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UNM works to keep Safety Week ‘fresh’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — At the University of New Mexico, “safety week” means more than a campus alarm drill and dormitory reminders about securing personal belongings.

That’s part of the programming that began Monday and runs through Friday. But so is a speech called “Taking Down Rape Culture,” a self-defense workshop and seminars on immigrant rights. There’s even a scavenger hunt for all gender-neutral and universal restrooms around campus – knowledge critical for those, including some transgender students, who feel endangered using other restroom facilities, said Frankie Flores, education coordinator at the university’s LGBTQ Resource Center.

“We have personal stories from students here on campus who would tell us they would choose their classes around where they could find a single-stall restroom, and some students wouldn’t even go to the bathroom while they were here on campus,” Flores said.

Safety Week organizers wanted to develop a “timely” slate of events, said Rob Burford, who oversees the university’s compliance with the federal campus security act. He said UNM’s Safety Week committee listened to input from students, faculty and staff.

“We want to keep it fresh,” he added.

Though UNM’s Safety Week is in just its second year, it incorporates some long-standing UNM events, like the Campus Safety Walk, scheduled for 8 tonight.

Sexual assault awareness and prevention is a recurring theme this week. In addition to Thursday night’s rape culture speech by author Kate Harding, UNM’s student government is launching the national “It’s On Us” campaign on campus today.

“It’s really to combat sexual assault from a peer community (rather) than a policy-making standpoint,” Associated Students of UNM President Noah Brooks said.

UNM has faced intense scrutiny for its handling of sexual assault cases. It is currently operating under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice – which in 2015 made UNM just the second university it investigated for sexual assault response.

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