University of New Mexico Professor Hector Torres and graduate student Stefania Gray were murdered by Gray's former boyfriend last spring. A conference, which is free and open to the public, honors them on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 27-28, beginning at 9 a.m. at the UNM Student Union Building ballroom.

Gail Houston, chair, UNM Department of English, asks, "How does a campus respond to a professor and student becoming tragic statistics in America's battle with domestic violence?"

"It started at the grassroots level," Houston said. English was Professor Hector Torres's home at UNM. Graduate student Stefania Gray spent much of her academic life there, as well.

The university community and the high school where Gray taught were especially affected. Torres and Gray's students, friends, family and others came together numerous times to mourn their loss while also trying to make sense of the horrific event.

Associate Professor Raji Vallury, director of Gray's master's committee and director of Women Studies at UNM, spoke with Houston and both felt strongly that this was a crime that should never have happened, that the killer should never have been out on bail for previously stalking the couple. Both wanted to do something for the community to honor the professor and student.

Edna Sprague of the District Attorney's office, the UNM Women's Resource Center, UNM Continuing Education and other faculty from across disciplines got involved, working through the summer to plan a practical and academic conference. All had known someone affected by domestic violence or stalking, some as counselors and physicians who treated domestic violence victims. Sprague was particularly knowledgeable about prosecuting perpetrators.

Sociologist Lisa Broidy said, "We've worked hard to make this a conference that brings awareness to and involvement in domestic violence related issues across the campus community." Broidy's area of expertise is crime.

Houston said, "This has been an example to me of the feminist idea that the personal is political. Hector's office was right across from mine and Stefania took two classes from me. There is a real need, intellectually and emotionally, to understand this particular crime but also to help community members who might be experiencing such violence right now or who may know someone who is."

Vallury agrees. She said, "Removing the silence and invisibility that surround the problem of domestic violence and stalking is to my mind an important goal of the conference."

Anita Obermeier, director, Feminist Research Institute at UNM, said, "This senseless crime affected many people, most notably the two children who are now motherless. We need to work toward preventing such needless deaths in the future."

The conference schedule includes films, talks by faculty on the art, literature, culture and history of violence; a silent auction to benefit the Hector Torres Memorial Scholarship and Stefania Gray's children, presentations by New Mexico Safe Teen on Dating Violence, training for bystanders, a session on orders of protection and other legal responses to domestic violence. Also scheduled are working groups on how UNM can respond to domestic violence as well as a meeting to begin strategies for legislating new policies to help protect victims. A community resource panel will include groups like ENLACE, Urban Indian Advocacy Center, Asian Family Center, and AFAC.

For more information, contact Gail Houston, 270-4558, ghouston@unm.edu or Jim Burbank, 503-5716, jimbu@unm.edu.

Media contact: Carolyn Gonzales, 277-5920; e-mail: cgonzal@unm.edu