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UNM reopens harassment probe of anthropology professor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — University of New Mexico President Bob Frank said Friday the university has reopened an investigation into an anthropology professor – who was previously suspended, censured and reinstated in connection with sexual harassment allegations – over new complaints.

“In light of these additional reports, we will thoroughly review the full case again along with any new material that we obtain,” Frank said in a statement. “As we carefully consider all of the evidence, we promise to take appropriate actions as warranted.”

VALENCIA: Misconduct with students alleged

VALENCIA: Misconduct with students alleged

The statement also comes after some UNM community members, including a professor who had advised an alleged student victim, questioned the university’s decision to let assistant professor Cristobal Valencia resume teaching and advising students.

In his statement, Frank appeared to address those critics.

“Let me assure you this issue has our full attention,” he said. “We are listening to your concerns and are working to address them. The University is committing additional resources to monitor the situation and to respond to students.”

The Journal attempted to reach Valencia by email Friday but received no response.

The latest development follows a Journal story and other news reports earlier this week examining the investigation and disciplining of Valencia.

A page of the redacted report detailing the investigation into Cristobal Valencia given to the Journal in response to a request under the Inspection of Public Records Act.

A page of the redacted report detailing the investigation into Cristobal Valencia given to the Journal in response to a request under the Inspection of Public Records Act.

A UNM report provided to the Journal under the Inspection of Public Records Act was heavily redacted and contained few specifics, including what Valencia did to merit his censure and suspension.

But the Journal obtained a memo from anthropology faculty members that was reportedly given to Mark Peceny, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, that includes various complaints and allegations about Valencia’s alleged misconduct.

In the six-page memo reportedly delivered in January, the faculty said there were incidents of “students being encouraged to get drunk and party with drugs at his home, in which they were then encouraged to sleep over at his house where unwanted sexual advances were made.”

The faculty members also accused Valencia of “inappropriately touching and coming on to graduate students in public venues.”

The letter also details complaints about Valencia’s conduct toward “white” people, quoting him as saying, “I don’t take orders from white bitches.” At another point, the letter says, he called a colleague a “stupid white (expletive)” in front of students and a faculty member.

Valencia would allegedly get drunk in social settings and ask graduate students to drive him home or around town. He also created a sexual desirability list of female graduate students – but using a far more vulgar term, the letter said.

The faculty wrote they “continue to work in a hostile working environment where they fear retaliation and are concerned about the safety of their graduate students.”

Peceny wrote a letter to Valencia in March, informing him that an investigation by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity had produced findings of an “extremely serious nature,” and involved sexual harassment and differential treatment. It also said further investigation into a violation of alcohol policies was warranted.

Censure involves a mark on Valencia’s record and close monitoring by other faculty members.

Valencia, an assistant professor of anthropology, has been with the university since 2002.

Les Field, chairman of the anthropology department, said it was his decision to censure Valencia, effectively lifting the suspension.

DOJ criticism

The investigation comes at a time when the U.S. Department of Justice said UNM’s policies failed to comply with some federal gender anti-discrimination laws. The federal agency released that report earlier this year and is negotiating with university officials on how to move forward.

KOB-TV 4 reported Wednesday that former students said Valencia harassed and discriminated against them. The report also featured interviews from an anonymous professor and student who said they left the university because of Valencia.

Provost Chaouki Abdallah acknowledged to the Journal that he knew a professor had left the department, but that his office only recently learned about the student’s departure. Abdallah told the Journal earlier this week that the findings of the study were “troubling,” and that “every effort has been and will be taken to protect the rights of all students and faculty.”

The documents provided by UNM indicate that at least four witnesses were part of the initial investigation and that 44 interviews were eventually conducted of faculty and students.

UNM administrators suspended Valencia from late March to June, and ordered him to avoid contact with faculty and students in the department.

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