Controversial speakers. How are you feeling after a year?

KB: Oh man, you know… I, and in the best way possible, had no clue what I was getting myself into. The experience that I had in ASUNM I thought would’ve molded me to be the ideal presidential candidate having experience both in the legislative and executive side of things. But you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you step into these shoes and see how much it is.

I think there have been a lot of things happen this year, like you said. The budget crisis is awful. The conservative speakers, the changing of the seal, basically everything. How I feel about all that is: I feel good, because I think that we as an administration did the best that we could do to always have a strong student voice in every single one of these issues, whether it be on the budget leadership team talking about the budget, whether it be meetings with (acting) President (Chaouki) Abdallah talking about these speakers and understanding how to work with student groups on both sides. But I think the strongest thing is that there was always a student voice in all these decisions.

DL: You and ASUNM Vice President Cheyenne Feltz ran on different slates, with different running mates last year. What was it like working with someone who ran on a different platform?

KB: It was very interesting; I think it was the first time in a couple years that there was a split between the two leadership positions. Fortunately, Cheyenne and I had worked in ASUNM together in various capacities, and we were friends outside of the office, so the transition wasn’t hard.

One of the first things we did was we sat down and said, “Alright, we ran on two different platforms, what can we get done this year?” Our relationship definitely developed over the entire year; we learned a lot about each other and a lot about ASUNM. But I don’t think there was ever a problem, which was nice. When you don’t run with someone and the other person wins, it’s always a question mark. You’re not completely sure what’s going to go on, but I would say that the relationship was successful.

DL: There were a lot of students upset this year. The backlash over the ski team being cut, the Milo visit, the official seal, like you mentioned. What did that level of constant engagement by students tell you about the student body this year?

KB: It tells me that the students are realizing that they can make change. And that’s a beautiful thing, because at an institution this large, sometimes students feel like (they’re at) the bottom of the totem pole. I think that the organization of students coming together against different things happening at the University kind of shows that the students do understand that they can make substantial change.

BY NICK FOJUD
Former ASUNM President Kyle Biederwolf address a crowd about a student government initiative that partners with Albuquerque Heading Home on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. Biederwolf has served as the ASUNM President for the 2016-2017 academic year.

DL: So, obviously, ASUNM works first and foremost for those students. Were there ever any instances over the course of your term where you realized it’s not that black-and-white, where you’d have to, on certain issues, disagree with a certain group of students?

KB: Yeah. I think that every single issue that faces the University will never have a black-and-white answer. Which is unfortunate. (Being a student leader at) UNM would be so much easier if there was an answer to every single question asked, and unfortunately, sometimes you do have to go against other students.

But I think the thing that we did most beautifully this year is that we were able to take these ideas and we were able to present them and present all of the facts, both sides of whatever it may be, and base our student opinion through that.

In positions of power and positions of leadership, you’re never going to make everyone happy. But I think the one thing we did successfully this year is (that) we understood that we weren’t making everybody happy, but we wanted to find out what the overarching feel of the students was. Sometimes that didn’t make us in this office happy, the decision that had to go out and advocate, but that is our job — to advocate what a majority of the students are feeling.

We were never shying away from saying, “There’s a split in this. People feel too strongly both ways and we don’t have an opinion.” That was never really a cop-out answer, but we were able to use that. Being able to sometimes stand in front of these people and say, “Hey, we’re split right now, we don’t know exactly what we’re doing” can sometimes be beneficial.

DL: What do you think are the biggest non-financial challenges facing President-elect Brooks and Vice President-elect Sally Midani? So, tossing the budget and lottery messes out the window…

KB: If you throw finances out, it’s going to be the issue that ASUNM faces year after year after year, and that’s sufficiently representing students. This year, we took a huge step forward in that. From the feedback we heard this year, students are starting to feel represented, but we are not even close to where we need to be. So I think that that’s going to be the biggest challenge, but I have full faith in the next administration that they’re going to take the precedent that we started and push it to the next level.

DL: You having served as a senator and then on the executive team, basically being part of ASUNM for the majority of your collegiate career, do you think that ASUNM has done all it can do in that regard? Or is it now more up to the students to make sure they’re engaged and in tune with what’s going on in student government?

KB: I think that ASUNM hasn’t done everything that we can. Over the last three years, we’ve always taken steps forward, and I want to give praise to the presidents that I’ve seen, as well as our administration, because we are taking steps forward. But we’re not close to where we need to be. It’s a problem when only eight percent of your student body votes in your senator elections that represent students and student voices.

But I think that we did take larger steps forward this year, with the Joint Council, with all the outreach that we did over big University issues that were facing the regents. As people step forward, and as new administrations come in, the Joint Council’s going to become even more and more prevalent to making decisions on students’ behalf.

DL: With the new UNM logo coming out literally hours ago, I feel like this is a really appropriate time to ask this: Do you think the identity of UNM is going to be different five years from now than it is right now?

KB: I’m going to answer as ASUNM president, but I’m also going to answer as a marketing student at Anderson. I think that this branding initiative has the opportunity to change UNM. And it’s weird, because if you tell that to someone other than a communication or marketing major that doesn’t understand the logistics that way, it’s a weird issue to talk about — how a brand identity can change an entire university. But it really can.

