RALEIGH, N.C. — The attorney for a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student who faces possible expulsion after saying publicly she's a rape victim says his client has filed a federal complaint against the school for retaliation.
Attorney Clay Turner says in a letter sent Monday to Chancellor Holden Thorp that Landen Gambill filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, and he asks Thorp to dismiss charges against Gambill.
Gambill is accused of violating UNC's honor code by creating an intimidating environment for the man who says raped her, although she hasn't named him. A campus board earlier cleared him of the sexual assault charge and but found him guilty of harassing her. He faces no criminal charges.
"The retaliatory charges against my client are inappropriate, unconstitutional and utterly without merit," Turner wrote in the letter, adding that Gambill won't participate in the Honor Court hearing.
The attorney alleges that UNC administrators are trying to discredit Gambill, citing emails from Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp to Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton in which Crisp says he knows of "no circumstances where the good faith report of a rape would result in Honor Code Charges."
"Mr. Crisp's not-so-subtle, and profoundly inappropriate, implication was that Ms. Gambill's allegations were false and made in bad faith," Turner wrote.
Gambill is one of five women who asked the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights to look into what they called an atmosphere of sexual violence at the school.
Their complaint accuses UNC-Chapel Hill of under-reporting sexual assault cases for 2010 in an annual report to the federal government on campus crime. It also alleged that campus officials allowed a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.
Turner says Gambill is only exercising her free-speech rights by discussing her experience and "UNC's shameful handling of her case." The honor code charge against her, he says, "has tragically provided her abuser with the opportunity to harass and intimidate her" and should stop.
"Ms. Gambill's public criticism of UNC – as an institution that ignores, silences and discredits sexual violence survivors as PR strategy – can no longer be met with attempts to ignore, silence and discredit her," he wrote in the letter to Thorp. "Instead, it is time for the university to take responsibility for the broken system it has created, starting by dismissing this case."