Dear editor,

I feel it’s important to speak out against comments made by former Western New Mexico University coach and dean Jim Smith, who was the keynote speaker for the university’s graduation ceremony this month. He told a story about finding girls in a boy’s dorm room decades ago and, as a dean at the time, said he lectured the young men about breaking the rules.

“And I was really giving the one student a good speech,” he said. “When all of a sudden he raised his hand, and he quietly said, ‘Dean, do you know how hard it is to put pantyhose back on a drunk girl?’”

The immediate backlash from our community is warranted, with many people speaking out against the telling of this story which made light of rape. Perhaps we as a community can seize this opportunity to have a conversation about how we address education and sexual violence.

It seems to me that a commencement speech is educational, so it is important that any narrative related to sexual assault in a university speech communicate that sexual assault is totally unacceptable and unlawful.

Let’s continue to call out behavior that does not teach and model for our young people the values we want all of us to embody. Using our collective voices, we can grow and heal as a community.

Siah Correa Hemphill