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UNM files to block graduate student union’s right to organize By Ana Straight @StraightAna
On Dec. 9, graduate student employees at the University of New Mexico officially filed for union recognition with the state Public Employees Labor Relations Board (PELRB). The grad student employees submitted signed cards from a supermajority (60%) of all UNM fall 2020 graduate student workers, and on Dec. 11 the executive director of the PELRB issued a letter finding the petition was “facially valid” and was “supported by a sufficient showing of interest.” In response, UNM filed a petition blocking the unionization request on two grounds: 1) that teaching, research and other graduate “assistants” are not actually employees and 2) if they are in fact employees, then their individual job descriptions are so vastly different that they cannot function as one bargaining unit. UNM argued that because
graduate students receive semester-long contracts and are not guaranteed those contracts from semester to semester, they do not fit the definition of a “regular” employee “whose employment is for a definite period of time.” UNM cited a rule — proposed during the Trump administration — that would strip graduate student employees’ rights at private institutions and advised the PELRB to address the matter similarly across the state’s public universities. The proposed rule states that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was intended to govern “economic relationships, not those that are primarily educational in nature,” UNM’s petition said. According to the union organizing committee, graduate student employees work at all hours of the day and night teaching classes, preparing lectures, grading papers and performing research. Much of this work is done without direct supervision and often replaces the roles of other employees on campus (for
example, teaching an undergraduate course that would otherwise be taught by a unionized faculty member). Cinnamon Blair, UNM’s chief marketing and communications officer, said although the University values graduate students that serve as teachers, researchers and collaborators, “the primary purpose of (their) payment is to provide financial support to allow them to continue their studies.” Blair went on to add that graduate student employees’ “primary role is as a student, and we do not believe that the remuneration they receive moves them into the status of ‘regular employee’ as defined in the laws of the state of New Mexico.” UNM also included a secondary argument in its petition: In the event that the PELRB does recognize that graduate student employees are actually employees and not simply furthering their educations, bargaining units are expected to be based on “occupational groups or clear and
More stimulus money for students, but timing remains uncertain
identifiable communities of interest” and graduate student employees have “disparate duties, responsibilities, functions, lengths and terms of employment, productivity expectations, funding sources and levels of compensation.” Union organizers suggested that the University’s anti-employee, anti-union stance is not in line with the values of the state’s current elected leadership. “It is incredibly disappointing to see our employer cite a proposed rule from the anti-worker Trump labor board to rationalize denying us our right to form a union,” Samantha Cooney, a graduate assistant and political science PhD candidate, said. “The right to organize and bargain collectively is a human right and a core tenet of academic freedom. We hope the UNM administration will drop this obstruction and focus on the real issue of improving the working conditions of its employees.” Alana Block, a member of the graduate student employee or-
ganizing committee, teaching assistant and American studies PhD candidate, stated that better health coverage — including dental and vision for graduate students — a raise for their minimum monthly stipends, better coverage for spouses and children, and security and protections for international and undocumented students are among the improvements the group plans to negotiate for if they are granted the right to unionize. At other public universities, recognized graduate student employees have been able to organize and unions have achieved livable wages and proper treatment and benefits. At the University of Iowa, for example, “there is a long history of union efforts, and we see that it has positively impacted grad students to have higher stipends; they can pay their rent, they can buy food, they don’t have to worry about what they’re going to do from semester to semester,”
Grad Union page 3
Police, National Guard troops patrol Roundhouse in response to FBI warnings page 2
Estimated $9 million in pandemic grants forthcoming for UNM students
By Liam DeBonis @LiamDeBonis College students are set to receive a second round of direct payments through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) following the passage of a coronavirus stimulus package in December. In April of 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided $8.6 million to the University of New Mexico to be distributed as emergency relief grants for students. Undergraduate students were awarded a sum of either $465 or $779, depending on their expected family contribution. The recent stimulus package included renewed funding for the
HEERF and once again directed that a portion of the funding be set aside by higher education institutions for grants to be paid directly to students to aid with pandemicrelated hardships. UNM’s model for distributing the new funds, however, is currently unknown. Brian Malone, director of the Student Financial Aid Office, told the Daily Lobo that the model is “still currently under discussion.” “(We) do not know how much we will receive and when,” Malone said. “Though the legislation is approved, we are awaiting further guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, which includes a timeline on availability of funds and any further guidance on rules for selection and distribution.” In a press release from the De-
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partment of Education, former Secretary Betsy DeVos — who has since resigned following the proTrump insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago — confirmed that the bill “does provide for additional financial grants to students impacted by the pandemic.” The department has since provided scant updates or guidance regarding the allocation and distribution of the nearly $23 billion in federal funds. The Office of Postsecondary Education, a division of the Department of Education that handles the HEERF, did not respond to specific questions regarding allocation but instead responded with a link to their website. The website, how-
Stimulus page 3
Liam DeBonis / Daily Lobo / @LiamDeBonis
Members of the New Mexico National Guard and State Police officers block off roads leading to the capitol building on Jan. 16, 2021.