This entire year, we’ve just been pushing, “Each of us defines all of us,” (the UNM branding campaign), and I think that really encompasses what UNM is. We take pride in our diversity, and we take pride in the university that we are, with the students and the faculty and the staff and the administration that we have. And I think that this branding initiative, it’s a lot more modern and it has the opportunity to put our University on the map, and internationally.

I’m excited for it, and hopefully it changes the culture of UNM over the next five, 10, 15 years to more of a modern campus and more of a destination university.

DL: With all the things we mentioned earlier, the big issues going on and the different controversies on campus that students are so passionate about…in your view, is it now more important than ever for students to be engaged on campus?

KB: It is always so important. But I think that…we are in a crisis mode for the University right now. We don’t know how much money we’re getting from the state this year, and regardless of how much money we get, we’re going to be at a deficit. The state relies so much on oil and gas that when that reduces, students are affected.

So I think it’s always important to be engaged, but students in these positions are making decisions and giving opinions on the student body that could affect students in every way at this University. So now, more than ever, it’s so important for students to be engaged.

DL: In two weeks you’ll be graduating with a degree in…

KB: Business administration, with a concentration in marketing.

DL: Do you see yourself doing politics again down the road?

KB: Oh man, you know…maybe someday. If I did, it would be in Albuquerque. I love this city, I plan on staying here hopefully for the rest of my life. So maybe. But I think that there’s a big difference between my role here and being able to represent students on the student government rather than a normal government.

I’ve been very happy, and if regular government down the line is anything like how this position has been, I’d be very interested, because I’ve loved being able to do what I’ve done here.

DL: What’s something that you’ve learned about ASUNM in your time as president that you didn’t know before?

KB: I think it’s how much ASUNM matters to the entire University. There are so many boards and committees and big decisions for the University that ASUNM always has a seat at. I guess that’s something I never realized being in ASUNM, that there are issues at the University that are substantial, that make huge noise.

Having a student be at that table and be able to explain the students’ opinion and even change the entire outcome of that decision based on students’ opinions has been the best experience and one of the coolest things I’ve learned about ASUNM.

DL: There’s always a lot of turnover annually with the executive team and every semester with half the Senate, which can lead to a lot of change, maybe to things that were implemented before. What’s the one thing that was implemented during your administration that you believe will benefit the most students over the longest period of time?

KB: Absolutely, 100 percent, hands down the Joint Council. When I was running for president, the number one thing that I heard was that students aren’t being represented, and like I mentioned, it’s a problem that ASUNM faces year after year after year. My administration sat down and we said, “How can we combat this? How can we take a step forward to make students feel more represented?”

Two years ago, (ASUNM) President Rachel Williams created the Joint Council, and there was a vision for it, but it never really took off. Last year there were a couple meetings, but it kind of fell by the wayside. I think that our administration this year made it one of our first priorities to get that off the ground. First by reorganizing it to make it include a representative from each college and each resource center rather than just the resource centers, as well as bringing the big University issues to them, like the freshman live-on requirement, like the change to the seal, like the potential tuition hike, as well as bringing all the ASUNM business that’s going to go to Senate to the Joint Council.

You can’t get a better representative group than the Joint Council, and I think that’s going to be our legacy, that’s going to be our stamp. I really hope that I come back 20 years from now and the Joint Council’s still going, and it’s created momentum to where it’s its own governing body that has as much power as the Senate potentially. What we were able to do with that body and the potential that it has been the most important thing that we did.

 

Proposed ASUNM budget continues recent trends

This story first appeared in the Daily Lobo. It can be viewed by visiting DailyLobo.com.


On Wednesday, the ASUNM Senate will deliberate over its spring budget bill, which reflects the campus-wide financial strain on UNM as well as a continued trend of ASUNM and its related entities receiving the vast amount of student fees up for grabs.

The Finance Committee, which proposes the budget each semester, recommended $689,652 total to be allocated to student groups and organizations, from $690,000 that was available from student fees. That number is right in line with the last two years, when around $691,000 was allocated to groups by ASUNM.

Also, as with the last two years, Finance Committee members were forced to make cuts — at times drastic ones — across the board from what groups were requesting. Student groups were requesting about $1.14 million in funds, 165 percent more than the amount that was eventually allocated.

Another trend this budget upholds is allocating about three fourths of the total funds to ASUNM-related groups and line items.

137 total groups — which include the Agora Crisis Center, the Interfraternity Council, various foreign language groups, and ASUNM agencies such as Student Special Events — applied for funding from the spring budget process. That number is up from 115 last year and 112 from 2015, but much less than the 160 groups that received funding from a $718,000 pie in 2014.

BY NICK FOJUD
ASUNM Finance Committee Chair Hannah William speaks during a Steering and Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at the UNM SUB. The Senate will vote on the proposed spring budget on Wednesday.

Williams said that while student fee strain — a byproduct of continuously dropping enrollment figures at UNM — was a challenge in making final recommendations, they were able to make it work by focusing on putting all student organizations on an even playing field.

“We relied on our Law Book and worked to maintain consistency throughout all student organizations, while still focusing on the individual need of each budget,” she said.

Last semester the Daily Lobo investigated a trend in recent spring ASUNM budgets that showed that ASUNM line items in the budget seemed to receive a majority of the funding, despite representing a small fraction of the groups requesting funds.

Last spring’s budget bill allocated 76 percent of the funds dispersed to line items and agencies directly affiliated with ASUNM, accounting for things such as salaries, operating costs and large-scale events such as Fiestas, organized by ASUNM Student Special Events. The individuals in those agencies are not the same ones that deliberate and pass the budget in committee and full Senate; however, agency directors are appointed by ASUNM leaders.

