Alibi V.25 No.32 • Aug 11-17, 2016 

Editorial

A Chronicle of Misdeeds

Valencia scandal points to a larger issue at UNM

The Department of Anthropology
The Department of Anthropology
Courtesy of the University of New Mexico
“When I was a cadet at the academy, his exploits were required reading...”Captain Kirk adds irony to his comments about Garth of Izar, who has fallen into the depths of insanity.

What one loves can also cause great disappointment, as Kirk’s quote demonstrates. And so falls another member of the UNM faculty. And not far from the tree one supposes, but just far enough to possibly spoil the garden and sour the earth around our state’s flagship universityone more time.

There have been multiple transgressions upon the rich soil of our own “Harvard on the Rio Grande”there have now been multiple episodes of sexual misconduct to report. Cyclically, they bring embarrassment to a fine school. If viewed as a text, they are part of a book that seemingly has no ending and only infrequent editors.

Now fascinated readers (read: alumni, community members, the world at large) can add one more heavy chapter to that unruly mass of dark matter, the really weighty text apparently haunting the university of New Mexico.

Historically, they range from the strange tale of trouble in the school’s creative writing program and English department, to the narrative of a former president using his office to maintain an online sex services site, through the epic tone-poem about the strange goings-on between students, former members of the UNM Foundation and the Director of Choral Studies in the storied music department.

Now fascinated readers (read: alumni, community members, the world at large) can add one more heavy chapter to that unruly mass of dark matter, the really weighty text apparently haunting the university of New Mexico.

Listen: This narrative of inappropriate behavior and actions has drawn the notice of the Department of Justice, who notified the university this past spring that the institution’s policies regarding sex and gender discrimination were inadequate, were not in compliance with federal law. That action has put officials on notice, but in the meantime, more outrages have apparently occurred.

As the news unwinds from Scholes Hall and rolls through town, one imagines it’s difficult for citizens, much less members of the UNM community, to refrain from passing judgment on an institution that has once again shown poor judgment itself. At least this time ‘round the tree, UNM’s administration seems bent towards the sun; that is, it has been reported that they want to resolve a newly nefarious problem quickly and efficiently. Sort of.

To wit: Anthropology professor Cristobal Valencia was very recently accused of sexual harassment and differential treatment of students based on their sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity. Although Valencia was suspended and censured last semester as a result of findings handed down by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity, he has, of this writing, been reinstated and will teach courses this fall.

After much outrage from the community, faculty and student body, UNM President Bob Frank made an official statement late last week, proclaiming the investigation against Valencia reopened; he promised to “thoroughly review the full case again.”

Although the paperwork regarding said initial investigation, as obtained by the local daily, was heavily redacted, it confirmed that there was probable cause to take disciplinary action against Valencia.

Perhaps more difficult to tolerate than the events in questionand the subsequent redaction of their documentation by university officialsare reports from the anthropology department about Valencia’s inappropriate and damaging behavior.

A memo sent to College of Arts and Sciences Dean Mark Paceny by his concerned colleagues at the beginning of the spring 2015 semester reports that Valencia held drunken sleepovers with students where drug use was encouraged and consequently unwanted sexual advances were made.

Valencia also reportedly had social interaction problems with individuals whom he considered to be “white.” To this end, he used derogatory, racist and condescendingly sexist words to describe his coworkers on at least two occasions. Valencia, it was reported by his fellows, showed signs of drunkenness at public functions where he also allegedly made unwanted advances to some graduate students.

If these accusations are borne out, they are part of a tragically disturbing pattern of misconduct that has shaped the perception of the university as well as significantly affecting its efficacy as a place of learning and free expression.

Seven years ago, the creative writing program at UNM suffered nearly irreparable damage to its reputation and functionality after a series of scandals that began with a graduate student working as a dominatrixsometimes with students in her program (an association the school found outside of its jurisdictional and disciplinary ken)morphed into a series lawsuits alleging discrimination, retaliation and breach of contract coming from both parties involved in the conflict.

Five years ago, the former president of the university, F. Chris Garcia, was arrested and charged with running an online prostitution ring from his campus office. Though Garcia’s lawyers got the long-time university administrator off the hook because New Mexico laws at the time did not cover electronic houses of prostitution, Garcia’s behavior his online moniker on the Southwest Companions website, where he served as administrator, was “Burque Pops”caused lasting damage to the Lobo brand.

Less than a year ago, in a copyrighted story, this city’s paper of record wrote how music professor Bradley Ellingboe saw his 30-year career at UNM collapse “after an intense affair with a UNM Foundation employee exploded, resulting in a 1,000-page harassment investigation report and setting fire to the rumor mill in the university’s music program as the two left their jobs.” It was reported in the same article that the investigation into Ellingboe revealed “Ellingboe, who made $88,185 a year, falsified a travel document to get reimbursed for a private trip and used his work computer to send and receive hundreds of inappropriate sexual images, with many of them sent to the Foundation employee, Samantha Starr.”

And now it may be Cristobal Valencia’s turn to add tarnish to the silver and cherry symbol of higher education that our state and its citizens so value.

In order to send a signal acknowledging the mission failure demonstrated by these tragically repetitive sorts of misconduct university leaders should meet immediately to formulate and enforce substantive polices that prevent their recurrance.

As a necessary means of ensuring the safety of students and staff and as a mark of the turnaround in accountability and policy that will not only satisfy the feds but may help to restore the schools credibility, Valencia must be de-rooted and tossed from the yard. Like an intruding weed that has the potential to choke all else that grows in the state’s best and biggest garden, his continued presence on campus is detrimental to all that grows there.

Update: Shortly after Weekly Alibi went to press last night, the UNM newsroom published the following statement online :

“Effective immediately, Valencia is suspended from all academic duties associated with his faculty appointment, including teaching, research and service. The suspension will remain in place while the new complaints are investigated by the appropriate authorities, or until the case is resolved.

His suspension is an emergency short-term action taken as a precaution to prevent any risk of harm to others, and was based upon the seriousness of the allegations. However, it is important to note that no additional action will be taken unless the investigators can confirm the new allegations.”

Garth of Izar