ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The feds are slamming the way the University of New Mexico deals with cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment, saying the school is not protecting its students. UNM says they haven’t had time to look through the entire report but they feel the report does not paint an accurate picture of the university.
More Specifically, how the university responds to students who ask for help.
The Department of Justice just released its report Friday morning on all the problems at UNM and what the university needs to do.
UNM was notified by the DOJ in December of 2014 that the federal agency would be looking into the school’s response to complaints of sexual assault and harassment by students. The DOJ says they had received “multiple complaints” about the university’s handling of such incidents.
New Mexico U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez says although UNM has made improvements in the last year when it comes to the way they handle these types of cases, they’re not where they should be.
Attorney General Hector Balderas released this statement about the DOJ findings:
“The DOJ’s findings are deeply troubling, and they highlight the complexity of these issues,” said Attorney General Balderas. “We have to do a better job of protecting our students’ civil rights and providing them with safe environments conducive to learning. This trend is unacceptable, and I am committed to working with all stakeholders to help address these issues.”
The Justice Department investigation into UNM started in 2014 after students complained that UNM wasn’t taking cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment seriously enough and that the school didn’t have the proper resources.
Martinez also says they worked with victims who had claimed they had been sexually assaulted, harassed or stalked on campus only to see their cases go nowhere. Martinez says what they found is that these students are sometimes traumatized a second time by the runaround they get from the school.
“What our investigation found is that these victims are being re-victimized by the system itself,” said Damon Martinez, U.S. Attorney for New Mexico.
They also noted cases where UNM failed to collect key pieces of evidence and that it takes the university more than three weeks to start an investigation after receiving a complaint.
A 37 page letter with these findings was delivered to the University on Friday morning.
Some of the findings showed that students don’t know where to report cases of rape and sexual harassment by fellow students, staff or faculty. The findings also report that the school drags its feet, sometimes taking weeks before starting its investigations and dropping cases it should have pursued.
However, UNM disagrees with some of the findings. “When you get into these cases and both sides have lawyers, it gets very difficult to move these cases in a time manner so what they’re not recognizing is the complexity,” said UNM President Bob Frank.
Bob Frank says the university’s main problem with the report is a lack of facts and a small sampling of students.
“Everything they did was anecdotal, they don’t have any standards of comparison,” Frank added.
Some students KRQE News 13 spoke with said UNM has to do a better job of making them feel comfortable to report incidents.
“I really don’t trust UNM police to handle these types of situations because if so why do they keep happening,” said one student.
“What we found with our investigation is that these victims are being re-victimized by the system itself,” said Damon Martinez, US Attorney for New Mexico.
The findings come after three men accused of raping a UNM student announced a lawsuit against the university and its police for how they handled the investigation.