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UNM anthropology professor faces termination

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

A University of New Mexico professor found to have violated school policies regarding sexual misconduct is now facing termination.

That follows an earlier decision that anthropology professor Cristobal Valencia only be censured, which would have allowed him back into the classroom.

Mark Peceny, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, recommended this week that Valenica’s contract be terminated. The anthropology department falls under arts and sciences.

The recommendation comes after some faculty and students criticized the university’s initial decision to only censure Valencia in connection with an investigation that found that he violated school policies.

“The Anthropology chair, (Les Field) along with the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will continue to work with faculty and students in the department as part of their ongoing efforts to provide academic support and counseling to students requesting it, and to increase education and prevention efforts in future,” said spokeswoman Dianne Anderson in a statement Friday.

Valencia has not returned calls from the Journal and his attorney, Michael Mozes, has declined Journal requests for comment. An attempt to reach Mozes on Friday afternoon was unsuccessful.

Provost Chauki Abdallah will review Peceny’s most recent recommendation within the next few weeks. If he agrees with it, Valencia will be terminated, though Valencia has opportunities to appeal that decision.

Valencia is a tenure-track assistant professor with an annual salary of $71,000.

His contract can be terminated before its conclusion if there’s a “serious violation of University policy” or “other serious professional or ethical deficiencies,” according to the faculty handbook.

An Office of Equal Opportunity investigation earlier this year found probable cause that Valencia directed sexual comments toward students, inappropriately touched students and cultivated relationships with female students that could lead to sex.

He was suspended in March while the university decided what action to take. He received the censure notice in late June and has said he would appeal.

But he was again suspended when new complaints surfaced earlier this month.

The recommendation to terminate “was issued following the Dean’s review of the Department chair’s earlier recommendation that Professor Valencia be censured – a serious form of discipline short of termination – in response to findings by the UNM Office of Equal Opportunity that Professor Valencia engaged in discrimination and sexual harassment,” Anderson’s statement said.

Anthropology chair Les Field recommended censure, which allowed Valencia back into the classroom with close monitoring by fellow faculty. In the June letter, Peceny approved the censure.

Three professors with the anthropology department won’t be teaching classes in that department in connection with the university investigation of Valencia.

Meanwhile, emails obtained by the Journal through a public records request show that Valencia clashed with at least one of his colleagues, criticizing her in an email.

“Immediately stop telling potential graduate student applicants and other faculty that I am under investigation for ‘sexual predation,’ ” he wrote in a Dec. 8 email. “This is false and a violation of University discrimination policy. I have provided full information regarding this behavior to the appropriate investigators and university administrators.”

The email was sent after the university’s investigation of Valencia began.