An independent review team Thursday presented the highlights of a report prepared for the University of New Mexico on the culture and attitudes related to sexual assault on campus. Jill Pilgrim, of Pilgrim & Associates (P&A), headed the four-member team that interviewed individuals on campus over several weeks last fall to determine how well the UNM community is meeting its obligations in reporting and responding to allegations of sexual violence.
"As an independent and objective collector and evaluator of the attitudes and perceptions of UNM students and staff on this critical and controversial topic, P&A was able to provide the university with critical data and information to support and guide existing UNM initiatives in this area, while also providing feedback on areas of focus for improvement and further action," Pilgrim said.
The Office of University Counsel commissioned the review in September in response to an anonymous complaint regarding an alleged sexual assault that involved campus housing and athletics.
"UNM is not alone in dealing with this complex issue, but as the Pilgrim report states we are ahead of the curve in many areas compared to other institutions, and we want to stay out front." President Robert G. Frank said. "Despite making great progress and our best attempts to understand ourselves, we felt it was also important to have an independent review of areas of particular concern."
In sum, P&A determined that UNM takes very seriously its obligation to safeguard its students and staff from discrimination, specifically sexual violence. "This was evidenced by student and staff educational and training initiatives related to preventing sexual violence, as well as the formation of the Presidential Task Force on Sexual Violence, among others," Pilgrim said. "However, P&A also identified a number of areas in which UNM should focus special attention and seek improvement."
UNM Dean of Students Tomás Aguirre spearheaded the Presidential Task Force on Sexual Violence which resulted in the formation of LoboRESPECT, (loborespect.unm.edu) a comprehensive approach to preventing and responding to sexual violence on campus. The initiative includes a website with information on prevention education and programs, services and support for victims, along with policies and sanctions.
"We welcome the recommendations in this report as they will help us better tailor our efforts to fit the needs of the campus community," Aguirre said. "The interviews done by the P & A team provide feedback directly from those we are trying to reach with our initiatives."
Some of the key recommendations include simplifying policies impacting sexual violence to make them more user-friendly, working to ensure fair and due process for both the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator, improving security on campus to reduce the possible occurrences of sexual violence incidence as well as expanding and enhancing sexual violence training.
For more details and specific recommendations, see "Related Links" from Pilgrim & Associates below.