The biggest challenge for UNM in meeting the requirements laid out in the agreement with the Department of Justice will be ensuring all students are given in-person interactive training on sexual harassment.
The agreement, which was signed on Oct. 17, requires UNM to change its policies and procedures, its trainings on sexual harassment, and its campus climate.
The University is required to review its policies related to sexual harassment to make sure that sexual harassment is clearly defined and its reporting procedures are clear. Title IX Coordinator Heather Cowan said most of the required changes to the University’s policies and procedures have already been made and given to the DOJ for review.
“We get to hear what they say about what we can do to make those better, which is so exciting,” she said. “I think they’re much better than they were before, and the thought of making them even better is very exciting.”
Cowan said the policy committee is interested in student feedback on policy revisions.
“We’d love to have students join us and talk to us about what they think would be great in the policy. Maybe future law students or current law students would be interested in it,” she said.
According to the agreement, the following revisions are to be made to the Office of Equal Opportunity’s claims procedures includes:
- It needs to be clear what type of evidence OEO collects and how that evidence is considered. This could include videos posted on social media, or text messages.
- It must be clear that investigations and adjudications are done independently of University administration.
- Must provide a prompt timeframe for any appeals process.
Revisions to OEO’s internal protocols:
- Needs to develop written internal protocols for their claims process
- When it is possible OEO investigators need to conduct in-person interviews with complainants and witnesses before they are able to read someone else’s statement about an event.
- Must establish a timeframe for collecting evidence that witnesses tell them about.
- Must define how and when to consider additional complaints of sexual harassment or assault against a single respondent.
- Need to establish how they consider power dynamics between a student and a University employee.
- Must explain how they assess witness credibility in their reports.
- Must establish a process for getting information from UNMPD and APD.
- Need procedures for reporting when UNM administrators make contact about a case that could be creating bias.
- Establish a timeframe for communicating with complainant and respondent.
- Revise procedures for electronically tracking alleged sexual harassment incidents
- Establish process for Title IX coordinator to regularly review reports.
UNM Police Department Lieutenant Timothy Stump said the department previously had a good working relationship with OEO.
“Now it is reinforced through a MOU (memorandum of understanding) and the process runs smoother,” Stump said.
Both the OEO and the Dean of Students Office need written procedures for sharing information on cases and for determining what supportive measures should be offered to complainants, and the Title IX coordinator’s contact information needs to be consistent everywhere that it is listed.
By Dec. 1, the University must submit all policy revisions to the DOJ, which will provide comment within 30 days. By Aug. 1 of each year outlined in the agreement, the University must submit information to the DOJ for review.
Revisions to requirements for notifying students and employees about policies:
- Within 30 days of instituting revised policies/procedures UNM will provide written notice to students and employees.
- The LoboRespect website will be updated at the start of each year.
Cowan said providing in-person interactive training to students will be the biggest challenge for the University, due to the large cost the endeavor would most likely require.
“With the state budget and with the University of New Mexico’s budget being cut, we’re really trying to figure out how to pay for it,” she said.
“The University of Maryland just added a Title IX student fee, $34 per student, to pay for their Title IX efforts because their office was also woefully underfunded,” she said. “I don’t know if we would have to go that far.”
They currently have a budget that predominantly goes to paying for staff salaries, she said, with little funding to do much else.
Requirements for training students:
- Must include: how to report, what constitutes harassment, what rights students have under Title IX, and what the University’s policies are.
- Needs evidence-based curricula that emphasizes consent and must explain how bystanders can help, and when off-campus misconduct falls under University policy.
- By February 1, establish infrastructure for trainings.
- All students must receive training by Dec. 31, 2017.
- All students will also receive annual online training.
- University can create a waiver system for students to get out of trainings.
- Training needs evaluations.
The DOJ has agreed that everyone who has already received certain sexual assault and harassment trainings is exempt from being trained by December 2017, Cowan said.
“It’s about 8,000 students who received ‘gray area training,’ either through new student orientation the last two summers, and we did a specialized training with some of the athletes, the Greek system and the international students,” she said.
Cowan said the University will work with departments to add sexual harassment training to departments’ orientations.
“For everyone else, we will probably have to offer these sessions at varying times and varying places across campus,” she said.
Cowan said students can apply for exemptions from the training through the Dean of Student’s Office, but she is unsure if they will submit a list of exceptions to the DOJ for approval or need to get each student approved individually.
Cowan said she is not sure yet how students will be held accountable for taking the training, but the University may have to resort to putting holds on student accounts.
Training for employees:
- By Dec. 31, 2016, all responsible employees need to be trained.
- Training needs to include information on which employees are responsible employees.
- Employees must complete training annually.
- Title IX employees need training on trauma-informed approach to investigations.
Training for UNMPD:
- By Dec. 1, UNMPD employees who investigate instances of domestic violence, sexual harassment or sexual assault need training on evidence-based, trauma-informed investigative techniques.
- By Dec. 1 UNMPD will establish written protocols for officers to receive training.
As far as UNMPD is concerned, Stump said the department already conducts yearly officer training as required by the agreement.
“The police department has always received bi-annual training through APD and yearly training through UNM,” he said. “Now in addition the officers receive yearly training, in-house focused, just on sexual assault investigations and Title IX.”
Stump said UNMPD worked with UNM for the last few years to update trainings.
“I believe we are moving in a very positive direction,” he said.
The main goal of police is for the safety of students, Stump said.
“Officers were always trained and are by nature empathetic to victims of sexual assaults, and their goal is to seek help and offer resources for the victim of a sexual assault,” Stump said. “The help is in any form, whether medical, counseling or through the judicial process. The new training reinforces and updates the officers’ resources and investigative techniques.”
- University must eliminate hostile environment
- Needs to conduct annual climate surveys in which students can respond anonymously.
- By February 1 it needs a plan to monitor the campus climate.
The University has also launched its first survey to evaluate attitudes of students around sexual harassment, which will evaluate things like students’ understanding of rape myths and gender discrimination, Cowan said.
If the University can’t meet the agreement within three years it can get an extension. Cowan said she believes the deadlines within the agreement are tight but achievable.
She said she is excited to work with the DOJ and, in turn, to help foster a better educational environment for students.
“It’s exciting for me to have the actual experts tell us, flat out, ‘This is great, this could use work, this is not good, scrap it, do something else,’” Cowan said.
Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.