WNMU alumnus on the national stage


(Update below)
A former Western New Mexico University student, George Ambriz, asked a debate question ((transcript here)) during the Democratic showdown in Las Vegas Thursday night. Ambriz asked whether the candidates believe there is a connection between immigration and terrorism. Robert Lovato at the Huffington Post has a bit more about George’s question:

If you listened closely tonight, you could hear echoes of the voter bloc that will, in the long term, counterbalance the weakening pull of the angry white voter. The only Nevadan of Latino extraction who got to ask a question, UNLV student, George Ambriz, used his opportunity to finger debate CNN’s Lou Dobbs for “insinuating” a “linkage” between terrorism and security and immigration. “No terrorist threat has come from our southern border” he said before asking, “Are they (terrorism and immigration) “intrinsically related issues”?

Combined with the Democrats’ rightward turn on immigration, such questioning from an Angry Brown Voter bodes ill for a Democratic party that touted its decision to bring the debate—and a much-anticipated early primary—to Nevada as part of its efforts to be more inclusive of Latinos.

I flagged an American Prospect column last month on what the growing number of Latino voters could mean for politics in this country, and, indeed, the “Angry Brown Voter” may soon be a force to be reckoned with. This is the sort of thing to keep an eye out for.

Ambriz was just before my time at WNMU, but I later met him in Las Vegas at a model United Nations conference. Like me, Ambriz was heavily involved in student government and other clubs while at WNMU—he served as president of MEChA and was a member of the student government, the Associated Students of Western New Mexico University. That’s why it’s so hard to read this:

At the previous Senate meeting on September 12, the once recognized MECHA club of Western, a club since 1970, was denied for re-recognition by an 8 to 6 vote. The reason for the club’s denial was due to MECHA’s inability to adhere to rules stipulated in the student constitution. The primary reason the Senate did not pass the motion, according to ASWNMU, was that for the last two years MECHA did not participate in two student events specified in by-laws concerning recognized clubs; they did not help with homecoming or great race.

The article later cites Abraham Martinez, the current ASWNMU president, who says the students at Western helped lobby for $200,000 to renovate the MEChA building, and that the club hasn’t helped the students in return.

MEChA has had an incredible history at Western, and it’s members have been instrumental in many of the positive changes at the school in recent memory. Between 2003-06, I know members, working in conjunction with the Associated Students, were responsible for securing money for more than the MEChA building at the school. These students lobbied on behalf of the dorms, the natural sciences department, expressive arts, and athletics. In addition, they lobbied for a stronger Lottery Scholarship and against higher tuition increases.

The club’s building is the only student-owned facility on campus, and MEChA welcomed other student clubs to use the building for meetings and fundraising. Two such events were held there in 2005 to raise money for the family of slain WNMU football player Nick Arnold.

To be blunt, this is an area of ASWNMU law that needs to be rectified. The student government cited lack of participation in student events as the reason for denying the club’s recognition. However, if the club is not recognized, its members can’t be credited for participation in those events moving forward.

The best solution, in my opinion, would be a conditional recognition: withhold matching funds for the club (ASWNMU will match fundraising dollars for clubs on campus) during a probationary period, and require the club to participate in the required student events. That way, MEChA doesn’t receive any monetary gain for their club projects, while the students at WNMU are ensured the club is meeting it responsibilities. Everybody wins!

Well, unless somebody is trying to get their hands on MEChA’s building. If that’s the case, then recognition for MEChA can’t happen.

I’m too far removed from the situation to know exactly what’s going on, but I think one bit of the story is telling:

That night, [MEChA advisor Magdaleno] Manzanárez challenged the decision made by the Student Senate and requested an appeals process be put into action. Then he went on to state that he was aware that there was no current Supreme Court Committee in ASWNMU and also requested they bring one together for the appeals process concerning the eligibility of the club.

Looks like ASWNMU doesn’t exactly have its house in order either.