At the time, ASUNM leaders said that the agencies — eight of them in total — “play a major role in what we do here at ASUNM, and we believe the services they provide to students are an invaluable aspect to the student experience.”

That trend of between 70 and 75 percent of funds being allocated to ASUNM and its agencies has stayed consistent in recent years, despite annual turnover in the leaders of the undergraduate student governing body.

The proposed budget for this spring continues the trend. The average amount recommended by the Finance Committee for 124 non-ASUNM related groups or entities is just under $1,450 each, while the committee recommends over $39,000 for each of the budget’s 13 ASUNM line items.

In total, $510,225 from this year’s spring budget bill was proposed for ASUNM line items, comprising 74 percent of the budget. ASUNM Student Special Events alone, despite being cut over $100,000 from its initial request, was recommended to receive about $160,000.

The non-ASUNM entity recommended to receive the most funding was Agora, with about $26,500.

Those agencies do go through the same budget process and must answer the same questions all other student groups are asked. Williams said among the information the groups requesting funding must provide are the number of active members in their groups, their fundraising efforts, the impact they plan to make on campus and how they would use the funds allotted to them.

The proposed 2017 spring budget bill will be deliberated over at ASUNM’s next Senate meeting on Wednesday. If passed, it will go on to ASUNM President Kyle Biederwolf.

Student groups write letter to University admin criticizing Yiannopoulos visit

This story first appeared in the Daily Lobo. It can be viewed by visiting DailyLobo.com.


As the visit of controversial Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos looms ever nearer, local opposition to his arrival and speaking event is ramping up.

A slew of UNM student groups have placed their names on a letter sent to University administration earlier this week condemning the upcoming event to be held Jan. 27 in the SUB, calling it a contradiction of UNM policy.

The letter alleges that Yiannopoulos’ talk will lead to “physical violence and expand bias against us,” referring to undocumented students, indigenous students, Muslims, LGBTQ and other minority members of the UNM community whose concerns are raised in the letter.

It specifically refers to a section of UNM policy about visiting speakers, which states that their messages must have “educational value.” Citing particularly controversial actions by Yiannopoulos from the past, the groups represented in the letter claim that he does not do so, but instead spreads “hate speech that continues to terrorize students.”

It also claims that Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric is especially derogatory towards Muslims, the LGBTQ community, the mentally ill and the indigenous. The letter specifically cites an instance in which Yiannopoulos “personally attacked” individual transgender students at a University of Wisconsin event in December.

Similar rhetoric during his visit to UNM next week, especially if directed at a particular student or students, could potentially be interpreted as sexual harassment and a Title IX violation by the University. Such a violation could lead to a cut in federal funds for UNM.

The letter goes on to say that “we…will do everything in our power to protect students from fascism and violence.”

The groups represented in the letter are KIVA Club, MEChA, Black Student Union, Queer Student Alliance, Muslim Student Association, Dream Team, the Red Nation and Showing Up for Racial Justice. The statement also serves as a precursor to a meeting that leaders of some of these groups will have with UNM administrators on Thursday concerning the visit.

The letter adds fuel to a blaze whose sparks have been glimpsed at other university campuses nationwide. His visits to other institutions have already been met with opposition, and previous engagements at UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara have been cancelled after protests.

Local groups are hoping the same happens at the University of New Mexico, as the Red Nation is planning a protest to shut down the event by “taking the room, the stage and the mic,” according to the protest’s Facebook page.

Yiannopoulos’ visit to UNM is part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour, and he is being officially hosted by UNM College Republicans. Group leaders say that their hope for the visit is the opening of new and necessary avenues for discussion.

“In all the years that I’ve been here, I’ve been involved in student groups and we’ve tried to conduct ourselves civilly and politely and have good discussions with people while also recognizing that there’s a line that can’t be crossed,” Ryan Ansloan, president of UNM College Republicans last semester, told the Daily Lobo in December. “So often the other side just hasn’t been willing to come to that table.”

Muslim students more fearful now than after 9/11

This story first appeared in the Daily Lobo. It can be viewed on DailyLobo.com.


Serene Akkad was in disbelief. She feared how she, as well as other Muslim Americans, would be viewed after this. It was something unprecedented for her community, and the potential aftershocks could be devastating.

There are two events now inked into U.S. history that this description could apply to. The first is September 11.

Akkad, who is also president of the Muslim Student Association at UNM, watched as the election results and Electoral College vote projections came in, and like many other Americans — Trump and Clinton supporters alike — she couldn’t believe what was unfolding.

“There’s no words to describe it. How can someone with such hateful rhetoric become our president?” she said. “The president is someone we look up to, and to have someone like that come into office is just scary.”

Bayan Jaber, also a Muslim American student and MSA member, said the outcome of the election, as well as what has transpired in the days since, was only the latest development in a resurgence of Islamophobia across the country.

As the New York Times recently reported, there was a 67 percent spike in hate crimes against Muslim Americans from 2014 to 2015. There were levels of anti-Islam acts last year not seen since the 9/11 attacks. Even before Election Day, Akkad said her mom would plead with her to not wear her headscarf in public.

“It takes you by shock,” Jaber said.

