A Peer Review on Standards of Practice for Improving Campus Student Conduct Processes for Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence and Stalking (DSVST) was recently convened by the American Bar Association (ABA) in collaboration with the United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women in Washington D.C.

The intent of the peer review, which included more than 60 people working in this field across the country, including The University of New Mexico’s Office of Equal Opportunity Title IX Coordinator Heather Cowan, was to create a document that outlines best practices related to these issues with the goal of creating a Standards of Practice for the processing of such complaints to disseminate to all colleges and universities through the United States.


Participants in the peer review process were to provide macro-level comments regarding general procedures, best practices, needed infrastructure to create an efficient working model in addressing these concerns and to provide micro-level comments on the draft document itself.

“While the document is still in its draft stage and much of the information cannot be shared at this time, some of the conclusions from this process confirm that UNM’s practices meet best practice standards nationally,” said Cowan. “For example, UNM's Office of Equal Opportunity uses a strict investigative model to ensure due process for each party, timeliness, efficiency and most conservative use of resources.”

The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence (ABA-CDSV), with support from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, has launched the Project on Improving Campus Student Conduct Processes for Domestic, Dating, Sexual and Stalking (DSVST) Violence. The Project has the end goal of developing Standards of Practice for colleges and universities seeking to improve their policies and procedures on DSVST.

The ABA-CDSV is a nationally-recognized leader on increasing access to justice for domestic and sexual violence victims through training and support for the legal profession. For this project, the ABA-CDSV recruited an expert on campus DSVST policies and procedures, Professor Nancy Chi Cantalupo, to work with the group.

Cantalupo has worked to combat campus DSVST for over 20 years as a campus administrator and legal scholar, including six years as an academic assistant dean, seven years as director of a campus women’s resource center, and nine years as a campus DSVST researcher and scholar. Prior, Cantalupo was Associate Vice President for Equity, Inclusion & Violence Prevention at NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

“It was an honor to work with experts in this field across the country," Cowan said. "UNM has such a unique perspective being an Hispanic Serving Institution in a minority-majority state. We can shed light on a challenge that every campus faces but that so often is not addressed for our diverse student body."

The Peer Review’s next steps will be to gather the micro-level comments of all participants on the draft document as well as emerging research for possible new strategies prior to dissemination to the country’s colleges and universities.