President town hall addresses budget cuts, COVID-19 updates and mental health


Jason McNabb

NMSU President John Floros held a virtual town hall meeting Jan. 26, 2020.

New Mexico State University President John Floros hosted the first town hall of the year, discussing updates on the university with additional panels regarding COVID-19 updates and mental health issues during the pandemic.

The meeting started with Floros speaking on budget cuts in the university. He claimed NMSU would not be looking for more budget cuts due to improvements in the state budget and enrollment since last semester.

“The state’s budget seems to be in better shape than most of our legislators and the governor thought we would be by now… Our enrollment at this point is looking fairly good, unlike many of our fellow universities where they experienced fairly severe cuts,” Floros said.

The NMSU fall enrollment report reports the main campus in Las Cruces saw a decrease of 0.5% (69 students) of returning enrollments during the Fall 2020 semester.

Universities across New Mexico faced an estimated total of a 9.5% decrease of returning students for Fall 2020, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

COVID-19 updates from NMSU  

The COVID-19 Pandemic Action Team panel spoke on the possible impacts of vaccines with updates to the NMSU COVID-19 dashboard.

NMSU Regents Professor of Biology Kathryn Hanley explained the vaccines are used to prevent infection, transmission or to “simply block the disease.”

“We want to think with this vaccine as a car with a seatbelt. If you get into an accident and you have a seatbelt, you’re more likely to survive that accident,” Hanley said.

She also stated social distancing and mask-wearing should still be practiced even after getting the vaccine to protect those that haven’t been vaccinated.

Hanley noted the idea of going back to a sense of normality is still far into the year as the vaccination process is in its early stages.

“It’s still looking like it’s going to be a long time until the fall where we’re really able to maybe take off our masks, breathe free air again and get back to whatever is going to be our new normal,” Hanley said.

New Mexico residents can register for the vaccine at the New Mexico Department of Health Vaccine Registration site.

NMSU COVID-19 Project Manager Jon Webster presented updates to the COVID-19 Dashboard. This included system data that counts cumulative cases at each NMSU campus, the number of active cases from students to employees and includes a data chart to record the rate of cases throughout the spring semester.

According to Vice Chancellor Ruth Johnston, not much has changed about the university’s COVID-19 policies since the last semester.

“We’re trying to keep this vibrant so that it’s not just same old, same old, but a really good reminder that we’re still in this and we’re in it together,” Johnston said.

Managing Mental Health

Additionally, the town hall transitioned to speaking and acknowledging the mental trials college students are going through.

NMSU Department of Family and Consumer Sciences faculty members Merranda Marin, Marcel Montanez and Kourtney Vaillancourt discussed stress and mental health issues that put weight on college students during the pandemic.

Each professor provided examples to explain and recognize anxiety, depression and stress.

Marin compared to the impact the pandemic gave people to a balloon to help understand the amount of stress being handled.

“Before the pandemic, we were walking around in our lives and our balloons were pretty full already. Once the pandemic hit, it was like this perfect storm of a variety of events including parenting and homeschooling which increased the balloon,” Marin said.

In her explanation, she described other stressors such as working with new technology and creating space to work from home that can “make that balloon grow.” Ultimately leading the balloon to pop, or for a person to lose their temper.

For students that are facing anxiety, stress or depression, Lori McKee, executive director of NMSU’s Aggie Health and Wellness Center, recommended to use the center’s counseling services.

NMSU students can call (575) 646-1512 to schedule a counseling appointment.

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