In some ways, nothing has changed. The group has always emphasized unity, Akkad said. Sticking together against the sometimes hateful culture of a post-9/11 America is something Muslims in the U.S. are accustomed to.

In other ways, however, they are more fearful that their peers might view them in a negative light. The leader of their country has at times personified that culture, and because of that Jaber said she and other Muslim Americans now have to “walk on eggshells.”

“What’s scarier than anything is that people are listening to him and constantly supporting him,” Jaber said. “He’s made statements that you can’t simply apologize for — and he didn’t even do that.”

BY NICK FOJUD UNM Muslim Student Association President Serene Akkad, left, and MSA member Bayan Jaber attend a march against hate in front of the UNM Bookstore on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Both Jaber and Akkad acknowledge that there will always be people who look at them differently for wearing a headscarf, or after being told they are Arab. However, they felt that the nation was progressing in the right direction, socially, under eights years of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.

Now, Jaber said, it feels like the country has taken “10 steps back.”

When asked what a Trump presidency means for young Muslim Americans, Akkad and Jaber were at a loss for words, a silence that speaks volumes about how they say Muslims feel all the time, and now to a heightened degree.

“It’s hardly ever that we’re given a voice,” Akkad said.

Akkad said the levels of hate that they have come across now are much higher than immediately following 9/11, a time when “no one would come out of their houses for weeks.”

Trump’s proposals from his campaign — which also included a national registry of all Muslims in the U.S. — were embraced by some, but criticized by others for containing racist undertones. Many view his election last week as an affirmation that it’s now acceptable to lash out against others with different lifestyles.

Jaber said people should just view their Muslim peers as who they are — students exercising their freedom of speech and religion who go through the same peaks and valleys that any other college students do.

“We’re just as patriotic as the next American,” Akkad said. “We contribute just as much to American society as anyone else. We’re lawyers, we’re doctors, we’re politicians.”

Akkad said that while she is in favor of screening people coming into the country, Trump’s proposed policy of completely banning an entire group of people crosses a line that they never knew could be crossed.

“I don’t think we ever thought that it was going to get to this point,” Jaber said. “But it has.”

Akkad, who wears a traditional headscarf, said it has never led to instigation or harmful words thrown her way before Election Day.

Since then, she said people at three different places have told her to “take that thing off your head” and “you don’t belong here, go back to your country,” even though she was born and raised in New Mexico.

Jaber said in a country that encourages freedom and justice, those acts — as well as others that have occurred around the country — make the U.S. look hypocritical to the rest of the world.

For a community that can’t actively do very much about how other people perceive them, non-Muslim allies can still help, Akkad said, if by no other means than by speaking out and getting to know a Muslim American student.

“Put a face to a Muslim,” Jaber said. “Meet a Muslim, hang out with a Muslim, have coffee with a Muslim.”

And many have. After a male student recently attempted to pull the headscarf off a female peer in Zimmerman Library, the MSA received messages of support, a comforting reassurance to the group.

“We just have to stick together,” Jaber said, “and protect one another more than anything.”

76% of spring budget money for ‘all students’ stayed with ASUNM

This story first appeared in the Daily Lobo. It can be viewed on DailyLobo.com.


 

Student organization defunded while top ASUNM officials have salary, tuition covered

It was the spring of 2016 when a long-standing student organization was told they were no longer going to receive their primary source of funding.

Scribendi began in 1985 when students aimed to create a space for other Lobos to express themselves through writing. Alexandra Magel, current editor-in-chief of Scribendi, said the magazine’s production — which has been met with rich student involvement and national recognition — was put in jeopardy when the Associated Students of UNM told Scribendi staff that they were no longer eligible for funding through the spring ASUNM budget process.

Magel recalled what it was like to hear that the literary magazine may not be printed in 2017.

“To learn that Scribendi had lost its funding from ASUNM started as an awful record scratch that evolved into a constant, oppressive feeling that hung over the whole staff last year. As a staff member last year, I remember feeling like the ground had been ripped from under me,” she said. “It was the first time that UNM, which had become a safe second home for me, took on a sickly tinge — I couldn’t feel the same way while being on campus anymore.”

Scribendi was the only organization that lost all of its funding from ASUNM that semester.

“As the situation progressed, there was a day when I couldn’t eat and a couple weeks where I didn’t sleep well,” Magel said.

Melissa Krukar, a student at UNM and the managing editor of Scribendi this year, took a look at the ASUNM budget and said the undergraduate student government is very “exclusive” in whom the fund benefits.

“I find it predictable that they would fund themselves,” Krukar said.

Krukar said she felt that ASUNM was not benefiting the whole student body. She also went on to say she felt like ASUNM failed her and her fellow students.

The Scribendi staffers were not the only people who found the defunding controversial. According to minutes from an ASUNM Senate meeting on March 30, 2016, then-Senator Olivia Padilla said, “We should fund them $500 because they have not been given warning. They are not present right now.”

Sen. Jorge Guerrero also brought up another interesting part of the budget.

“How many of you knew that president and VP (of ASUNM) get a scholarship?” asked Guerrero, according to the meeting minutes. “We are cutting stuff that will go to students rather than talking about a scholarship that only affects two people. Why can’t we do that instead of stuff that will benefit students?”

The Daily Lobo found what Guerrero was referencing in that meeting: The tuition of ASUNM’s vice president and president is payed for by student fees through the ASUNM spring budget process, in addition to the salaries they receive.

