DOJ to review UNM’s sex assault, harassment response

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – First it was Albuquerque Police, now the U.S. Department of Justice is swooping in on the University of New Mexico over the way the school has or hasn’t handled rape and sexual harassment cases.

UNM was notified by the DOJ on Friday that the federal agency will be looking into the schools response to complaints of sexual assault and harassment by students. The DOJ says he has received “multiple complaints” about the university’s handling of such incidents.

Friday afternoon, UNM administrators addressed the investigation announcement, but acted as if they were caught off guard by DOJ’s inquiry. UNM’s Dean of Students Tomás Aguirre told News 13 he had “no idea” why the Feds are reviewing the university.

“We’ll take it very, very seriously, and at the end of the day I’m sure they’ll come back and say these are the things that you’re doing really, really well, and these are the things that you need to do better, and I’ll be the first one to thank them and say, ‘thank you for letting me know and we’re going to make it better now,’” said Aguirre.

The DOJ says it will investigate UNM’s compliance in how its handling reports of sexual assault and harassment. Beyond that, the DOJ says it has “no comment” on the ongoing investigation.

UNM claims it was notified about the investigation at 8 a.m. on Friday. The DOJ has told UNM that it will look at the school’s policies and procedures in preventing sexual assault, also it’s handling of the cases that do surface.

28,000 students are enrolled at UNM this year. In 2013, UNM had eleven reported sexual assault cases. So far, eight cases have been reported in 2014. Many cases of sexual assaults go unreported though, especially in cases of date rape.

UNM officials said Friday that the university is already doing a lot to address sexual assault and harassment, including yearly safety walks, installation of more blue-light emergency phones and revamping their “Sexual Assault Response Team,” to include more student groups.

UNM also says that it’s addressing more students about the topic of sexual assault by putting the topic in new student orientation and including it in a new website called “LoboRESPECT.”

http://loborespect.unm.edu/

Some students say they’re skeptical though that UNM has done enough.

The fact that it has to be investigated just means that something needs to be done more on campus,” said Lindsey Conklin, a UNM Freshman.

“It’s kind of shocking to find out that the Feds are getting involved,” said Lawrence Sena, a UNM Junior.

“When we do hear about sexual assault on campus it’s maybe like once every semester and I feel like it’s definitely happening more often then we’re hearing about,” said Hallie Brown, a UNM freshman.

UNM says it’s now waiting on the DOJ to see what information they’ll request, they don’t have any sort of timeline on how long the investigation will take.

Attorneys for the New Mexico U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Educational Opportunities Section of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Department will conduct the review under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which both prohibit sex discrimination in education programs.





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