The Department of Justice’s report, released last Friday, detailing the cracks in UNM’s approach to combating sexual harassment and assault, is a jarring read. But, in many respects, President Bob Frank’s response later that same day was just as concerning.
Frank and other University officials said that the DOJ report doesn’t represent the whole story, that UNM has prioritized the problem by conducting its own investigation, and that they have already implemented a variety of tools and procedures that can be utilized, including opening the LoboRESPECT center and establishing a 24/7 hotline.
That’s all well and good, and will only help a cause that everyone can get behind, but the question has to be asked: did it take the DOJ announcing that they would be investigating the University for administration to realize that this is an issue? How many of these new protocols were being planned before December, 2014?
Further, why does it seem like most of these new resources are things that should have already existed two, five, 10 years ago? As much as the fight against campus sexual assault has gained momentum in recent years, it certainly had to have been a problem for much longer than that.
The campaign to end campus sexual harassment and assault depends in large part on a cultural shift that needs to be instigated, and UNM’s new resources will help in that regard.
But not if students don’t know about them.
At a recent forum conducted by members of LoboRESPECT, a table of about 20 students were asked if they knew about the LoboGuardian app, which was created over a year ago. The app allows students to set timers on when they plan to arrive at their dorm, after a nighttime class for example. When they arrive, they turn the timer off. If it’s not deactivated, a contact is notified.
It’s a useful and invaluable resource, for those who know about it. At that table of about 20 students, only one did.
UNM administration needs to increase the voice it uses in communicating these and other resources that are at students’ disposals. It needs to show that not only is it truly prioritizing the issue, but is passionate, committed and dedicated in that endeavor.
The students certainly are. This semester, there have been numerous events organized by student groups and organizations to put the issue where it should be – at the forefront.
Three weeks ago, the Associated Students of UNM held Safety Day to reach out to students about when and where they feel the least and most secure.
Last week, student members of LoboRESPECT – along with Rob Burford of the Office of Equal Opportunity – held the aforementioned forum to address those concerns and discuss possible solutions.
On Thursday night, the UNM Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice will host a Take Back the Night walk around campus as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Safety has been one of the hottest topics talked up by ASUNM candidates, not just this semester, but for several recent election cycles.
The students are doing their part; they realize how vital a discussion it is. Meanwhile, University administration elects to wait until federal findings are offered to the public to mobilize a response. Otherwise, who knows when they would next address the issue in a way that shows they are ready to engage with students in the fight against sexual harassment and assault.
They should be just as passionate, just as committed, just as dedicated as the students leading the charge are. If it doesn’t seem like the University is not only bringing the brightest light to the issue, but keeping the light there for longer than a press conference, how can students rely on officials to help them, to know that they are truly being cared for?
The University should make it a priority. If it is,that needs to be more apparent. The University needs to show it cares.