A bill that would have required UNM and other schools in the state to provide evidence-based sexual assault training to every student stalled in the House Judiciary Committee with a “do not pass” recommendation.
House Bill 339, sponsored by New Mexico Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-NM, also would have required post-secondary institutions to provide easy access to training material on university websites.
UNM expressed concerns over several provisions of the bill.
First, the bill required that a physical copy of the training materials be given to every student upon enrollment, in addition to the materials on the website.
“The requirement that copies of policies be provided to each student would add significant expense and may be impractical given students’ preference for and practice of accessing information digitally,” University’s analysis stated in the bill’s Fiscal Impact Report.
Additionally, the University took issue with the bill’s generalized use of the terms “evidence-based training” and “every enrolled student.”
In their response, UNM also suggested more specific guidelines for the training, recommending that “every enrolled student” be replaced with “every student who has a regular physical presence on campus and who is enrolled in a degree-granting program or more per semester on ways to prevent, recognize and report sexual assault.”
Following a 16-month investigation, a 2016 Department of Justice report found UNM to be in violation of federal mandates regarding sexual assault response.
The DOJ and the University reached an agreement that significantly expanded training and accountability efforts for reported cases of sexual harassment.
Heather Cowan, who oversees Title IX compliance at UNM, said the bill is “essentially redundant” for UNM with the DOJ agreement already in place.
“UNM is in a unique situation compared to the rest of the universities and colleges in the state because we have the DOJ agreement, which is also requiring us to provide mandatory in-person training for every student,” Cowan said. “We’re in good shape so that if this bill gets passed we’d already be in compliance.”
Too often, she said, the legislature creates mandates without allowing further funding to the institutions impacted.
UNM Dean of Students Nasha Torrez expressed similar sentiments, including financial concerns at a University already full of them.
“The cost for paper copies would be a lot for UNM, but I imagine the financial ramifications would be even more substantial for CNM, for instance,” Torrez said.
In the Fiscal Impact Report, CNM also responded with concerns over the financial and administrative burden.
In regards to the bill as a whole, Torrez said it shows positive progression.
“Any time people at the Roundhouse are talking about ways to fight against sexual assault, sexual violence (and) harassment, it’s a good thing,” she said. “This bill is moving in the right direction. The discussion needs to happen.”
But Cowan said the efforts of this bill are incomplete without further action.
“Sexual violence is a much broader problem than just on college campuses. It’s a societal problem,” she said. “Starting the education younger would be better. By the time students come to us, a lot of it is already ingrained. This should be a continuance point, not the starting point.”
Gabriella Rivera is a reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gabbychlamps.