KLEINHANS: ‘The Office’ leaves Netflix, encouraging users to make better viewing decisions (pg. 4)
PUKITE: ‘Wishful recycling’ leads to trash taking long, expensive route to the landfill (pg. 2)
KNUDSEN: State money for child care available to graduate students (pg. 6)
DEBONIS: ‘The Office:’ An homage to the ordinary (pg. 4)
GUTIERREZ: ‘Death to 2020:’ Retelling a brutal year with bad comedy (pg. 7)
PAGE 2 / TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2021
NEW MEXICO DAILY LOBO
State Police, National Guard troops patrol Roundhouse in response to FBI warnings By Liam DeBonis @LiamDebonis
New Mexico State Police and National Guard troops stood watch over the seat of New Mexico’s government in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Jan. 16. The increased security came in response to warnings of potential violence from the FBI ahead of the presidential inauguration on Wednesday. Following the deadly insurrection at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, the FBI cautioned that state capitols across the nation could see “armed protests’’ in the days leading up to President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s swearing in, according to an internal bulletin obtained by ABC News. “FBI assets are on standby to support investigations and respond to any potential threats of violence
to the state capitol, federal buildings and other key facilities,” Frank Fisher, a spokesman for the FBI field office in Albuquerque, said in a press release. The Roundhouse and surrounding grounds, usually an open environment bustling with lawmakers, lobbyists and press in the weekend preceding New Mexico’s annual legislative session, remained eerily quiet as roads were blocked by police and soldiers in camouflage fatigues. The imposing building where legislators gather to deliberate and vote sat behind rows of flimsy chainlink fencing. Despite the preparation by law enforcement and the National Guard, and the warnings from the FBI, New Mexico’s capitol remained calm and mostly deserted over the weekend, with the exception of a few passersby and media crews.
While other state capitols saw armed protests on Sunday, the majority remained “largely quiet” according to reporting from the New York Times. Still, the prospect of violence lingered heavily in the air following the attack on the Capitol in D.C., a plot orchestrated by white nationalist and far-right militant groups on social media. As mainstream social media companies have increasingly regulated their platforms to combat violent rhetoric — including a large swath of platforms restricting or removing content from outgoing President Donald Trump — members of extremist groups including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers have started to move to encrypted messaging apps like Telegram and Signal. While lacking the megaphonic range of Twitter or Facebook, the apps allow for more exclusive and secretive conversations
Liam DeBonis / Daily Lobo / @LiamDeBonis
Two layers of fence surround the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in response to FBI warnings of potential violence at state capitols in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration.
