There are two ways a campus sexual assault can be investigated: 1) criminally and by police, which may lead to a trial in months or years down the line 2) administratively by a university, which could lead to a student being suspended or expelled. People who’d been sexually assaulted at the University of New Mexico came to me with stories about how the long, confusing administrative investigation left them feeling vulnerable, and in some cases, unable to finish school. In some instances, the reporting process itself, they told me, put them in jeopardy. They said the system re-traumatized survivors of sexual assault.
The federal Office of Civil Rights says administrative university investigations should take 60 days. But I was hearing from my sources that these were going on for way longer than that.
A recent tweet from U.S. Immigrants and Customs Enforcement (ICE) revealed that the agency had arrested an Arkansas man on “child sex tourism charges.”
That arrest fit the narrative ICE spreads – that immigrants are criminals who need to be deported – so the agency released details. But try to get information on a detained immigrant not wanted for any crime other than living in the United States without legal status, and you get a different answer. Last month, after four days of back-and-forth emails, an ICE spokeswoman told me the agency would release no information on a case I was asking about “absent a signed privacy waiver from the individual.”
For days, she said she was researching my request. She could have given me that answer from the start. That’s called being given the runaround.
The city of Santa Fe’s Public Records Custodian Bernadette Romero does a couple of things that make her stand out to SPJ Rio Grande. One, she’ll reach out to someone requesting a public record to help refine their request so they get what they’re looking for—and it’s not buried in pages and pages of unnecessary material. And two, she doesn’t automatically ask for time extensions. Romero tries to turn records around as quickly as possible. Reporter Jeff Proctor spoke to Romero about what it’s like to be a custodian of public records and why she thinks it’s important to maintain a good relationship with “frequent flyers” like journalists.