Hundreds fill Civic Plaza in support of undocumented students, DACA policy following announcement it would be “rescinded”

By David Lynch

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Now faced with the very real possibility that some of their friends, family or even themselves will lose some of the benefits they were granted under the DACA policy, hundreds flocked to Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque Tuesday afternoon in a show of solidarity.

Supporters of all ages and demographics – from UNM professors to high school students to retired citizens – were on hand for the rally, organized by the New Mexico Dream Team. It followed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ official announcement that the Donald Trump administration was going to rescind DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, affecting nearly 800,000 children and young adults across the country who were brought to the U.S. by their parents at a young age. Continue reading →

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 student voters approve pronoun initiative

All pronouns in the constitution will now consist of they/them/they’re as the primary form of identification.

ASUNM President Rachel Williams said she sees the amendment as a big step towards campus-wide inclusiveness for students who may want to serve in ASUNM to feel more welcome.

“It’s about comfort at the end of the day,” she said. “Should we have a student who does identify as gender-neutral who comes into ASUNM and is participating any way (not feel) like the Constitution is binary and exclusive and they don’t really feel like they’re as much as a part of it as they could be just because a couple of words that are very obviously easily changed?”

Constitutional amendments, per ASUNM policy, require a two-thirds vote by elections voters to pass. That number was widely surpassed as 987 of the 1,528 who made it to the polls voted in favor of the change, while only 225 voted against, amounting to 81 percent of students who voted on the amendment being in favor.

The amendment was originally proposed in fall 2013 and put on the ballot for that semester’s elections, but it failed. Williams attributed that to the abundance of amendments on the ballot semester, leading to voter fatigue.

“(There was) just way too much on the ballot that they didn’t really care,” she said.

Sen. Kyle Biederwolf re-introduced the proposed amendment in February and it passed the Senate.

Frankie Flores, administrative assistant at the LGBTQ Resource Center, attributes the change in student sentiment to growing awareness about the transgender community.

“I think that people are talking about transgender individuals in an open manner and considering the amount of violence that has been enacted upon the transgender community; I think that’s coming to light more so that people are more conscious of it.”

Williams said that the language in the constitution will also now be more uniform with the ASUNM Law Book, in which terms like “they” and “the body” are used.

Williams said she’s excited that both governing documents of ASUNM will now be gender-neutral.

“I 100 percent throw my weight behind this and I’m so happy that 81 percent of the voters agreed that this was something that our constitution needed to see.”

UNM was recently ranked 17th by BestColleges.com for providing outreach and resources to LGBTQ students. Flores said that the amendment continues to lead that initiative of working towards a more inclusive campus.

“I think that other organizations are going to be much more mindful of making sure the language is as inclusive as possible,” he said.

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

Hagengruber wins ASUNM presidency

Out of 1,528 undergraduate students who made it to the polls, 950 voted for Hagengruber, who currently serves as vice president of the undergraduate student governing body.

While she was nervous for not only herself, but for her team in the moments leading up to the announcement, Hagengruber said the overwhelming victory of her slate was the best feeling.

“It’s cool to know that all of that work and progress was successful, because to see that the people that I’ve spent the last three months working with are going into office just shows me that we have such passionate and hard working people on our slate,” she said.

The 1,528 student voters was more than double the turnout of the fall election, when only 682 made it to the polls.

Justin Cooper, a freshman business administration major, got the most votes of the 35 senatorial candidates with 628. He said working closely with his slate, and ensuring that everyone was working for each other and not just themselves, was key to Drive for ASUNM’s success.

“We all worked together,” he said. “We had a pep talk this morning, and we went in with our motto that we’re all driven for the same goal.”

Six of the nine new senators already had ASUNM experience at various levels, ranging from Emerging Lobo Leaders, the preparatory program for future senators, to attorney general.

Cooper said that that experience will be vital to what he and his elected team members plan to accomplish while in office.

“We’ve already started working on it and now I think it’s a good time for us to continue to pursue, accomplish it and make it a reality,” Cooper said.

Gabe Gallegos, a freshman double majoring in political science and strategic communication, got the third most votes for senatorial candidates with 561 and will serve as an ASUNM senator for the first time after going through Emerging Lobo Leaders this year.

Gallegos also attributed his victory to the close collaboration of Drive for ASUNM, and said he is excited to get started as a senator.

“I want to work tomorrow. For me, this has been a process for months now. I had to think about if this is the best decision for me, and this really validated that for me,” Gallegos said.

Hagengruber’s opponent for the presidency, Sen. Mack Follingstad, garnered 450 votes. He said he told Hagengruber beforehand that no matter the outcome, he is confident in the future of ASUNM.

“We knew it was going to be a tough race, and I’m not at all disappointed,” he said.

Two senatorial candidates from Follingstad’s slate, GO ASUNM, rounded out the eleven new senators that will begin serving in the fall.

One of those is Randy Ko, a sophomore biochemistry major who will serve half a term, sitting in place for current senator Udell Calzadillas-Chavez, who will graduate in May. He said he hopes to make ASUNM more inclusive.

“I want to be able to bring information to the students rather than them having to go out and look for the information, and I have plans to do that and bring more people to the office,” Ko said.

The other new senator from the GO ASUNM slate is sophomore English major Olivia Padilla.

Hagengruber said that students can expect a visible ASUNM, focused on outreach and asking students what they want and working to make it a reality.

“I want to make sure that we’re all putting our best foot forward and working our hardest to make sure that the students understand that we are not a separate entity, that we are representing you,” she said.

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

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.