U of New Mexico Faulted on Sex Assault Responses

April 25, 2016

The University of New Mexico mishandled reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

"The department specifically found that students, faculty and staff lacked basic understanding about reporting options, duties and obligations, as well as where to turn for help," the department said in a statement. "The investigation also found significant gaps in UNM’s procedures, training and practices for investigating and resolving allegations of sexual assault and harassment, resulting in a grievance process that complainants and respondents alike described as confusing, distressing and rife with delays."

The Justice Department began investigating UNM in December 2014 after several students alleged that the university did not "adequately respond to their reports of sexual assault." In order to comply with federal laws, the department said, the university must now provide comprehensive training to all students, faulty and staff; revise its sexual misconduct procedures so that they ensure "prompt and equitable" resolutions; and adequately investigate all allegations by students who report being sexually assaulted or harassed, including allegations of retaliation.

“UNM is not alone in trying to deal with one of the most difficult problems on today’s college campuses,” Robert Frank, the university's president, said in a statement. “While we respect the efforts of the DOJ, we believe its report is an inaccurate and incomplete picture of our university. It is a brief snapshot in time that came on the heels of a high-profile and widely publicized accusation of a sexual assault involving UNM students. Even so, we receive it in a spirit of cooperation and pledge to continue our campuswide improvements to combat this complex issue.”

The university also released a timeline showing the steps it has taken in recent years to improve how it handles allegations of sexual assault (click on the image below to enlarge).

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