UNM Administration Plans to Block Funding to Student Groups
By Levi Pine
Student organizations at the University of New Mexico are protesting administrators' plan to deny funding to four student groups citing rising student fees. Protesting students have rapidly organized their allies in the UNM community to show President David Schmidly how much of the campus stands against the proposal to deny the groups funding that would come from a $10 fee increase.
If President Schmidly approves the cap, recommended by Vice President of Student Affairs Elisio "Cheo" Torres, four organizations will not receive University funding, according to the student newspaper the Daily Lobo. The groups are the New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG), Community Learning and Public Service, the Research Service Learning Program, and a new student organization, the Queer Resource Center.
The four groups in question held a joint press conference on Monday criticizing the administration for going against the fee budget recommended by the student fee review board, a body made up of student government representatives.
“Student activities and programs are a vital part of the college experience. It’s in this spirit that students should have control over their fees and where the money is allocated. UNM created the [Student Fee Review Board] to do just that," said the student organization representatives in a press release.
The SFRB and the four groups in question are calling the University’s proposal a slap in the face to student autonomy.
With the fee increase recommended by the SFRB, overall student fees would rise to $447.28 per student. Altogether, the four groups would be expected to receive about $200,000 in student fees.
Liz Benton, NMPIRG organizer, said that members of all four groups in question, and even members of other student groups, have tried getting in touch with every member of the New Mexico Board of Regents.
Only Jack Fortner, who had worked with NMPIRG in the past, responded, saying that he would like to meet with the group during spring break. Benton said that members of the group called him everyday during break, and never got past his secretary.
Neither the Regents nor the President are legally required to heed student demands.
Still, the groups have formed a far-reaching coalition with student leaders across campus, including National College Democrats Chair Lee Drake, the Associated Students of UNM (ASUNM), and both of the students running for ASUNM president for next term. The group has also gotten support from the head of the Graduate and Professional Students Association (GPSA).
According to Benton, the issue has even managed to unite the ASUNM and the GPSA, which represent undergraduates and graduate students respectively. While both are scheduled to issue statements of support for the fee increase in the next few days, they often have trouble finding common ground on other proposals.
“ASUNM is voting on issuing an emergency resolution tomorrow at their meeting, and GPSA is confirmed to issue an executive order also on this issue,” said Benton.
President Schmidly is scheduled to make a final decision before he meets with the Board of Regents on Thursday to talk about the future of funding at the University.
More from the Daily Lobo at the University of New Mexico