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IAIA campus in uproar over sexual assault allegation

A sexual assault allegation has rocked the campus community at the Institute of American Indian Arts, whose Lloyd Kiva New Welcome Center is shown here. (JOURNAL FILE)

SANTA FE – The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office is investigating an alleged sexual assault after a flier circulating at the Institute of American Indian Arts and on social media accused a school administrator of attacking a student and also called out other employees for sexual harassment and ignoring misconduct.

The anonymous flier gives a graphic, first-person account of an incident said to have taken place in April in which the male administrator — which the flier names — allegedly attacked a student in his office.

“I DON’T want an apology,” the letter states. “I want justice & safety for native women/two-spirits/people at a native school.”

In a campus-wide statement sent out last week, IAIA President Robert Martin wrote that the school had reported the assault allegation to the sheriff’s office, which confirmed that it is investigating.

“This is a reminder to all members of the IAIA community that IAIA takes all claims and complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence seriously,” Martin’s statement reads, adding IAIA also will conduct its own investigation.

Reached by phone Monday, the staff member accused of attacking the student last month told the Journal, “I did not commit sexual assault,” but he declined additional comment.

IAIA spokesperson Eric Davis confirmed that about 20-25 students held a walk-out on Thursday in a “gathering of solidarity” spurred by the assault allegations and that some students brought up the case at Saturday’s annual IAIA Powwow. And on Facebook last week, the IAIA Alumni Council posted a statement demanding the resignation of the accused of administrator and that the school “take swift steps to review all complaints of inappropriate behavior by faculty and staff.”

A local Pueblo women activist group, Three Sisters Collective, also brought up the controversy on social media, calling out two staff members facing accusations and saying that the allegations came to light only after the organization had worked with both of them on a campus event to bring attention to missing and murdered indigenous women.

“This is an issue that is also about domestic and sexual violence affecting the most vulnerable in our indigenous communities; we are disheartened to know that these two individuals are reportedly part of the problem,” Three Sisters’ letter states.

In President Martin’s statement, he asked that anyone on campus who has been the victim or sexual harassment or assault, or knows anything about such incidents, to contact his office at 505-424-2401.

Last year, famed Native American author Sherman Alexie was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct at IAIA when he was a mentor and consultant there. His name was subsequently dropped from a scholarship program.

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