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The University of New Mexico has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to refine UNM’s policies regarding sexual harassment on campus, which includes sexual violence such as assault. The agreement follows an extensive review by the DOJ of the University’s policies and procedures, and reflects UNM’s obligation to provide clear, consistent procedures for reporting, investigating and responding to these types of complaints. 

“We are pleased to have been able to work with the Department of Justice to reach this agreement so quickly,” said President Robert G. Frank. “It will benefit UNM to have our commitments going forward clearly stated to ensure that our campus maintains a caring and safe educational environment with fair processes for all.”

In the agreement, the DOJ acknowledges that UNM has already taken significant proactive steps to strengthen the prevention of and response to campus sexual harassment/violence including a number of actions taken even before reaching the agreement.

The nearly 20-page document outlines a number of steps that the University has agreed to perform in order to meet the compliance requirements listed by the DOJ, including:

  • Mandatory intensive sexual harassment training of all students and staff and faculty identified as “responsible employees” in UNM policy;
  • Continued review and revision of policies, procedures and materials on sexual harassment/violence to ensure consistency, clarity and timeliness in reporting, investigating and responding to complaints;
  • Campus Climate surveys to ensure the University is serving the student population.

UNM has already trained at least 7,000 students on sexual harassment/violence during the past two years through New Student Orientation and other on campus programs. With more than 27,000 students enrolled on main campus, the agreement requires that the remaining 20,000 students also receive training through an in-person, peer-to-peer, interactive model. University staff are currently developing the infrastructure and materials needed to provide that scope of training. Starting in the 2017-18 academic year, this in-person training will be required for all new students, while all continuing students will receive annual online training.

Along with the student component, UNM will continue to require annual online training on sexual harassment by faculty and staff. The University will work with the DOJ to determine if additional training is needed for faculty and staff. UNM estimates it will cost approximately $1.5 million over the next three years to provide resources, infrastructure and staff to conduct the required training and climate surveys for the entire campus.

“It is an expensive endeavor to provide face-to-face and online training for the entire UNM population, especially during this time of severe budget constraints,” said Elizabeth Washburn, the University’s chief compliance officer. “However, we are committed to educating our entire campus community about sexual misconduct to ensure we achieve the goal we’ve been working toward all along– a safe campus and fair process for all.”

A major component of the DOJ agreement focuses on the review and revision of policies, procedures and practices. Prior to the review, UNM drafted a new comprehensive policy on sexual violence, which was issued as University Administrative Policies (UAP) 2740 on May, 15, 2015. Under the agreement, UNM will continue to work with the DOJ on refinements to this policy and others that pertain to sexual harassment/violence, as needed. The University’s Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) also substantially revised UNM’s discrimination claims investigation procedure and related documents (http://oeo.unm.edu). Additional work to supplement that process and all of these procedures will be submitted to the DOJ for review.

UNM has already completed one extensive campus climate survey this past spring with more than 3000 respondents, and has agreed to conduct similar surveys using evidence-based methodology and validated questions for students in the spring semesters of 2017 and 2018.

The initial survey, done by the National Campus Climate Survey (NCCS), found a majority of students believe UNM is doing a good job of educating, preventing and responding to sexual misconduct and assault. Nearly 65 percent of students responded that they are aware of school policy regarding sexual misconduct, and about half of them said they know where to go to get help on campus.

“Surveys related to sexual misconduct are so important because they provide critical input and information from students,” said Heather Cowan, UNM Title IX coordinator. “We can create and implement many wonderful policies and procedures, but without survey results we won’t know what is working or how students are experiencing UNM.”

For more information that provides additional agreement details, view the DOJ - UNM Fact Sheet.

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Dianne Anderson

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