DOJ begins review of UNM’s sexual assault policies

University of New Mexico, UNM
University of New Mexico, UNM

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Department of Justice is in town, here to review the University of New Mexico’s sexual assault policies and procedures. They’ll go one on one with faculty and staff and hold forums for students, student athletes and those in Greek life to hear issues and concerns.

This all started back in December when the DOJ’s civil rights division opened a review into the university’s policies and protocol when it comes to sexual assault.

“I look at it, sort of, as an opportunity, an opportunity for us to do better,” said UNM Dean of Students Tomás Aguirre.

Aguirre says ensuring a safe environment with the appropriate policies in place is a top priority for UNM. Aguirre says student safety is always a concern. As an open campus, he says the university struggles with safety like many other communities around the country.

In January, a law firm UNM hired found the school has too many policies on sexual violence that make it confusing for students and staff.

Aguirre says he’s not clear as to exactly what the DOJ is looking for, but he hopes the visit will shed new light on how the university can strengthen their sexual assault protocol.

“We really want to get as much feedback as we possibly can because then what they’re able to do is take that data and determine what we’re doing well and what we’re not doing so well and then we can sort of use that to improve what we already do,” Aguirre said.

Just last week, UNM held a forum on Sexual Assault Awareness Month where they discussed a new initiative to address sexual violence.

The university has been taken steps on its own to come up with a new approach to responding to sexual violence on campus.

It’s called LoboRESPECT. Respect stands for respond, educate, support, prevent, empower, consent and train. Over the past year, UNM launched an informational website, expanded their sexual misconduct and assault response team, streamlined procedures related to sexual violence and helped to promote student-led educational campaigns. Yet, LoboRESPECT isn’t just for sexual assault. It’s also meant to address bias, hazing and alcohol abuse.

The initiative is based on the CARE model, that stands for compliance, advocacy, response and education. There’s a committee for each working to update programs.

Tuesday, the DOJ will likely take a look at the initiative as part of their review of the university’s sexual assault procedures.

“They’re going to be looking at policies, procedures, protocols that we have in place, how we get information out to people. It’s pretty broad and there’s probably some things that they’re looking at that I’m not aware of,” explained Aguirre.

An advocacy center is expected to be up and running by the fall semester. A LoboRESPECT subcommittee is also set to implement training for a hotline that will serve the campus community.

UNM officials say there will soon be a 30-day review of a campus wide policy on sexual violence and sexual misconduct. It includes information for students and faculty on resources available after an instance of sexual misconduct or violence. It will also have UNM responsibilities and responses, education and prevention programs and possible disciplinary sanctions.

The DOJ will be in town through Thursday. Aguirre says he’s not sure when they will issue his report but he says the sooner, the better.

The feds have also set up a dedicated phone line and email address for the UNM investigation: (855) 856-2048 and community.unm@usdoj.gov.

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