Op-Ed: Boldly Indifferent to Sexual Assault at NMSU

Four years ago, I was sexually assaulted at NMSU. This is exceedingly common on college campuses, “among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation”. Of course, when I read last week that ASNMSU had produced a resolution concerning the lack of priority placed on sexual assault at NMSU, decrying unresolved sexual assault cases, and what appears to be a lackadaisical approach to applying sanctions, I was not surprised. Sexual assault, although serious, is not taken seriously enough at NMSU.

Conversations about sexual assault can damage an institution’s prestige, lower enrollment, make NMSU a little less of the bold institution that allows students to shape their future. Image is very important here, seeking funding is always the most important consideration. As we barrel blindly towards becoming an R1 institution, we’ve forgotten what it means to serve our students beyond producing research. We want to shape minds (and make money), but we’ve neglected the importance of body and spirit.

However, I think the office of Dean of Students has been very bold. It is bold to treat sexual assault and sexual harassment as if mitigating circumstances (such as time passed since the report was issued) would make it acceptable for an administrator to not apply a sanction or give a lesser sanction. For those who have experienced sexual assault and harassment here at NMSU, the time between when the OIE sent you the report, and when you decided to finally read it will not remove the memories of being violated from their minds. It will not make what happened to them any less serious, it will not undo mental and physical damage.

Time passed is not a mitigating circumstance. It is bold for an administrator, a Dean, to state that they advocate for those who are perpetrators of sexual assault.

It is bold to double down, and state In my mind we are doing a lot to support both the complainant and the respondentA lot of times the complainant will get a lot of support, and the person being accused, the respondent, would immediately become a pariah whether they were guilty or not. It is bold to have no clear understanding of the Title IX process because the investigative process is when supportive measures are given, not the sanctioning process. If you think your role is to assist the perpetrator of a sexual assault AFTER an investigative report of findings has been issued, you cannot properly do your job to sanction for that finding. It is bold not to understand that this process is impartial.

The Dean of Students of one of the few four-year institutions in New Mexico should be competent. This means having a deep and complex understanding of the processes that your job requires you to administer, or of the sanctions that you should apply. The benefit of the doubt and light sanctions should not be given to students who are willing to rape another individual. To sexually violate another individual. I don’t think I need to paint that picture for you, Dean Goodman. Sanctions should not be light when victims have to go through the difficulties of reporting, only to feel like reporting was for nothing. Thank goodness you will not be involved in the sanctioning process going forward.

I was sexually assaulted at NMSU four years ago. At that time I had no knowledge of the Title IX process. I felt too embarrassed and traumatized to be retraumatized by the criminal justice system. If I had gone to administrators here, although not the current Dean of Students, my ‘advocate’ (what a laughable term to use) might have suggested to me that I still had the option to “involve law enforcement, with no regard to how traumatizing that process might be–as if going through the criminal justice system is an adequate response to NMSU’s failure to sanction. This indifference and inability to understand institutional roles only works to further perpetuate rape- culture on campus.

It is unlikely that administrators here will ever have a clear understanding of the importance of Title IX, sexual violence prevention and outreach, and knowing how to actually do one’s job. But if are so bold as to state that we allow students to define the course of their success, why would we cripple them by failing to do our due diligence in sanctioning acts of sexual violence?

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