which can be difficult or nearimpossible for law enforcement to monitor. The FBI’s warning of impending violence throughout the nation remains in effect through Inauguration Day. In D.C., up to 25,000 National Guard members will be present and armed for the cer-
emony, according to the National Guard Bureau. Liam DeBonis is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LiamDebonis
‘Wishful recycling’ leads to trash taking long, expensive route to the landfill
Albuquerque still struggling to get residents to follow recycling guidelines By Madeline Pukite @madelinepukite The ubiquitous blue recycling bins seen around Albuquerque are oftentimes filled improperly, and city and community leaders are trying to correct course to a more sustainable future. According to the City of Albuquerque’s Solid Waste Department, 32% percent of what residents currently attempt to recycle is trash. This is worse than prior audits, where only 20% of the items placed into recycle bins was unrecyclable. The contamination of trash in United States recycling caused China — a major importer of recyclables — to completely stop accepting recyclables from the U.S. in 2018. The decision had a direct impact on how much recyclables are worth, according to Sarah Pierpont, the executive director of the New Mexico Recycling Coalition. “That is why China closed its doors. The stuff that was getting shipped to China in 2017-18 was pure garbage,” Pierpoint said. “China said, ‘We aren’t doing this anymore; we don’t have the capacity to sort all of this material.’”
Around the holidays, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller made a campaign video about what holiday supplies can and cannot be recycled. However, Jill Holbert, the associate director of the Solid Waste Department, when asked about the levels of contamination caused by the holiday season said, “As in previous years, the holiday surge (of higher contamination) should abate soon.” The issue, Pierpont said, comes from “wishful recycling.” “People want to do the right thing. They don’t like the idea of how much waste or consumption there is in our society,” Pierpoint said. “So I think a lot of times, they’ll put something in the recycling bin that doesn’t belong there because they want it to be recycled. It assuages some of their guilt for consuming so much.” Pierpont said a big example of this is the plastic bags in which people put their recyclables. “(Plastic bags) clog up the equipment, and they don’t belong in the recycling center. Nowhere in our state accepts plastic bags in their recycling program,” Pierpont said. As a result, Holbert said the plastic bag and any recyclables inside of it will not be sorted once they reach a recycling facility — they’ll
be thrown out instead. “Plastic bags are one of the top unacceptable materials found in the city’s recycling,” Holbert said. “Plastic bags and bagged recycling are not accepted, are not recycled and are trash.” Holbert also said “green waste, tanglers (cords, hoses or chains), clothing/linens and food or liquid” are common items people mistakenly try to recycle. According to Holbert, this contamination also increases how much it costs the city to provide recycling services. “Although it affects the cost of recycling, it is not tracked separately in the Friedman contract,” Holbert said, referring to the firm the city contracts with to provide recycling services. “The City of Albuquerque’s contract with Friedman Recycling cost a total of $3,627,109 in fiscal year 2020. The city delivered 38,320 tons of commingled recycling, of which 31.55% — or 12,090 tons — was not acceptable, was not recycled and was trash disposed of at the city’s Cerro Colorado landfill.” The more Albuquerque residents attempt to recycle trash, the higher the cost to the city and the environment. Additional labor is required to
remove and properly dispose of the trash and sort the leftover recycling by type (paper, plastic, glass, etc.). “(Friedman Recycling) hired more staff and slowed down the conveyor belt,” Pierpoint said. “It was a lot more expensive to process that material (recyclables), and they spent significantly more to make a clean item that Friedman could sell. They were committed to the program, even though it was way beyond what they budgeted.” Ski Shaski, the supervisor of recycling at the University of New Mexico, believes that the key to solving the problem is educating and empowering residents to properly recycle on their own. This strategy is called “source separation,” a money-saving tactic where residents separate their recycling by type before it’s dropped off at a recycling center. “Our recycling is not very efficient, and (it’s) expensive,” Shaski said. “What I believe will be the next big thing in recycling will be education and what I call source separation. So you’ll have more bins at the point of collection, so people sort at what we call the point of generation.” Currently, the single-stream collection process is in use across the
nation, where all kinds of recyclables are placed into one collection bin. According to Shaski, though, it will remain an ineffective strategy so long as residents continue to try to recycle trash. “They built their collection sources on a single stream. The argument we’ll make (is to make) it easier for people, so they’ll participate more, so they’ll send us more material,” Shaski said. “The problem is there hasn’t been enough education, so people don’t know what really can go in the blue bins.” As of now, Albuquerque residents should aim to stay informed on what they’re recycling. “At the end of the day, if it’s not a commodity that someone can use to make a new product, then its garbage,” Pierpoint said. “It just takes a very expensive route to the landfill.” For a complete list of what can and cannot be recycled, Holbert pointed residents to the app Recycle Coach and their campaign “Always Recycle Right.” Madeline Pukite is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @madelinepukite
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Block said. The graduate worker union at the University of Iowa, UE Local 896-COGS, increased minimum salaries by 48% since 1996-97, when their campaign officially became a local union and established its first contract, according to the union’s website. The effects of being officially recognized as a union are expected to also impact future graduate
TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2021 / PAGE 3
students attending UNM. “I’ve personally seen comments from people who have said ‘I didn’t want to join grad school because of the toxic environment that I’ve heard of, and now seeing a union at UNM makes me want to join,’” Cooney said. “Seeing comments like that reassures me that what we’re doing is for the University’s benefit as a whole and not just for
us grad workers.” Block said that organizing online wasn’t easy, but people kept showing up to meetings because the cause was that important to them. “We love our research and our students,” Block said. “However, graduate workers are not preparing lectures, teaching undergraduate course grading papers and assisting with re-
search at all hours of the day and night simply for fun or our own educational enrichment. To say so is ludicrous and downright dismissive of all the hard work we do.”