UPDATE: Sunday, 10:30 p.m. — Looks like the crazies are out in full force, concocting conspiracy theories about George and the other folks who asked questions during Thursday’s debate:

In a nutshell, CNN’s six “undecided voters” were:

A Democratic Party bigwig
An antiwar activist
A Union official
An Islamic leader
A Harry Reid staffer
A radical Chicano separatist

Here’s a simple thought: Americans participating in a Democratic primary election or caucus are more than likely going to be Democrats ((It works that way in Nevada and Iowa, and I would also assume that a primary election attracts voters from within the party)). And—horror of horrors—those Democrats might be undecided as to which Democratic candidate they would vote for! They might even attempt to, you know, find out more about the candidates, and even venture so far as to ask questions! I know, the audacity!

One could even presume that the best people to ask questions at a debate among candidates in the Democratic primary election would be actual Democrats.

And boy, MEChA, the “separatist” organization dedicated to overthrowing the U.S. government. I’m not going to bother duplicating the work of Ted at Crooked Timbers, who had a lengthy post on MEChA way back in 2003.

Union Busting

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Art Levine’s article on a union-busting seminar reminded me of the good old days at WNMU:

But if everything failed, and we found ourselves negotiating with a newly formed union, then we still shouldn’t lose heart. Instead, we could continue to undermine the union by rejecting all of its demands during negotiations. (In fact, in about a third of the cases after a union victory, employers don’t even agree to a contract.) The trick was in how to word refusals. First, with a shout, Stief demonstrated what not to say in response to a demand for increased wages: “I’m not listening to no stinkin’ wage increases!” He resumed his normal voice: “Does that sound like good faith? No.” Then Stieff showed us the proper alternative: “I’m not inclined to agree to that proposal at this time.” He observed. “Does that sound like good faith? Yes, but I’m saying the same thing I did before.” The lesson? “You can say no to anything.”

Did I say “good old days?” Silly me. Sure, workers at WNMU voted to approve a collective bargaining unit last summer, but, to the best of my knowledge ((Now, I may be out of the loop on this, but I’ve asked some people who would know, and nobody’s heard of a contract being signed)), they still don’t have a contract. The last time I checked (around June), it was under negotiation, and that seems to be the case today.

With all the news recently about UAW and GM, it’s easy to forget that there are smaller collective bargaining units out there, like the one at WNMU. At the time of last year’s election, there were only 38 employees eligible for the union there. In addition, while UAW is seeking a measure of job protection (they don’t want to see their jobs outsourced) and health care benefits, WNMU workers were seeking a living wage and improved safety conditions on campus.

In other words, unions can still (and do still) play major role in protecting workers in this country. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t see companies spending billions of dollars a year trying to fight organized workers.

Hat tip to Kevin Drum for the link.

UPDATE: 9/96/07 6:50 a.m. — Looks like the UAW strike is over.

My aunt retires today


After 25 years at Western New Mexico University, my aunt Barbara is retiring from her position as assistant athletic director. Throughout the past four years, she has had a tremendous impact on my life; what’s more, I know she has had a similar effect on the countless students she has met in the last quarter-century. More than anybody else at the school, I know she truly cared for her student-athletes and her fellow workers.

Auntie Barb and I

I attended a ceremony at the school this afternoon, for finger food and cake, where her friends and colleagues honored her. It was a lot of fun, and the kind of low-key celebration she could enjoy.

I’m going to miss stopping by her office when I head up to WNMU, and the court-side seat I shared with her for several years at basketball and volleyball games.

It won’t be the same without her.

Who will the new WNMU regents be?

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Heath Haussamen reported recently that Gov. Bill Richardson has named a new student regent for New Mexico State University:

I haven’t heard anything about regent appointments at Western New Mexico University (click here to see the current make up of the board). Stephen Janos has served two four-year terms as a regent, and is not seeking an additional one. The current student regent, Jennie Montoya, will graduate this December, and her two-year term is up on Dec. 31 as well.

Traditionally, the Associated Students of WNMU will recommend a student regent to university President John Counts. According to Julie Morales, Western’s public information director, ASWNMU President Victor Carbajal recently asked for interested students to apply.

Richardson is required to appoint two non-Democrats, as, according to Morales, regents Tony Trujillo, Noreen Krewer-Scott and William ‘Bud’ Davis are Democrats. State law prohibits appointing more than three members of the same part affiliation. Janos is a Republican, while Montoya is a registered independent.

