In October of 2016, following a report by the U.S. Department of Justice released earlier that year, the U.S. Department of Justice and The University of New Mexico entered into a three-year formal agreement regarding UNM’s obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and address sexual misconduct, and to provide clear and consistent policies and procedures for reporting, investigating and responding to such conduct.
Today, UNM President Garnett S. Stokes announced that UNM has complied with all of the requirements of the Agreement and maintained timely compliance during the past three years, as reflected by a letter received last Friday from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We cannot be a strong university unless we address sexual misconduct effectively, fully, and in a timely manner,” said UNM President Garnett S. Stokes. “During my tenure, it has been a top priority for UNM to comply fully with this agreement. We have regained the trust of the Department of Justice and it will conclude its monitoring, but we will continue to promote positive behavior, and foster a safe and respectful culture.”
UNM has taken transformative steps to address sexual misconduct and change the campus culture, including the training of record numbers of faculty, staff, and students on sexual misconduct prevention at the University. Over the past three years more than 36,900 students received in-person sexual misconduct awareness training. New resources were also committed for campus training, investigation, and advocacy regarding sexual assault, policies were revised and new processes for dealing with sexual misconduct on campus were implemented.
“UNM is proud of the improvements made in training on and resolution of sexual harassment and assault cases,” said Francie Cordova, director of the UNM Office of Equal Opportunity and interim chief compliance officer. “We will continue to fine tune our procedures and increase support for those impacted by sexual misconduct.”
The University contends that, ultimately, this hard work has paid off. “From the beginning of the agreement, full and effective compliance with all requirements and obligations was a significant priority for the senior leadership at the university,” said former UNM Chief Compliance Officer Libby Washburn. “By developing new policies, training, and systems of monitoring and accountability, UNM has worked vigorously to address sexual misconduct, meeting all of the obligations contained in the Agreement and implementing additional measures not required by the Agreement.”
The University points to several positive trends it has identified as a result of its efforts: campus climate surveys identified in the University’s final report show that UNM students are significantly better educated on the processes and where to go for assistance; investigations into sexual misconduct are much stronger, making responses more effective and transparent; a substantial increase in people reporting misconduct and/or seeking assistance and support, reflecting greater trust in UNM’s ability to address individual cases; and staff and faculty are also playing a greater role in monitoring trends and working proactively to prevent additional sexual misconduct.
UNM Regent Marron Lee stated that “UNM’s ‘all hands on deck’ mentality ensured that our policies, our procedures, and our culture moved firmly into the 21st Century higher education norm.” She went on to say that “UNM has become a national role model on how to implement and enact needed changes in a world that will no longer tolerate sexual abuse and assaults—at any level.”
UNM has also committed to several projects that will broaden and deepen efforts to prevent sexual misconduct. Supported by a three-year grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, staff and faculty across UNM campuses are taking action to reduce sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking on campus. UNM has also recently joined the Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education, a national four-year project of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that moves beyond basic legal compliance to advance evidence-based policies and practices for addressing and preventing all forms of sexual harassment in higher education. And, most recently, UNM has been selected by the Department of the Navy to host a regional discussion in February 2020 with universities and military service academies on how to effectuate cultural change and utilize best practices and data driven models to reduce sexual violence on the nation’s college and service campuses.
“As long as sexual misconduct continues to occur, we will continue to make this a top priority,” said Stokes. “We will remain committed, both as an institution and through my personal leadership, to preventing sexual misconduct, conducting fair processes for all, and providing a secure and caring environment for the entire community.”