not official or final. The ACE described the estimates as intended to give a “ballpark sense” of how much an institution could expect to receive. The estimated allocations, if correct, would mean that the University would receive half a million more in funding for direct student payments than it did last April. Cinnamon Blair, a spokesperson for the University, reiterated that the details of the funding are still being worked out between the federal government and UNM. "The Department of Education has not yet published the amounts that UNM will be eligible to receive or published their guidelines or process for receiving or using the funds, so UNM has not yet determined how we will distribute funds we might receive under this program," Blair told the Daily Lobo. The payments are especially impactful to students who have been claimed as dependents on another’s tax returns. The $600 direct payments to U.S. citizens funded by the recent bill, like the $1,200 payments issued by the CARES Act before it, are inaccessible for dependents. Furthermore, the bonus given to a taxpayer who claims someone as a dependent is with-
held if the dependent is over 17 years old, leaving dependent college students with neither direct nor indirect financial assistance from the Treasury Department. After the passage of the CARES Act, the Department of Education released a document clarifying that only students with a valid Social Security number were eligible for emergency grants, effectively blocking allocations to undocumented students, including those who paid taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. UNM responded by allocating their own funds to provide equal grants to undocumented and DACA students, as reported previously by the Daily Lobo. The initial exclusion, further solidified by an “interim final rule” released by the Department of Education in June, is expected to apply to the new round of funds, given that the new relief package contains no new language to expand access to undocumented students. It is unclear whether the University will again fund grants in its absence. The bill itself survived a perilous and tense period of uncertainty after lame duck President Donald Trump threatened to veto the bipartisan legislation.
Lissa Knudsen, a PhD candidate and the former UNM Graduate and Professional Student Association president and the news editor at the Daily Lobo, con-
tributed to this article. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @lissaknudsen Ana Straight is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @StraightAna
ever, has yet to be updated and said “(information) regarding the distribution of these funds is forthcoming and will be posted on this website when available.” The American Council on Education (ACE), an organization separate from the Department of Education that deals with higher education policies and issues, issued their own estimates of the new allocations for each institu-
tion using the distribution model from the previous round of CARES Act funding. “The estimated total for UNM is $31,408,000, with a minimum of $9,179,256 required for student grants,” Malone wrote in email correspondence with the Daily Lobo, citing the ACE estimates. He stressed that these numbers are estimates from an “external organization” and that they are
Photo by Vladimir Solomyani on Unsplash.
