I write this letter to express my concern and frustration with President Frank’s response to the Department of Justice’s Report of its investigation of the University of New Mexico’s failures regarding the investigation and response to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment by its students, specifically President Frank’s comments that the DOJ’s report has a “lack of facts” and was just “anecdotal”.

Well, here are some facts about how I was treated by UNM after I reported being sexually assaulted at a fraternity as a freshman college student:

UNM Police and UNM administration did not communicate and I was told different things from each of them.

I was told that UNM would not continue with the investigation unless I provided them with a copy of my SANE examination (a medical record documenting the findings by the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner).

After trying to continue with my school work following the assault, I realized I could not focus and needed to take a medical leave of absence from school. However, it took me months of running the same paperwork from one building to the other to try to get that leave achieved.

When I was finally able to get the leave of absence done, I was informed that I could no longer access the counseling services that I was receiving from the UNM therapist I was working with after the sexual assault.

I wanted to speak with President Frank about my frustrations and concerns about this process. I was told I had a meeting with him but found out it was just with his assistant.

The media person for UNM, Diane Anderson, accused me of being a liar.

I lost my Lottery Scholarship.

All of the issues with the way that UNM handled the report of my sexual assault fall squarely in line with the findings set forth by the DOJ’s report. Throughout the time immediately following my assault, I went through what seemed like constant humiliation in my interactions with UNM administration which caused me such stress and worry that I could no longer function at school. I had to leave my college life when I had just gotten started.

Since the DOJ released its findings of its investigation of UNM, President Frank has not done what any university leader who truly cared for students would do – apologize. Rather than thank the DOJ for the time and effort spent on analyzing how UNM could be a better and a safer place for everyone on campus, President Frank has instead spent his time discounting the report’s findings and complaining about being held to “high standards.”

Despite the media attention and the DOJ’s investigation and findings, President Frank does not seem to take the issue of responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment seriously. How can we expect any meaningful change in safety on campus when the leader of UNM decries the report as “inaccurate” and complains that he has the “unattainable goal of stopping campus sexual assault”?

Indeed, President Frank’s comments suggest that offering a safe campus and a comfortable educational environment is not high on his priority list because it is not a part of UNM’s “primary mission.” As this issue is not important to President Frank based on his comments and response to the DOJ investigation, he has fostered an environment of apathy and indifference at UNM to the dangers and harms of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

President Frank’s complaints about the DOJ findings underscore his ignorance of campus safety. Contrary to his statements to the media, UNM is not expected to be able to stop each and every perpetrator of sexual assault and harassment. But, having a response process in place that (a) punishes and humiliates the reporting victim; (b) is unfair and inconsistent; (c) does not appropriately inform reporting victims of their rights and remedies; and (d) does nothing to help heal and move forward, and discourages victims from reporting, creating an environment in which perpetrators know they can get away with these offenses.

I was a Lobo. Now I am a survivor. I loved UNM and was excited to be a college student there. After I was sexually assaulted and administration treated me like it was my fault, I could not return there as a student. If UNM really wants to pursue its mission of providing “high quality education, health care and research”, then President Frank should realize that none of those goals are attained if its students, faculty and staff are fearful and unsupported.

I sincerely hope that President Frank embraces the findings and suggestions to improve the welfare and safety of the campus so that it is not violating the civil rights of its students. However, I do not believe that UNM will be able to make any measurable improvement in its treatment of victims of sexual assault and harassment until there is a change in leadership there.

Ashlynn Ota

Former UNM student