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Editorial: UNM should resolve prof investigation quickly, justly

In light of new complaints, the University of New Mexico made the right move in again suspending a professor who was previously under investigation over allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Now, it needs to proceed quickly but ensuring due process because having Cristobal Valencia still on the payroll is a difficult pill for hardworking taxpayers to swallow given the findings and patently offensive allegations by women that led to his first suspension and official censure.

After an earlier investigation, Valencia was disciplined but for some reason cleared by Les Field, chairman of the Anthropology Department, to return to class for the fall semester with the caveat that he would be “monitored.”

That investigation found probable cause that Valencia had violated university polices and produced findings of an “extremely serious nature” involving sexual harassment and differential treatment.

Allegations against Valencia, who has declined comment, are partly based on a memo reportedly delivered to dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Mark Peceny, from anthropology faculty members who wrote they “continue to work in a hostile working environment where they fear retaliation and are concerned about the safety of their graduate students.”

The memo makes specific complaints, including:

• “… 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.”

• Valencia “inappropriately touching and coming on to graduate students in public venues.”

• Unprofessional conduct toward white people, quoting Valencia as saying, “I don’t take orders from white bitches.”

• That Valencia created a sexual desirability list of female graduate students, described in vulgar terms unsuitable for general publication.

The university has ordered Valencia not to have contact with students or faculty while the investigation is conducted.

Unless these allegations and Office of Equal Opportunity findings are spurious, it’s hard to conceive of a situation in which it would be appropriate to have Valencia in a teaching position where he can exercise authority over students and create a hostile environment for his colleagues.

It would be beneficial to all if UNM can with reasonable dispatch determine the truth of the matter and if appropriate put an end to professor Valencia’s taxpayer-funded vacation.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.