In a video posted on Twitter — now unavailable after the company banned the president from its platform — Trump complained that the $600 payments were “ridiculously low” and requested the bill be amended to increase those payments to $2,000. He also ridiculed foreign spending provisions present in the bill negotiated by his own administration, inaccurately characterizing it as “having almost nothing to do with COVID.” In reality, the COVID-19 stimulus package was part of a larger spending bill passed annually by Congress to fund almost every facet of the United States government. The veto threat raised concerns that, without the legislation enacted, the government would suffer its third shutdown under the Trump administration. Despite a failed attempt by Democrats to amend the bill to increase the direct payments to citizens, it was eventually signed by the president. A new bill to increase the payments passed the House of Representatives, but has since been blocked by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Liam DeBonis is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LiamDeBonis
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‘The Office’ leaves Netflix, encouraging users to make better viewing decisions
‘The Office:’ An homage to the ordinary By Liam DeBonis @LiamDebonis As heartwarming, relatable sitcoms like “Frasier” and “Friends” began disappearing from the airwaves in 2005, a groundbreaking new show emerged with a focus on the mundane, the boring and the ordinary. “My job is to speak to clients, um, on the phone, about … uh, quantities and, uh, type of … copier paper,” salesman Jim Halpert explains in the pilot episode. “You know, whether we can supply it to them, whether they can, uh … pay for it. And, um … I’m … I’m boring myself just talking about this.” NBC’s “The Office” follows the employees of Dunder Mifflin, a paper company, as they move through life with the same confident uncertainty that we all try to bring to it. In a masterfully directed mockumentary style, viewers watch as these workers fall in love, pursue their dreams and bond with each other in a hysterically dysfunctional workplace. The regional manager, Michael Scott, serves as the head of a branch of the company located in Scranton, Pennsylvania. His lack of self-control and unbridled urge to say exactly what he’s thinking — which, despite his best intentions, often results in hilariously offensive or tone-deaf remarks — is offset by his overwhelming sense of love for his job and his coworkers. The wacky and ridiculous scenarios he inevitably throws himself into, mostly in the name of his career, range from amusing to downright gut-busting. The show introduces all of its characters in a way that feels intimate and natural, staying true to its organic storytelling style. As the seasons progress, viewers learn more about each one of the employees at Dunder Mifflin and inevitably grow familiar with them. Arguably the oddest and initially most unsociable character, Dwight Schrute, begins as a robotic, success-driven salesman. But as the show continues, Dwight metamorphosizes, slowly allowing himself to
open up further to his coworkers as he displays more and more heartwarming gestures of affection. Of course, no review of “The Office” would be complete without mentioning the love story between Jim and Pam Beesly. The subplot is, in many ways, one of the most realistic fairy-tale romances in the era of sitcoms. The story is not one of inexorable pursuit or dramatic speeches. Rather, it mirrors how uncertain and awkward dating can be, especially in the workplace. It shows heartbreak in its most destructive natural form — Jim leaving the branch and his home behind after being rejected by Pam, or Pam later giving her controlling ex-fiance a second chance after Jim tries to move on. In the end, yes, Jim and Pam get together, and their chemistry on screen is enough to bring an ear-to-ear grin and tears to the eyes of anyone watching. But even then, the writers don’t neatly wrap things up in a “happily ever after.” Later in the season, Jim having to balance two jobs and a family begins to affect their marriage. They argue, and they begin to grow apart. They go to marriage counseling. They work to rebuild their marriage and reconnect. Because in real life, in ordinary life, even the most fated romances have their bad days or months, and they take work to get them back on track. The show’s infatuation with the ordinary gives its viewers something to grasp onto and relate to. A bizarre boss, an electrifying office romance, an annoying coworker that totally deserves that practical joke; all of us know what it’s like to exist in an American workplace, and although the show can go to some eye-rolling extremes, viewers could be forgiven for believing that most of what they see in “The Office” is unscripted, even real. “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things,” Pam muses to the camera in the last seconds of the show’s finale. “Isn’t that kind of the point?” Liam DeBonis is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LiamDebonis
