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LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center projected to open mid-September

As part of the relatively new LoboRESPECT initiative that works to end sexual harassment on campus, UNM will soon open a physical LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center where students can find support in situations of harassment on campus.

Dean of Students Tomás Aguirre, chair of LoboRESPECT, said the center is expected to open sometime in mid-September. For the time being, students can visit here to access information on training and support from LoboRESPECT, as well as the latest updates on “UNM’s current efforts to address sexual violence.”

Once the center opens, Aguirre said it will provide all these resources and more via one-on-one interaction with a trained workforce.

“The center is a physical space staffed by trained advocates that will complement the website,” he said.

Lisa Lindquist, student affairs specialist in the dean of students office, will be the director of the center that will be located in Room 262 of the University Advisement and Enrichment Center.

“It will be a first stop for students and other University populations who need advocacy services after an incident of sexual assault, hazing and bullying or hate bias and are looking for guidance on how to report the incident, learn about what campus and community resources are available and get answers on how to navigate the University in the wake of trauma,” Lindquist said.

Additionally, she said the center will provide trainings in collaboration with other UNM departments, and will support a 24/7 hotline.

The opening of such a center is the latest in a series of moves by UNM that, at face value, are interconnected in a mission to eradicate a culture of sexual harassment prevalent on college campuses across the country. According to dosomething.org, “one in five women will be sexually assaulted while at college.”

The Department of Justice investigated UNM’s handling of sexual assault cases last December, with the law firm Pilgrim and Associates reporting in January that “staff and administrators are unfamiliar with, or confused about, the University’s policies and procedures for addressing sexual violence.”

While some may think that the creation of a physical LoboRESPECT location is an effect of the DOJ inquiry or that report, Aguirre said that is not the case.

“Of our current initiatives to address sexual violence, I would guess that over 80 percent were already in place or started before we were made aware of the DOJ investigation,” he said

The advocacy center is a project more than two years in the making, with support from President Robert Frank and then-Vice President of Student Affairs 'Cheo' Torres, Aguirre said. He described the process – from the idea to the expected opening – as something that has taken place at “warp speed” with respect to how fast such projects are usually developed in a college setting.

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“We have gone from concept to an anticipated opening of mid-September in less than six months,” he said.

When it comes to combating sexual harassment on campus, of which there have been at least three reports warranting a LoboAlert since the end of July, Aguirre said it is extremely important that all of UNM comes together to work toward eradicating it.

“This is why we’re trying to raise awareness throughout the year and not just one month during the spring semester,” he said. “This is why we’ve asked that all members of our community learn about consent, bystander intervention and the available resources both on and off campus. This is a community problem which can only be solved through the collective efforts of the community.”

Lindquist said she hopes that the abundance of resources and outreach from LoboRESPECT will not only prevent future incidents of harassment, but change the culture surrounding such attacks entirely.

“Harassment impacts everyone on this campus, not just the people involved in any single incident,” she said. “We all need to be more reflective with ourselves, our friends, our colleagues and community to ask why there is acceptance of these behaviors. I hope we help create some positive change at UNM.”

David Lynch is the news editor at The Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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