Governor will push for anti-hazing bill

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Apr. 28—Allegations of sexual abuse and hazing within two New Mexico college sports programs this spring have prompted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to call for legislative action in the 2024 session.

"I — along with my administration — have ZERO tolerance for abuse of any kind, and I will root out cultures of hazing and abuse at every higher education institution in New Mexico," Lujan Grisham said in a statement issued by her office Friday afternoon. "In the next legislative session, I will be putting anti-hazing and abuse legislation on the call, making it unequivocal in state law that hazing is a crime and those who do harm to others will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."

Lujan Grisham's office issued the statement after a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Thursday against Eastern New Mexico University sports administrators, a coach and the school's board of regents. The complaint alleges sexual abuse perpetrated by the husband of former Greyhounds women's basketball coach Meghan De Los Reyes and contends athletic director Paul Weir did nothing to stop it.

According to the Governor's Office, New Mexico is one of six states that does not have an anti-hazing law.

Hazing of a sexual nature is among the allegations in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by two former New Mexico State men's basketball players, who claim staff members were aware of incidents throughout the Aggies' bewitched season and did nothing to correct them.

The lawsuit filed in 3rd Judicial District Court listed former players William "Deuce" Benjamin and Shakiru Odenewu as plaintiffs; they were freshmen teammates at New Mexico State. Benjamin's father also is a plaintiff. New Mexico State's board of regents, former coach Greg Heiar and three Aggies players are named as defendants.

After allegations of hazing became public, the school canceled the remainder of the 2022-23 season and fired Heiar in his first year at NMSU.

The lawsuit against Eastern New Mexico, filed by three unidentified former players, claims De Los Reyes' husband, Glen De Los Reyes, repeatedly assaulted the players, sometimes at the couple's home, while providing training services for the women's basketball team.

Meghan De Los Reyes threatened the athletes' playing time if they did not see Glen De Los Reyes for treatment, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, Weir called the plaintiffs into his office and said he did "not want to make things awkward" for the De Los Reyeses. The complaint contends Weir said he was "sorry" about what had happened to the women but added "at least we aren't like [New Mexico State University]."

Eastern New Mexico has not directly commented on the lawsuit, though the school issued a statement Friday in which it said it would address the allegations "in appropriate court proceedings."

"Based on advice from counsel, it would be improper to comment further as the matter is now litigation," the statement read. "However, ENMU will continue to strive toward providing a safe learning environment for its students, faculty, and staff."

Though she named neither Eastern New Mexico nor New Mexico State in her statement, the governor lashed out Friday, saying she was "appalled" at the allegations in the lawsuits, adding ""outrage doesn't go far enough."

"It is the responsibility of higher education leadership and governing boards to establish a safe, healthy environment for students, and I'm incredibly disappointed that it does not appear to be a priority at some of the state's public universities," Lujan Grisham said.

In March, Eastern New Mexico said it had investigated complaints within the women's basketball program and the use of volunteer services but uncovered "no findings of an abusive nature nor that any ENMU employee forced student-athletes to seek volunteer services."

However, the school also said it instructed "the volunteer" to stop working with athletes.

On April 18, Meghan De Los Reyes and the school parted ways after a 12-15 season, her second at the school.