Sexual assault is one of the most disturbing issues on college campuses nationwide. It has always been a concern at The University of New Mexico, but attention has been heightened over the past few years, beginning with some high profile cases involving students and culminating in a Department of Justice review of the University’s policies and procedures.
“Having a safe campus is a primary focus for my administration.” President Robert G. Frank said. “We must address sexual assault in as sensitive a manner as possible while providing a fair process for all.”
As UNM continues discussions with the DOJ toward a negotiated agreement following the review, campus-wide efforts are moving ahead using information from the DOJ report and other best practices.
“Working together, we can change UNM” – President Robert Frank
“Still, no matter how much progress we make, or how many resources we offer, it cannot minimize or mitigate the trauma of a sexual assault,” Frank said. “Even one rape is one too many! What we can do is strive to make the response faster and fairer, in attempt to not cause further suffering.”
Frank acknowledged that an investigation itself, which can require repeated recounting of what happened, impersonal gathering of evidence and time-consuming processes, can also be traumatizing. He emphasized that is why UNM administrators, staff, faculty and student volunteers are working diligently to educate and train the campus community on how to prevent sexual assault and how to better deal with reported cases.
A few recent changes highlight the LoboRESPECT effort to Respond, Educate, Support, Prevent, Empower, Consent and Train:
- Opening of the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center
- Additional positions and staffing in the Office of Equal Opportunity which investigates Title IX cases including sexual assault and harassment
- Updated and consolidated policies including an overarching sexual misconduct policy
- Additional and continued training campus-wide
- Increased collaboration among all campus entities dealing with sexual assault reporting, advocacy, training or safety
- An independent, scientific campus climate survey of nearly 3,000 UNM students (to be released soon)
Frank said these steps may need to be tweaked based on the final DOJ agreement. He pledged to continue cooperating fully with DOJ officials and to work conscientiously to adopt their recommendations. He also challenged the campus community to come together to make a difference.
“What I ask of all of you – staff, faculty, advocates, students, parents, alums, lawmakers, community members - is to join with us in this effort,” Frank said. “Step up in your area of impact, your world of influence. Learn more about what is available and how to access it, then use that knowledge to help prevent and respond to sexual assault around you. Our students rally to “Protect the Pack.” That’s something we all must do! Working together, we can change UNM, and UNM can lead the way to change elsewhere.”