brought about the demise of “The bloated seasons after viewership Office;” it’s that people are slowly was already in decline. starting to realize it was never While Carell’s character Mi@BirdsNotReal99 that funny to begin with. A scene chael Scott was never meant With the removal of “The Of- of cringe humor playing off of to be relatable and whose igfice” on Jan. 1, 2021, American social awkwardness can be relat- norance was played off as Netflix audiences can finally able and funny, but a whole show laughable, he was admittedly the move on from their toxic rela- built upon that concept cannot heart of the show. Without him, tionship to a sitcom that ended — especially not one that plays the remaining seasons seemed in 2013. At long last, Tinder bios off blatant racism, sexism and a soulless husk of what the show had once been. will be written with care instead homophobia for laughs. The show should really be Those final seasons also made of littered with a slew of “Office” quotes. Society as a whole can called “The Michael, Dwight, bizarre character choices, such as breathe a collective sigh of relief. Jim and Pam Show” because making Andy an incredibly unthose are the only characters likable and arrogant boss, while Nature is healing. Let me start off by clearing the in the office who receive any also wasting high caliber talair. I don’t think that “The Office” memorable screen time. Other ent (Will Ferrell, Catherine Tate, is the worst sitcom in existence, ensemble characters such as James Spader and Kathy Bates) nor is it wholly unfunny. Howev- Oscar, Angela, Kelly, Ryan, Phyl- on a messy and wandering script. er, at its best, “The Office” made lis, Meredith, Creed, Erin and Stars/writers B.J. Novak and Minme chuckle, and at its rock bot- Kevin are relegated to paper- dy Kaling abandoning the show tom made me cringe so hard that thin 2D character types and after the eighth season should’ve I vowed never to watch several given no room to grow. What’s been yet another red flag for NBC. In the end, “The Office” strayed episodes ever again. Looking at worse is the women in this show are oftentimes only defined by far from the original premise of a you, “Scott’s Tots.” group of co-workers commiserBefore I watched the show in their relationships to men. Pam may be the exception to ating about their awful boss and its entirety, multiple people sugthe rule in that the pursuit of her their boring job. It became clutgested I skip the first and last two seasons. Although the first artistic career steals the spot- tered, wasted whole character season is only six episodes com- light for a bit, but then again her arcs and forgot about breathing pared to the average 24 episodes education is paused indefinitely life and laughter into the story. On the bright side, one of a season, that’s still a third of the when Jim proposes at a rainy gas station. the best things to come out show deemed “unwatchable” As a brief aside, Jim is not a of the creation of “The Office” by fans. I’m always wary of recommendations that come with great guy, and Pam deserved was that developer/writer Greg caveats, because if a show is truly better. He’s a slacker, a bully and Daniels had enough momentum to co-create “Parks and that spectacular then viewers ultimately lacks accountability. I guess I should’ve known Recreation” with Michael Schshouldn’t have to skip around. from the get-go that the women ur — a superior piece that is “The Office” suffers from the fact that the writers and showrun- weren’t destined for greatness funnier, developed each of ners thought that an onslaught of in a show where one of the main its ensemble characters with cringe humor and making fun character’s catchphrases is the complex arcs and arguably has more heart and soul behind it. of underdeveloped characters suggestive “that’s what she said.” One sign of a great TV show Volume 125 Issue 18 constituted good television. From Shelby Kleinhans is a freelance season one to nine, there are fat is that its writers are cognizant enough to throw in the towel photographer and beat reporter and dumb jokes made about Data Editorthey’re Editorial Editor-in-Chief Editor Staff while ahead. “The Office” Photo at theEditor Daily Lobo. Copy She can be conKevin, a character whose weight Joe Rull Liam DeBonis Alex McCausland Andrew Gunn Telephone: (505) 277-7527 is no such show. The writers and tacted at email@example.com Fax: (505) 277-7530 is made to be his defining charCulture Editor News Editor Multimedia Editor NBC should’ve naturally ended orDesigner on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99 firstname.lastname@example.org acteristic. “The Lissa Office” seems toMegan Gleason Joseph McKee Knudsen Joseph McKee www.dailylobo.com the show after season seven forget the cardinal rule in comedy Managing & when Steve Carell’s contract is to punch up, not down. Sports Editor Gino Gutierrez It isn’t woke culture that was up. Instead, they added two
By Shelby Kleinhans
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State money for child care available to graduate students By Lissa Knudsen @lissaknudsen As a full-time PhD student, with one child at the University of New Mexico’s Children’s Campus halftime, Naomi Ambriz used to pay $568 a month in child care. With newly available child care assistance from the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD), her copayment is now only a third of that amount. Ambriz, a fifth-year American studies graduate student and the student parent advocate at the Women’s Resource Center, said she first learned about the temporary eligibility rule change that made graduate student parents eligible for child care assistance through the UNM Graduate Studies listserv. Ambriz applied the same day she found out about the program. According to Ambriz, it took three months for the state to process her application, but she was reimbursed retroactively for last semester’s child care copayment costs. “Even if I taught or had a con-