When approached about these budget decisions, ASUNM Director of Communications Gabe Gallegos insisted the money given to ASUNM agencies and line items was directly benefitting students, stating that the majority of that money is “going directly back to student’s pockets, essentially.”

After Scribendi was defunded, and students approached the Daily Lobo with questions about where their money was going, we began an investigation into spending and the budget, which is deliberated on by the ASUNM Finance Committee before being presented to the Senate.

The Lobo found that ASUNM acted in compliance with their laws and regulations to defund Scribendi. The Finance Committee had and has the power to defund organizations without the approval of any other entity.

However, students at UNM and staff at the magazine wanted to know where the money was going, if not to one of the University’s most established literary magazines. After all, the money for ASUNM’s budget comes from the pool of student fees that every UNM student contributes to. Specifically, $20 in fees from every student goes to ASUNM for money to be allocated through appropriations, as well as the fall and spring budgets.

The Daily Lobo found that nearly 76 percent of the spring 2016 budget actually went to line items and agencies that are directly affiliated with ASUNM. Specifically, $523,700 of the $692,749 budget went to 14 agencies or line items that are affiliated with ASUNM. Within those line items, the money not only goes to pay for salaries of ASUNM workers, but also the tuition of top leadership.

Specifically, the ASUNM Senate line item pays for the vice president’s salary of $10,200 and tuition, which is $7,420. Other salaries are also paid for using student fees: the legislative coordinator makes $4,725, the senate clerk makes $4,725, and the finance chair makes $1,000 for both semesters. The ASUNM Senate budget also covers expenses such as refreshments and postage, totalling $4,017 and $3,000, respectively. In total, the ASUNM Senate line item from the spring received $36,852 in student fees.

In addition, the ASUNM General Government line item goes towards the ASUNM president’s salary of $10,200 as well as covering the president’s tuition. That line item also covers staff salaries: the chief of staff makes $7,600, the communications director makes $3,040, the deputy chief of staff makes $1,000 and the attorney general makes $1,000. The total of that line item equals $34,181.

Further, $30,953 of the ASUNM Administrative Account line item goes towards the salary of its front desk worker, who is not a student.

About $370,000 goes to agencies that include the ASUNM Arts and Crafts Studio, ASUNM Southwest Film Center and ASUNM Student Special Events. SSE alone was allocated almost $146,000, or about 21 percent of the total budget.

A joint statement by ASUNM leadership stated that “our eight student service agencies play a major role in what we do here at ASUNM and we believe that the services they provide to students are an invaluable aspect to the student experience.”

“Budgets only tell part of the story,” said Gallegos, when asked about this relatively large amount of money. “Our finance senators work hard to make sure students are accommodated in that (budget and appropriation) process.”

All student groups, including ASUNM agencies, can also request money through appropriations. While money for the budget is reserved for general operating costs, appropriations are funds for one-time expenditures, such as the purchase of a computer.

ASUNM officials referred the Daily Lobo to their website to clarify what the rules and regulations were on what ASUNM budget funds could be spent on. According to the budget rules, there is nothing that states the funds cannot be used for salaries.

However, the Daily Lobo contacted some other agencies and organizations that received funding from the ASUNM Budget process, including the Interfraternity Council, Multicultural Greek Council and the Panhellenic Council. All of them reported back that they do not and are not projected to use any of that money to pay salaries.

For full disclosure, 8.5 percent of student fees also go to Student Publications, which the Daily Lobo is a part of. That money is not used for the salaries of Daily Lobo staff.

The investigation also found that ASUNM again acted within compliance of their laws by allocating such a large percentage of total funds to their own line items and agencies. The process by which the ASUNM agencies request funding is the same process that any other organization uses to request funding, and there is not a special screening process for those agencies to allocate money to their own affiliated groups.

The Daily Lobo’s investigation found that this trend of allocating funds to ASUNM-affiliated groups is not unique to the 2016 spring budget.

In the 2013 spring budget — deliberated over by virtually an entirely different group of individuals that made up ASUNM leadership — 34 percent, or about $220,600, went to 133 non-ASUNM groups while the rest, almost $440,000, went to 14 ASUNM agencies and line items.

In 2014, 70 percent went to ASUNM agencies and line items, and that number increased to 74 percent a year later.

When asked about this trend, ASUNM Finance Chair Sally Midani said she can’t say with certainty if it will continue with the 2017 spring budget. Her position is only for the fall semester.

“I can definitely say the reason why that kind of trend has occurred, and that is something that I think we definitely can improve on as a group in terms of reflecting on that trend and seeing what changes we can make,” she said. “I really believe that those funds and every funds given to us, we allocate in the most responsible way possible.”

In its statement, ASUNM also said it stands by its process of allocating funds by senators who come from “diverse backgrounds and walks of life, each bringing a different perspective to the table.”

“We also are always looking at ways to ensure that the finance process is clear to students and equitable across student organizations,” the statement continues. “We are constantly striving to be open and transparent with our process.”

Shelby Perea is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at skperea@unm.edu or on Twitter @shelby_perea. David Lynch is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo, and can be reached at editorinchief@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

Jeers combatting cheers

This story first appeared in the Daily Lobo. It can be viewed on DailyLobo.com.


