More than 200 people attended a virtual town hall to learn about changes to the federal Title IX Final Rule. The turnout showcases how dedicated The University of New Mexico faculty, staff and students are to supporting survivors of sexual harassment.
The U.S. Department of Education released updated regulations in May, outlining more than 50 substantive changes. In the past, these Title IX regulations have been guidelines, but are now legally enforceable.
“Institutions were only given 100 days to implement these changes, so our whole campus has come together to make it happen,” said UNM Title IX Coordinator Angela Catena. “We couldn’t have made it through the policy changes, implementation, coordination and strategy planning without the considerable help we’ve received from partners and departments across UNM.”
In an effort to educate the campus community on the changes, the UNM Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) hosted a virtual town hall. It featured Catena, along with panelists Lisa Lindquist from LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, Caitlin Henke from Women’s Resource Center, Armando Bustamante from El Centro de la Raza and Stephen Bishop from Faculty SAFE. About 215 people tuned in to watch the hour and a half long panel discussion.
“Each of these panelists are from different areas of the campus and represent different constituencies, but it truly shows we’re all in this together and we’re ready to support one another through these changes,” Bishop said in his opening remarks.
Catena outlined the changes that UNM students, faculty and staff should be aware of, which are explained in detail on the OEO website. One of the biggest revisions involves the narrowing of the definition of sexual harassment, which caused some concern among both the panelists and the townhall participants.
“Although we might not all agree to the changes, this is the law now – federally mandated and enforceable. We know that if we do not comply, we’re at risk of losing federal funding,” said Catena. “However, we’re still just as committed to bringing advocacy and support to our students who are dealing with these situations. This law does not change that and does not change the focus of our advocacy centers.”
According to OEO, UNM contributed to the New Mexico Attorney General’s efforts in joining a multistate lawsuit that was filed in order to prevent the implementation of these more constricting regulations. Last week, a federal court denied an injunction. However, legal challenges are ongoing across the country.
Bishop noted that just because it’s more difficult to comply with the narrowed regulations, it is not impossible. He urged the campus community to continue supporting one another, reach out to those facing hard times and maintain contact with student survivors. The sentiment was echoed by both Henke and Bustamante.
“I’m so thankful for everyone on this campus who is working to shift the culture around sexual harassment,” Lindquist concluded. “As Lobos, we’re tenacious, and we will get through this together."