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President Frank and Regent Hosmer cut the opening ribbon for the Lobbo Respect Advocasy Center. Sep. 25, 2015. Located in Mesa Vista Hall, the center provides support in many areas for students in the University.
President Frank and Regent Hosmer cut the opening ribbon for the Lobbo Respect Advocasy Center. Sep. 25, 2015. Located in Mesa Vista Hall, the center provides support in many areas for students in the University.

LoboRESPECT center consolidates resources for victims on campus

On Friday afternoon the new LoboRESPECT advocacy center officially opened, the result of a two-year effort to provide a space for victims of sexual assault and hazing on campus.

Dean of Students Tomás Aguirre, one of the driving forces behind the center, addressed a crowd of students, University administrators and student governing body representatives, thanking the student body for prioritizing the issue.

“Think about some of the great movements of the past 100 years: the Vietnam War, apartheid – I think sexual violence is another one of those movements where we wouldn’t be where we’re at today if the students hadn’t taken more of an activist role,” he said.

Aguirre said the vision for the center is just the latest step in what started off as a task force formed by University President Bob Frank to address sexual violence. This gave rise to the LoboRESPECT mode of educating students about the problem that many college campuses face.

“We all were in agreement that rather than telling students what not to do, it would be more effective to tell students what to do, and that’s really about respecting each other and respecting oneself,” Aguirre said.

The center will provide a one-stop location for victims of sexual harassment as well as other kinds of abuse and hazing, whether physical or mental. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and is located on the second floor of the University Advisement and Enrichment Center.

The center also has a 24/7 hotline: (505)277-2911.

Aguirre said the creation of a streamlined advocacy center for an institution as big as UNM, with all its various departments already working to prevent hazing and sexual assault on campus, is rare.

In fact, it’s only the second center of its kind. An other is located at Ohio State University, an institution that enrolled almost 45,000 undergrads last fall.

“It’s just really hard when you have a massive institution like this where we’re very siloed internally,” Aguirre said. “You can’t bring everybody under the same roof, but what you can do is create a unit or an office that does that for you in a semi-natural way, and that’s what I see the advocacy center as doing.”

In addition to being available as a resource for victims, the center and team behind it will also be taking a proactive approach in line with the mission of LoboRESPECT: educating students about sexual assault and harassment.

“I think the big problem, personally, is a lot of students don’t really understood what consent is, what is appropriate behavior, what isn’t appropriate behavior,” Aguirre said. “They don’t know how to help each other as far as being a bystander. I think the more we can raise awareness on these issues and continue to educate the members of our community, we slowly, bit by bit, bring it down to nothing.”

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Kyle Stepp, student coordinator for LoboRESPECT, said that is the team’s ultimate end goal: for the advocacy center’s existence to become obsolete.

“In the long-term, this places closes and we have developed a culture where everyone has an (anti-sexual assault) mindset,” Stepp said.

Frank thanked UNM regents, Vice President for Student Affairs Eliseo “Cheo” Torres and Provost Chaouki Abdallah for their part in making the center a reality.

He said it’s the responsibility of all higher-education institutions to teach students how to protect each other, and the LoboRESPECT advocacy center will help fulfill that.

Regent Bradley Hosmer said the center fulfills the initiative’s mission to “protect the pack” with the resources it provides.

“Getting help should be simple. Getting help should be easy. This is easy: one phone number, one place gets you the help you need,” Hosmer said.

UNM has raised a few eyebrows lately with regard to sexual assault incidents on campus. Many students say police presence on campus is lacking, and the Department of Justice examined the University for its handling of sexual assault reports earlier this year.

Nonetheless, Aguirre said that the fight to end sexual assault is one that many University facets – including the Women’s Resource Center, the SHAC and LGBTQ Center – have been a part of for a long time. Now, the LoboRESPECT advocacy center will join the fight in getting students the resources and education they need.

“Beyond that, (our priority is) just getting rid of the problem,” Aguirre said. “That’s really where we need to go.”

David Lynch is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.


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