Anti-Clinton crowd, third-party supporters work to make voices heard at Clinton rally

While Hillary Clinton supporters cheered at comments made by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – Clintons’ surrogate at an on-campus rally in front of Mesa Vista Hall on Tuesday – a contingent just as energetic congregated closer to the SUB, countering with political signage and chanting anti-Clinton rhetoric.

The vast majority of this group was for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, who has steadily polled around 10 percent nationally in recent weeks, and as high as 24 percent in the state, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Some still were undecided, voicing their dissatisfaction at Sanders for joining the caliber of campaign that they allege he spent so much time criticizing during his run. Chants of “Free Bernie!” and “Sellout” rang out from the crowd, combating the applause from those who agreed with what Sanders was saying.

Jay Lovell, a combat veteran from Las Cruces who attended the rally supporting Johnson, said the Libertarian candidate is the only alternative choice who can beat Clinton.

“I think he has a chance to make it to the Oval Office,” Lovell said, citing the possibility that the election goes to the House of Representatives if no candidate reaches the 270-electoral vote threshold.

Beverly Burris, a former UNM professor and current Jill Stein supporter, echoed the sentiment felt by many who are against both Clinton and Trump that 2016 is the right time for a third-party candidate to, at the very least, make a dent in the national numbers on Election Day.

“Both of the mainstream candidates are terrible, for very different reasons. In their own ways, they would be very dangerous for the country and the world,” she said.

Burris said though she doesn’t expect Stein to win, and she doesn’t have to to help her party gain relevance for future elections.

MORENew Mexico College Republicans dump Trump, endorse Gary Johnson

According to Ballotpedia, getting support from five percent nationally on Election Day would ensure that a party gets access to more federal campaign funds. That would already put a campaign ahead in terms of working to get support, as the only way to get on state ballots is by collecting thousands of signatures.

The exact amount varies by state. In New Mexico, candidates must collect a little over 15,000 signatures.

Burris also said reaching the five percent threshold would ensure that the Green Party gets its ticket punched to the ballot in all 50 states, but the Daily Lobo hasn’t been able to confirm that.

Burris called Johnson a “corporatist,” signaling that he’s a similar candidate to Trump and Clinton in that regard.

“I think he doesn’t know anything about foreign policy, and I think he’s not for the people,” she said. “We need a voice in Washington that’s for the 99 percent of the population.”

Many across the country – particularly Millennials – thought that Sanders would have been that voice. And while he has had success in encouraging many of his supporters to go to the polls for Clinton since the Democratic National Convention in July, others still are reluctant, exhibiting a sense of unease perhaps over not knowing exactly why Sanders is supporting the official Democratic nominee.

That group includes one undecided voter who held up a sign that read, “Bernie, thanks for inspiring us,” and said he won’t vote for Clinton as he disagreed with her platform that leans more towards the establishment politics that Sanders consistently denounced mere months ago.

While Johnson and Stein – the former in particular – have been extensively covered in the media as third-party hopefuls who have the potential to break a different kind of ceiling that Clinton has shattered with her official nomination for president, members of other parties still used the rally – which was reportedly attended by over 1,000 – as an avenue to get the word out about their candidates.

Marcus Nells was one of several members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation perusing the crowd, working to gather support for Albuquerque native Gloria La Riva, who is on the ballot in New Mexico.

“After going through a lot of different research and learning about this election,” Nells said, “Gloria La Riva has been the only candidate that I’ve personally thought to be a logical choice.”

Loud chanting from anti-Clinton proponents drowned out the rally’s official speakers at times, as a large banner ominously bearing the words “Never Hillary” in black paint was draped over the entrance to the SUB’s lower level.

While for most of the rally the metaphorical battle lines were drawn, a war of mincing words being waged from attendees – many of them former supporters of  Sanders – there was a moment near the end of the senator’s speech when Clinton supporters had had enough of the interruptions, and began to confront a small contingent of outspoken Johnson proponents. University officials broke it up before it became anything more than passionate arguing.

Nonetheless, for people like UNM student Anthony Jackson, in an election with so much at stake – which Sanders made clear time and time again in his roughly half-hour speech – there is as much to be said in not casting a vote as there is in checking off a box on Nov. 8.

“I hope he says she’ll stop accepting foreign money, and stop accepting (donations from) super PACs,” Jackson said, repeating a condition that many former Sanders supporters from Clinton to consider supporting her. “All the money she gets should be from the people — not from corporations or any foreign powers overseas that want to advance their agenda.”

 

Evicted eatery petitions to stay

Here’s the original story on The Daily Lobo’s website

Which is why Sahara’s owner, Helen Nesheiwat, and the restaurant’s employees were caught completely off guard when they received a notice early last week saying they are being replaced, and have until May 22 to pack up and leave.

“We were shocked when we received the letter,” Nesheiwat said. “We never had any problems [with UNM]. We had good numbers and very very good service.”

Chartwells, UNM’s food service contractor, is planning to replace Sahara and Times Square Deli, both local businesses owned by the Nesheiwat family, with Subway. Nesheiwat said the move confounds her.

“If another local business was going in, that’s okay. Give a chance to other people. But a chain? We’re supposed to support the community,” she said.

Kristine Andrews, communications director for Chartwells, said that the contractor is constantly thinking about staying up do date with what UNM students want.

“Local, regional and national brand vendor relationships are reviewed once per year by a number of measure, including but not limited to faster service, student preferences and food trends,” she said.