More when I hear something.

WNMU Football def. Western State (Colo.)

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From the WSC web site:

Western New Mexico rushed for 287 yards and scored a 24-0 victory over Western State today at Mountaineer Bowl.

Western New Mexico improved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in RMAC play. Western State fell to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in conference.

Dakota Woodard led the Mustangs with 14 rushes for 105 yards, while Lateef Azziz rushed 16 times for 78 yards and Rod Windsor went eight times for 55 yards.

As a team, Western New Mexico gained 396 yards of total offense.

After a missed Western State field goal attempt, Western New Mexico jumped on the board with a 15-yard pass from Windsor to Josh Gill. The Mustangs held a 10-0 lead at the half on a 27-yard field goal.

Windsor opened the scoring in the second half with a 27-yard run and then Gill and Windsor connected again for a score – this time from 61 yards out.

WNMU ‘Focus on the Future’ forum

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6:07 — Due to the weather, looks like the forum is going to start bit late. Be back when things get underway.

6:15 — Looks like we’re getting things started.

6:19 — Dr. Counts: two purposes of the meeting tonight: information on the university, and what the school was doing, and to plan for the future.

6:22 — Counts: interesting the ways in which change has occured throughout the world since I took over in 1993, in terms of economy, information technology, etc.

6:23 — Moving on to the transition to a university and a community college. Focus remains on education, but Counts said WNMU is the only school in New Mexico that serves as a community college and university.

6:26 — Counts says there’s been a shift, as the school has expanded througout the state. Focus on Gallup, T or C, Deming, and the associated programs there.

6:29 — Counts: Now we have distance learning in Silver City, linked with Quemado, Reserve, Magdaleno, Lordsburg, and soon in Socorro. Also have connections with T or C and with Deming. 861 students took classes online last year, a 20 percent increase year over year.

6:33 — “In the history of teacher education in New Mexico, nobody’s ever done better than we’ve done.”

6:38 — Average age of a full-time incoming freshman is 23; average age of underclass is 27; for graduate students, 39.

6:41 — Counts: We’re measured by the number of faculty who have the appropriate terminal degree, and at Western 90.8 % and 92% have the appropriate terminal degree.

6:46 — $40 million in capital improvements in the last 10 to 12 years.

6:50 — Counts: “Here we have the largest collection of Mimbres pottery in the world. We have the possibility of getting some additional collections, but the museum is going to need to be renovated.”

6:54 — Counts: “I think the longer I’m here, the more it occurs to me how vital this university is to economic development.”

6:59 — Getting into enrollment – impact for next budget year, will be slightly more than $300,000, or two-percent smaller.

7:04 — “The most important thing for success of children in schools is the quality of the teacher. We need more teachers, and there is an incredible shortage of teachers in this country, particularly in rural areas.”

7:10 — “Compensation: people aren’t paid enough. That’s our number one priority at the next legislative session.”

7:12 — Question and answer session.

7:14 — Discussion of the impacts of the economy on enrolment at schools acros the country and New Mexico. Counts says that new Mexico Junior College and Clovis Community College are facing enrollment issues worse than WNMU.

7:26 — Lot’s of discussion on the role of the school of education, and the programs being created there. In addition, talk of the ways in which WNMU can help to improve education across the board in the state.

7:30 — Shorter Faye Vowell, VP of academic affairs: “Women are more likely to pass math classes than males at WNMU.”

7:38 — Judy Ward: we need more training for service workers in the town to improve the tourism base in Grant County.

7:46 — Chris Farren, VP of student affairs, talking about the ways in which the school is recruiting younger students. Talk of making sure graduates and students are proficient in computers.

7:55 — Sunny McFarren, Gila Regional Medical Center: “We’re handicapped by a lack of classroom space, and we’d like to partner with WNMU for certain classes to help support the hospital.”

8:01 — Randy Jones, VP of business affairs, talking about the ways in which the university and the town can work on projects cooperatively. Also, discussion on increasing visibility of the university throughout the town.

8:04 — We’re done! More tomorrow.