How New Mexico State Has Responded in the Year Since Basketball Hazing

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Since sexual assault allegations involving three former New Mexico State University men's basketball players against teammates and members of the training staff, which was initially described as hazing, shut down the NMSU men's basketball season in February 2023, there have been three independent investigations that the school were either required to conduct or did so as a result.

As reported by the Las Cruces Sun News, the New Mexico Higher Education Department also requested an action plan from the university. Many of the investigation findings addressed increased training and education for administration, staff and students, and a review of internal policies related to reporting incidents and updating associated processes.

Former men's basketball players DeShawndre Washington, Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr. were found to be responsible for violating NMSU policy regarding sexual harassment, sexual assault (fondling) and conduct that has the purpose or effect of interfering with a victim's academic or work performance or creating a hostile environment.

The three players have pleaded not guilty to multiple felony assault charges following a New Mexico Department of Justice investigation, with a jury trial scheduled for November.

Related: NMSU Cancels Rest of Men's Basketball Season Amid Hazing Allegation

NMSU dean of students Ann Goodman outlined steps the university has taken in the past year, starting with training and education for everyone on campus.

In the fall of 2023, a formal Hazing Prevention Education program provided by Kimberly Novak of Novak Talks was held for athletes, coaches and athletics administration and staff. Goodman's staff also presented information regarding hazing, Title IX and student conduct expectations to all 16 athletic programs and coaches, Jason Groves of the Sun News reported. Signage across campus has been posted so students know how to report concerns.

Goodman said the education programs will repeat each semester.

New Mexico State has also become  an institutional member in the national Hazing Prevention Consortium.

"They will have researches come in and do a campus climate assessment," Goodman said. "There is a site visit planned for the spring."

Two advisory groups have been formed, according to the Sun News report.

The NMSU Hazing Prevention and Education Work Group was formed over the summer and includes students and representatives from athletics, fraternity and sorority life, student conduct, Aggie Health and Wellness recreation, OIE, housing and legal counsel.

The six-person athletic advisory committee meets monthly and reports to interim NMSU president Jay Gogue.

"They receive all of the information we have been provided," Gogue said. "We are asking them to give us advice on things that they are concerned about."

Among the most notable changes include the development of an incident reporting form that was implemented in the fall for student athletes that does not involve members of the athletic department, including a coach. The form is immediately forwarded to the dean of students and the Office of Institutional Equity, Groves reported.

"That allows athletes to make a report outside of their regular 9- to 5," Goodman said. "Sometimes they can be reluctant to talk to coaches or staff because it could ultimately jeopardize playing time or something. Athletes are a community and we crafted the form to be more athlete friendly."

Goodman said the university has addressed its chain of command when information is learned, most notably adding senior women's administrator Dr. Amber Burdge to a group of campus organizations that includes NMSU Police Department, OIE and the Dean of Students.

"This incident has given me some opportunities that I am taking advantage of," Goodman told the Sun News. "Prior to last year, I didn't have a lot of contact with athletics. Now I talk to them pretty regularly."

If an athlete, or any member of the student body, become identified as a threat to public safety, Goodman said the university has always had the ability to remove individuals from campus.

"We always could step in and pull an athlete off a team, whether a coach liked it or not," Goodman said. "What happens in athletic departments, most of the rumors or complaints stay within teams. They rarely leak out until something significant happens.

"My observation is that coaches want to handle things internally. Sometimes it's successful and sometimes it's not. As dean of students and OIE, we have access and authority to do what we need to do to remove a student from classes, campus or activities and we have done that in the past."

According to Groves, the NCAA currently requires transfer athletes to disclose any past involvement in a Title IX investigation with the new school. In the spring of 2023, Goodman said NMSU expanded the attestation form to include any misconduct at previous schools and allows Goodman's office and OIE to investigate and make a recommendation regarding enrollment at NMSU. Outgoing transfers or graduated athletes are now required to complete the Student Athlete Experience Survey, where they may  report concerns with coaches, staff or team members.

Additionally, the student athlete handbook is undergoing a review and will be updated prior to the 2024-25 academic year.

"That is something that becomes important going into the next academic year," Gogue told the Sun News. "The key thing is to make sure any student knows how to report and know they have a responsibility to report when things are important."

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