According to a statement form Chartwells, on Friday, April 17, the Student Union Board Retail Subcommittee considered options for changes before voting unanimously to the switches, along with replacing Saggio’s with WisePies.

The changes were then approved on April 20 by the SUB Board.

According to the statement, “A mix of national brand recognition and continued support of local brands was important to the student and campus leadership.”

But Nesheiwat said that if students have been desiring something else, she has seen no signs of it.

“We’re always on the code, we’re always on the spot, we always give our best service,” she said. “You can check with thousands of students, and they will tell you the same thing.”

And not just students, as a matter of fact. Scott England, a professor at UNM’s School of Law, said that he rarely comes to the SUB but when he does Sahara is his preferred option.

“From my perspective, it’s a great place. They serve great food, the service is outstanding. It’s the best place to get food in the SUB, and it’s a great local business. So I’m disappointed that the University is choosing to get rid of a local business in favor of a national chain,” he said.

Nesheiwat said that her business itself won’t suffer. There is another Sahara on Central across from the University, as well as a location on North Campus. There will also be a new Sahara opening soon on the west side, Nesheiwat said. But that isn’t the issue that upsets her.

“What about the employees we have at the SUB? What’s going to happen to them? They have children, they have their bills, they have responsibilities, they have mortgages to pay or rent,” she said. “You just have no idea how upset they are.”

She said she sees the move as unfair, due to the scarcity of Middle Eastern cuisine on or near main campus. She said the University shouldn’t remove a restaurant that caters to a specific group on campus.

“There’s a lot of Arab students – they pay fees, they pay tuition, there’s an Arab crew that works there. And they want Sahara, they want the Middle Eastern food,” Nesheiwat said. “It’s not okay to put a chain in there, but that’s their business. But [to] take out Sahara, I think this is discrimination.”

Andrews said that Chartwells has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination, and that they actually tried to continue their partnership with Sahara.

“We offered Sahara the opportunity to license some menu items so that we could offer them at locations across campus but they declined,” she said. “Chartwells will still integrate Middle Eastern dishes into retail and residential menus.”

But that isn’t enough for supporters of Sahara.

The restaurant has been taking signatures all week from students petitioning for the business to stay. The comments on the petitions range from “Keep business local!” to “Awesome place!” and “Great food!”

Nesheiwat said that at noontime on Monday they had already over 500 signatures from students who support Sahara. By late Tuesday afternoon, Sahara’s employees in the SUB said they had at least twenty pages of student names that they plan to present before the University at some point.

Raul Ayala, a sophomore double majoring in history and Spanish, was helping out Sahara on Tuesday by taking a petition sheet and going around the SUB getting signatures.

Ayala said that while taking away Sahara would partially eliminate the diversity of food options that the SUB offers, he also said he just wants to support them for the personable service he consistently receives.

“I eat there literally three days a week and I really like the service that they give me, they know me well, they know what I get every time,” he said. “I’m really just trying to help them out because they’re really nice guys.”

Nesheiwat said that the SUB is Sahara’s busiest location, and that 18 percent of their profits go to UNM. Andrews said that that commission is in place of rent that Sahara or any other restaurant in the SUB pays.

Andrews was unable to say whether the other restaurants in the SUB pay the same percentage of commission, because “sales information is confidential and not released publicly,” as well as contract details.

However, Andrews did say that termination clauses are a standard part of contracts, so that they can cater to students’ needs as they see fit.

“A 30-day termination clause allows parties to separate with 30-days’ notice so subcontractors can leave if their business needs dictate,” she said.

David Maile, a graduate student studying American studies, said that the move to bring in Subway oppresses local businesses in favor of capitalistic ventures.

“Choice is good, but providing better choice of options between corporate businesses like Subway here in the SUB is damaging to smaller companies like this that make better sandwiches than Subway, to be honest,” Maile said. “I think it goes to show the nature of capitalism is incredibly violent, and the University is complicit in that.”

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

ASUNM divestment resolution fails after hours-long debate

The legislation would have called upon the University to be transparent in its investments, and it specifically urged UNM to pressure companies, such as Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar contributing to the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine.

The debate also included comments from several student organizations. About 70 students, teachers, alumni and others packed the gallery, which was clearly divided into supporters and opponents of the resolution: specifically, Students for Justice in Palestine, who authored the resolution, and Lobos for Israel and their respective allies who opposed it.

Andrew Balis, president of Lobos for Israel, said his group’s main concern was what the resolution implied about their country.

“(The resolution) serves that Israel must be dismantled. It will foster an environment of hostility on campus,” he said. “Instead of adopting a resolution that seeks to harm a country politically, ASUNM should foster discussion.”

Elisabeth Perkal, a member of SJP, said that neglecting to put focus on Israel would contradict the group’s objective.

“The reason we wanted to talk about Israel is because it’s important to us that we call out the racist and colonialized policies of that country,” she said. “It doesn’t target a student group, it addresses the state of Israel and these corporations.”

There were multiple points of contention contributing to the length and climate of the discussion, but the dividing line was between senators who prioritized the safety of Israeli students on campus and those who supported Palestinian students and the occupation in their home country first and foremost.

Many senators, including Kyle Stepp and Alex Cervantes, felt that the resolution should fail so that a more complete legislation focused on general transparency can be brought before ASUNM in the future, without alienating certain groups.

Stepp said bringing in more student organizations, as well as focusing on a more globalized picture instead of only a handful of companies to divest from, would make the resolution even stronger.

