Higher ed changes could ‘whitewash’ universities, some professors warn

Some professors, students and advocates at the state’s flagship university are warning proposed sweeping changes to the state’s higher education system could undermine academic freedom and programs like ethnic studies. A bill sponsored by state Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs would scale back the number of required credit hours students take in public university “general education core” classes and establish “meta-majors.”

“Meta-major” classes are defined in the bill as “lower division courses” that are set by the department and include general education courses and prerequisite courses. At a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, Kernan said her bill’s purpose is to make it easier for students who transfer to different universities to use the credits they’ve already earned from previous courses toward their college degrees. Kernan’s bill is supported by New Mexico Higher Education Department Secretary Barbara Damron. At last week’s hearing, Damron described meta-majors as a group of courses set under a list of broad subjects that undecided college students can choose from to create a path toward their eventual major.

Judge stops, for now, some of state’s reasons for denying wage theft claims

A judge temporarily halted a New Mexico state agency’s self-imposed limitations on wage theft claims.

In a ruling Tuesday afternoon, Santa Fe District Judge David Thomson ordered that, for now, the state Department of Workforce Solutions (DWS) cannot automatically deny complaints of wage theft that total more than $10,000. The state department is also not allowed to automatically turn down claims that happened more than a year before they’re made. “Wage theft” refers to an employer denying payments owed to an employee in any way, which can include paying below minimum wage and refusing to pay overtime, for example. Thomson’s temporary restraining order against the state comes because of a class-action lawsuit filed just two weeks ago by “low income workers” who made wage theft claims against their employers to DWS. Ten individuals named in the lawsuit allege that DWS’ handling of their wage theft claims violate multiple state laws.

ABQ Jewish Community Center one of over a dozen targeted with bomb threat

Albuquerque’s Jewish Community Center is functioning back to normal Tuesday afternoon after a scare from a phoned bomb threat. The threat came in a phone call to the JCC earlier in the day, according to Albuquerque Police Department spokesman Simon Drobik. The JCC responded by quickly evacuating staff. “We then sent over the bomb squad and deemed the area safe,” Drobik said. The bomb scare came on the same day threats were made against at least 17 other JCCs in five other states, according to a report in Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

After Trump order, NM colleges, universities urge affected students not to leave country

At least three four-year universities in New Mexico are telling international students affected by President Trump’s controversial executive order affecting immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries to not leave the United States. The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology formally instructed international students from any of the seven countries to not travel outside the U.S. in the near future. Trump’s executive order temporarily bars those from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the country. “Citizens of those countries, who wish to return to the US, should not plan to travel abroad at this time,” UNM wrote in a news release Monday. In his weekly letter to students and faculty, UNM Acting President Chaouki Abdallah noted that Trump’s order affects “more than 100 individuals in the UNM community.”

On Sunday, NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers made a similar call to his students.

NM Dems file legislation to blunt Trump’s impact

A local legislator’s bill to bar New Mexico law enforcement from imposing federal immigration laws is getting attention as a measure to challenge President Trump’s expected crackdown on illegal immigration. “Given the repressive potential coming from the Trump administration, I wanted to make sure our immigrant community felt safe and protected,” the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, said in a recent interview. Hers is just one of several proposals sitting before the New Mexico Legislature directly reflect what’s happening as a result of 2016’s contentious campaign and the election of Donald Trump as president. State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, for example, is carrying a bill that would require New Mexico’s electors to cast their votes to reflect the national popular vote. State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, has a measure to eliminate “faithless” electors, or state electors who cast votes without abiding by their state’s vote totals.

Citing right to free speech, UNM president rejects calls to bar provocateur

An online provocateur associated with the “alt-right” will speak at the University of New Mexico this month as originally scheduled, according to UNM acting President Chaouki Abdallah. The “alt right,” an offshoot of right wing ideology that generally embraces racism and white nationalism, leaped into the mainstream last year during Donald Trump’s run for president. In an email to students sent Monday, Abdallah wrote that his decision is meant “to protect the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights and in the University’s mission.”

Abdallah’s decision comes as student groups have been pressuring UNM administrators to ban Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on campus later this week. Yiannopoulos, who writes for Breitbart News, was invited by the UNM College Republicans. Despite being openly gay, Yiannopoulos has argued that gay people should “get back in the closet.” His current speaking tour is called “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.” He’s also made statements like, “I think birth control was a mistake and women are happier in the kitchen” and written articles with headlines like, “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck At Interviews.”

Last summer, Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter after his followers attacked comedian Leslie Jones.

[PHOTOS] Albuquerque Women’s March

An estimated 6,000 people showed up in Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza Saturday to join in a nationwide women’s march against newly sworn-in President Donald Trump. Below, NM Political Report caught up with a few of the protestors. Anna, pictured right: “I’m here because I don’t like the new president. I’m living here temporarily, but I still think that I can’t not protest again him. There are so many things I dislike about him.

Congressional panel studies ‘born alive’ problem that doctors call ‘medically inaccurate’

A year-long congressional investigation that opponents dismissed as “an end-to-end attack on fetal tissue donation and women’s health care” criticized two Albuquerque abortion providers. Both the University of New Mexico and Southwestern Women’s Options, according to the congressional Select Panel on Infant Rights’ Final Report released earlier this month, lack protocols to “ensure the survival of infants who show signs of life following extraction from the uterus.”

Anti-abortion activists use the term “born alive” abortion to describe the scenario, which involves an infant that is alive after a botched medical abortion. But there’s one big problem with this conclusion in the estimated $1.5 million investigation: ”born alive” abortions don’t actually occur, according to medical professionals. In a written statement to NM Political Report, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) dismissed the term “born alive” as “medically inaccurate.”

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Heinrich votes against prescription drug imports

Martin Heinrich was one of 13 Democratic U.S. senators who voted against legislation earlier this week that would have allowed Americans to buy prescription drugs from other countries. The measure, a health care reform idea often supported by progressives, came as an amendment to legislation aimed at changing Senate rules to allow majority votes on budget bills. The procedural changes, which the Senate narrowly approved in the early hours of Thursday, are the first step in Republican plans to repeal as much of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, as they can. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent senator who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination last year, sponsored the amendment with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota. Senators rejected the amendment on a 52-48 margin, with 12 Republicans casting their votes in favor.

Udall, Heinrich vote against first steps to repeal Obamacare

Both U.S. senators from New Mexico voted this week against the first steps the Senate took to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The Senate vote, held Thursday during early morning hours, changed procedural rules to allow majority votes on so-called reconciliation bills. Such reconciliation bills are limited to actions on the federal budget and are filibuster-proof, meaning they just need 51 votes from senators to pass instead of the usual 60 votes. Republicans plan to use this reconciliation process to repeal as much of the ACA as they can. Sens.