As the University of New Mexico settles into final projects and exams, there is new leadership to help guide the University’s future.
A 10-month process of finding UNM’s 22nd president has led to the unanimous selection of Garnette S. Stokes, the University’s first female president.
And she is not new to handling campus controversy.
Personal safety and sexual violence became a persisting problem on FSU’s campus, leading to frequent instances of Title IX investigations. Stokes initiated an organization to address sexual assault, called “kNOw MORE”.
In the final months of Stoke’s leadership at FSU in 2014, there was a shooting at the campus’s Strozier Library. Stokes intended to make sure the campus was safely recovering from the incident before accepting a new position at the University of Missouri, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
After her time at FSU, Stokes was appointed executive vice president and provost member of the University of Missouri in 2015, the Missourian.
MU also experienced a dramatic deficit, causing budget cuts and layoffs for employees.
In 2015, MU was the scene of a controversial protest for minority students’ rights, which sparked the creation of the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX with the help of Stokes, the Missourian said.
According to CNN, the then-chancellor of the University, R. Bowen Loftin, said the protests at MU in September of 2015 were caused by “incidents of bias and discrimination.” The protests were sparked when the head of the campus’ student government made remarks on Facebook that denounced homosexuality and transgender individuals.
The protests began because student activists felt not enough action was taken to reprimand the head of student government for his statement.
Another discriminatory act occurred in October of that year, when an African-American student organization meeting was interrupted by an intoxicated white student who shouted racial slurs, according to CNN. This incident led to student protests, hunger strikes and football players boycotting game performance because of the lack of action by the provost at the time.
In response to the student body backlash to the controversies, Stokes then helped create foundations for the Office for Civil Rights & Title IX.
Stokes has accepted the offer to serve as president of UNM and may use her experiences to eventually address the issues on this campus. According to the annual UNM Clery Report for 2017, this campus has experienced an increase in crimes, specifically concerning sexual violence.
UNM’s LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center has made efforts to spread awareness for assault and harassment, and Stokes might be able to use her experience to continue to address such campus safety measures.
Rebecca Brusseau is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers the LGBTQ community. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @r_brusseau.