“Right now this room is divided, but imagine if this room was together, with every single person behind a resolution saying that we want to divest from companies that commit human rights violations in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, in America,” he said. “That’s what we can do if everyone came together.”

Still, some senators believed that it was common sense to immediately support those living in a Palestinian warzone. Sen. Udell Calzadillas Chavez said delaying the resolution would do more harm than good.

“This is something that must be addressed now,” he said. “If we wait, people are going to be dying, people are going to be suffering. We live in a globalized society, and we cannot look to the side when atrocities are being made.”

Sen. Tori Pryor said it was a problem that the resolution didn’t focus on the climate at UNM and the potential impact the resolution would have domestically.

She cited previous resolutions, such as legislation condemning Islamophobia and supporting undocumented students, as ones that were successful because they did not “shift the climate of fear” from one group to another, as she and many senators believed Resolution 12S would if passed.

“You have to value perception more than, if not just as much as, you value intention,” she said. “We want safety for everyone. We listen to our Palestinian students; should we not listen to our Israeli students?”

ASUNM senators weren’t the only ones contributing to the dialogue. On multiple occasions they yielded time for additional comments from those in attendance.

The conversation eventually turned into a debate, and then came to resemble a court case, each organization pleading its side, directly addressing the other group and leaving the floor to raucous applause from supporters.

Several backers of the resolution pointed to its urgency, insisting that it was something that simply could not wait. Izzy Mustafa, a Palestinian-American and member of SJP, said that the senators’ concerns were minute in comparison to those who must live in the occupation.

“I will not tolerate people ignoring the plight of our existence,” she said. “There’s a difference between feeling uncomfortable on campus and not knowing if you’re going to have a life when you go back home.”

Mustafa was among the most vocal supporters, saying it was imperative the resolution pass, and reciting several anecdotes of human rights violations and cruelty she had witnessed in her home country.

“Think about the people who are closest to you and think about not knowing if you’re ever going to see them again,” she said. “UNM is like home to me, and I don’t want home for me to affect another home.”

Alex Rubin, a senior majoring in economics, said that although the resolution does not claim to target individual students, its direction is implied nonetheless.

“If this vote were to pass, I would no longer feel safe,” he said. “I would no longer feel comfortable as a Jewish student.”

Calzadillas Chavez, one of three senators who sponsored the resolution, proposed an amendment removing two clauses referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that UNM must take part in, citing that as the main source of contention.

It passed, but Balis and Lobos for Israel were not swayed.

“No matter what you strike, the thing is the same,” Balis said. “It’s still calling for BDS even if you don’t talk about it. For that reason we still can’t accept this.”

Sen. Nadia Cabrera eventually expressed her disappointment in how the discussion between senators had gone, questioning the ways they were arriving at certain conclusions.

“I think we’re letting the politics of the people in this room cloud our judgment,” she said.

The resolution had to be called into question six times, meaning the Senate was ready to vote on it, though it usually only takes one or two tries. The vote to call into question requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate, and multiple times it failed by only one affirmation before the resolution was finally voted on around 9:45 p.m., nearly four hours after the meeting began.

Soon after the vote, SJP’s twitter account, @UNMSJP, tweeted “Divestment resolution failed. 4-14-2. We’ll be back next semester, with an even stronger coalition! #UNMDivest.”

After the vote, Sen. Rebecca Hampton, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, resigned from ASUNM.

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

UNM’s sports district plan gains motion with partner

Marble Development’s proposal is essentially a 1.4 acre plaza that will house a restaurant, a coffee shop and a taproom, according to a UNM press release. There will also be a stage for entertainment and live music before big events.

There is currently no estimated cost for the project, but Thomas Neale, director of financial transactions for LDC and director of UNM Real Estate, said the University itself won’t have to pay a single penny.

“There will be absolutely no cost to the University, it will all be through the ground lease,” Neale said.

The terms and conditions of that contract are currently being worked on by both parties. Neale said they hope to come to an agreement by mid-May.

Jabez Ledres, a junior majoring in athletic training, said the project has the potential to benefit UNM in more ways than one

“I think having an entertainment district is probably going to be cool for the students,” he said. “Obviously it will be something to draw people to UNM, and [it will] boost morale. We’ll have more to do around Albuquerque.”

At a time when the University is facing a budget crisis partially due to a drop in enrollment numbers, the project has the potential to not only generate revenue, but to attract students and sports fans alike to UNM.

ASUNM President Rachel Williams said the University will have to do some out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to making up an expected $3.6 million shortfall in the budget for next year.

“Academics haven’t been a great return on investment [for UNM]. We’re working on it, but we can see maybe more of a return on investment if we start putting money into things that accrue revenue, things that attract students to the University,” she said.

Williams, a senior, said she looks forward to how the plaza turns out.

“I’m kind of sad that I’m leaving because I think it’s going to be really exciting,” she said.

The area to be developed, on the corner of University Boulevard and Avenida Cesar Chavez, is currently used for parking for surrounding sports venues, including University Stadium and WisePies Arena.

The project is just one of many that comprise a master plan for South Campus development and renovation. Other potential future projects can be found at lobodevelopment.org.

Such plans, according to the LDC’s website, work towards “continue[ing] its mission of investing in UNM for the betterment of the students. Through its unique position as a private entity owned by the University, LDC has the support of the University and capability to create new successful developments in the future.”

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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