tract, all that was going back to day care, so (the lower amount) allows me more time to work on my writing and get my things done, versus trying to find a graduate or teaching assistantship to cover the cost of day care,” Ambriz said. Ambriz is one of the first graduate student parents to receive child care assistance in the state of New Mexico. An effort is underway to enshrine graduate student eligibility for child care assistance in state law. On Jan. 6, more than 75 people attended a virtual hearing hosted by the ECECD regarding formally changing child care assistance regulations, including formalizing the emergency rule that allowed graduate students to receive assistance. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham used her executive authority last September to approve emergency changes to ease some of the added strain the pandemic has inflicted on parents seeking child care assistance, including striking the prohibition against graduate student eligibility. Supporters say permanently removing barriers to access to child
Nicholas Romero/ Daily Lobo / @nicromerophoto
Graduate student Naomi Ambiz with her three-yearold son.
care could help the nearly 1,700 UNM graduate student parents – the majority of whom are women — compete for more sought-after jobs. Undergraduate students between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty line have, in theory, been eligible to receive state aid to cover child care costs, but until last fall graduate (and professional) student parents have been expressly prohibited. Olé, a local community advocacy organization that focuses on issues that benefit working families, has been organizing workers and child care providers around the issue of child care accessibility since 2010, according to Matthew Henderson, the executive director of Olé’s Education Fund. “What we found was the state was using all kinds of obstacles to limit the number of parents getting child care assistance,” Henderson said. “Even in cases where the applicants fell within the income guidelines, the state was using everything from the child support requirement to things like the prohibition against graduate students (to prevent working parents from receiving child care support).” The Daily Lobo spoke with assistant general counsel Brendan Egan and director of policy, research and quality initiatives Claire Dudley Chavez from New Mexico’s newly established ECECD about the administration’s intentions regarding the proposed regulation changes. Egan said that the state is “going through the process of updating and amending our own regulations, hoping to expand access to child care in New Mexico for all families who qualify.” Representatives from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Olé, a number of local child care providers and other interested
community representatives spoke in favor of the changes during the hearing. Some had specific recommendations on how to wordsmith the language or pointed out what was still not being addressed, but no one in attendance spoke against the proposed changes overall. Outside of graduate students being prohibited from receiving care, Olé’s Henderson said there are other codified barriers to access the organization wants the state to officially change. Chief among the proposed changes is the removal of the requirement to file for court-ordered child support in order to apply for child care assistance. Henderson said that separated parents were being forced to go through the court to make child support agreements, even if they were happy with their current arrangements. “It was injecting a lot of tension into relationships that already had their challenges. It was taking informal child support agreements that were working and converting them into court-ordered agreements that didn’t work,” Henderson said. Melissa Bendt, a third-year American studies PhD student and parent, said her department has been uniquely supportive of graduate student parents. “I’ve been very fortunate that my department has been very tolerant about things like my kids going to seminars with me,” Bendt said. She added that a lot of students don’t have the flexibility she has enjoyed. “A lack of access to child care is a de facto glass ceiling that systematically targets women, and particularly women of color, and bars us from education,” Bendt said, adding that
