By OurUNM Student Coalition
This past Wednesday, over 100 UNM students, faculty, staff, and community members came together in protest to demand accountability from President Bob Frank and UNM. The Peaceful Demonstration and Press Conference was called for by the newly formed coalition of students and faculty OurUNM.
According to organizers, the coalition was born in response to student’s frustrations about the lack of transparency around decision-making, the lack of inclusion of students in important decisions, and the ever-increasing cost of tuition. According to one of the organizers, Manuel Lopez, the three central issues the coalition has are: communication with students, accountability for past actions, and involvement of the student body.
The event started with a press conference at the UNM bookstore on Central Avenue where undergraduate and graduate students shared their experiences being slighted by the administration, the issues they had, and the changes they would like to see implemented on campus. In his speech Lopez stated, “There are more undergraduate Hispanic students on this campus than any other population. Why do our faculty and staff not reflect that demographic? There is a historic underfunding of our ethnic centers, and now we hear that they want to get rid of our advisors? The ones we respect and we trust. The ones that have stood with us when were up, but most importantly when we were down. Now you want to have us pay more for less? More money for less credits? Did you even take into account how that would affect most of your students?”
Another student in attendance, Danya Mustafa said, “I came out today because I’m tired of seeing students being disrespected by the UNM administration. It’s time that the administration stops being manipulative and exclusive to student voices. I want it to act like a university that cares about its students, not a corporation.” Other changes students wished to see included more need-based scholarships and more assistance for transfer students.
Priscila Poliana, president of UNM’s Graduate Professional Student Association, spoke about the fact that president Frank recently went back on his word that before making any changes to the Student Fee Review Board he would consult GPSA and ASUNM. Specifically, he removed the Athletics Department and University Libraries from the SFRB recommendation process. This means that the SFRB will not have a say in 30%, over $4 million, of where student fee money goes for the 2014-2015 school year.
After the press conference, OurUNM lead a march through campus to the offices of ASUNM, GPSA, and the Office of the President to deliver a list of demands. See below:
Along the way they chanted “No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!” “Money for jobs and education or we won’t make it to graduation!” “Education is a right, not just for the rich and white!” Of the march, organizer Cecy Velasco wrote: “Today, students said enough is enough! Today, students used their student and collective power to demand accountability, transparency and inclusion and to demand that the university start working for ALL students.” OurUNM organizers emphasized that this is not a new movement on campus, stating: “We stand on the shoulders of giants who have organized at UNM and in our communities, and it’s also not ‘over’ with Wednesday’s event.”
The next event will be a vigil on Tuesday, April 29th at 6pm. Coalition members will meet in front of Mesa Vista Hall and together mourn the educational opportunities lost by students that the system failed. To stay up to date on the movement visit: https://www.facebook.com/ourunm?fref=ts
Among the issues that motivate OurUNM are the following: