Justice Department Finds Flaws in UNM’s Handling of Sexual Assaults

The department released a statement on its findings April 22.

The Justice Department announced April 22 that the University of New Mexico’s handling of reports of sexual harassment and assault does not comply with federal law.

The announcement comes after over a year of investigation that began Dec. 5, 2014, when students reported UNM didn’t adequately respond to reports of sexual assault.

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A summary of the investigation is included in the Justice Department’s press release pasted below:

“The investigation found that although UNM had strengthened its response to sexual harassment and sexual assault over the past year, it remains out of compliance with Title IX and Title IV in key respects. 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 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.  More generally, in focus groups and interviews, many UNM students expressed reluctance to report sexual assault to UNM because they lacked confidence in the school’s response.

The department also found that students who have experienced harassment and assault have difficulty accessing services and supports.  Without appropriate supports in place, some of these students experienced severe and lasting educational impacts, including suspending their academic coursework, dropping out of extracurricular activities, losing scholarships and even withdrawing from UNM.

The department found that UNM must take the following measures to fully comply with these laws:

  • Provide comprehensive and effective training to all students, faculty and staff that gives notice of UNM’s prohibition on sexual harassment, including sexual assault; information about reporting options, duties and obligations; details on where to go for assistance; and information on grievance procedures and potential outcomes;
  • Revise UNM’s policies, procedures and investigative practices to provide a grievance procedure that ensures prompt and equitable resolution of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations;
  • Adequately investigate or respond to all allegations by students who have alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment, including allegations of retaliation for reporting sexual assault or sexual harassment;
  • Take prompt and effective steps to eliminate a hostile environment, prevent its reoccurrence and address its effects; and
  • Ensure that the individuals designated to coordinate Title IX efforts receive adequate training and coordinate these efforts effectively.”

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