many professions require graduate degrees for full employment. Bendt said she thinks this also ties into the larger issue of benefits and compensation for graduate student employees on campus. “Access to child care through the state is a really important step,” Bendt said. “At the same time, it also says something about the income levels of graduate student employees that we would be eligible for state-assisted child care.” Tim Davis, an attorney for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, echoed these sentiments. “Every parent, regardless of their income, should be able to go to work (or school) knowing that they are leaving their children in good hands,” Davis said. “They should have the ability to continue their educations. They should have the ability to pursue job opportunities and not be forced with an impossible decision of not pursuing job opportunities or not continuing their education because they need to stay home and make sure that their child has a safe learning environment.” UNM graduate students have been advocating for these rule changes for years, according to Naguru “Nikhil” Reddy, the president of the UNM Graduate and Professional Student Association. “This is definitely a positive step towards making grad students who are parents’ lives easier,” Reddy said. “With the increase in costs everywhere — especially child care — this is a significant step toward reducing financial burden on students.” Lissa Knudsen is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lissaknudsen
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‘Death to 2020:’ Retelling a brutal year with bad comedy Too soon to laugh at year-that-must-not-be-named
By Ana Gutierrez @anaixchel_ “Death to 2020,” a British mockumentary from the creators of “Black Mirror,” revisits every monumental event that happened over the past year in an attempt to put it at rest as the title suggests. Despite having left much to be desired, the film’s quirky tone and lack of solemnity provides for some casual viewing if that’s what 2020 should amount to in history books in some way. In the 70-minute Netflix original, Samuel Jackson and several other B-list celebrities are cast as an assorted troupe of false leading
experts and exaggerated everyday people who recount the traumainducing year 2020. It was a year filled with riots, political turmoil and death all wrapped in a pandemic, and this movie forces us to relive every minute all over again. Jackson plays Dash Bracket, a fictional reporter from the “New Yorkerly News,” who retells every drastic event that took place in 2020. As Bracket recites each event from a more knowledgeable standpoint as a fictional reporter, he is joined by a politician, a psychologist, a scientist, the Queen of England and average Americans as they share their own experiences and opinions. Each character acts as an over-the-top represen-
tation of zany characters we familiarized ourselves with last year. Kathy Flowers, played by Cristin Milioti, is a white suburban mother with racist tendencies who loves reading conspiracy theories about the government on Facebook. Flowers is a representation of what the internet loves to call a “Karen” — a slang insult towards women who use their white privilege to assure their demands are met. We see a variety of these types of personalities that made more than enough appearances in 2020, so it’s only reasonable for the film to parody them along with everything else. These colorful, exaggerated characters allow for distinct points of view on several aspects
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TUESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2021 / PAGE 7 of 2020: the medical aspect of COVID-19, the political perspective during the U.S. presidential election and the way young adults had access to every single tragedy through social media in an instant. We even see how the upper class suffered (or lack thereof ) through Kumail Nanjiani’s character of a tech mogul. However, audiences don’t need a reminder of just how much trauma 2020 produced, much less the need for satirical commentary. After a year of immeasurable loss, heartache and frustration, many of the jokes and comedic attempts in the film fell flat and didn’t resonate. The only point in the movie that demonstrated any sort of sensitivity was when the characters reflected on the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. Bracket and Dr. Maggie Gravel (played by Leslie Jones) spoke on the topic with honesty and conviction influenced by the actor’s own experiences, not their characters. It was in this brief moment that the film stopped being a juvenile parody and became a real account of one of 2020’s most shocking moments. Not only did the film revisit the murder of George Floyd, but every Black life taken by police brutality. It seemed unscripted to the point of raw emotion. Alas, even this tender moment was cut short when the film de-
cided to lighten the mood by making an example of Flowers by showing multiple scenarios of her harassing and threatening to call law enforcement on Black people she deems suspicious, despite them performing normal day-today activities. The rest of the film follows this pattern, showing real footage of a travesty that angers or saddens the viewer, only to cut the sentiment with a cheap quip. These low-grade jokes are mere quick jabs at politicians, name-calling and cursing humans as simpleminded creatures. If you’ve run out of things to watch on Netflix and this title is still lingering in your list, this movie is easy enough to watch — you can play it in the background as you wash the dishes. It carries a light tone overall and provides an occasional chortle. Steer clear, though, of any expectation of achieving mental clarity, reflection or coming to the peace with the year-that-mustnot-be-named. In short, it’s too soon to look back and laugh at 2020. Ana Gutierrez is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo. com or on Twitter @anaixchel_
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Daily Lobo 1/19/2020