Education

Feds to investigate UNC's handling of sex assault cases

Posted March 6, 2013

UNC-Chapel Hill seal on sidewalk

— The U.S. Department of Education has opened an investigation into how the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill investigates sexual assault cases on campus.

Five women, including a former assistant dean, in January asked the department's Office of Civil Rights to investigate what they call 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.

"We are opening the allegation for investigation because OCR has determined that it has jurisdiction and that the complaint was filed timely," Robin Murphy, an official in the civil rights office, wrote in a March 1 letter to the women. "Please note that opening the allegation for investigation does not imply that OCR has made any decision on the merits of your complaint."

There's no time-frame for how long the investigation will take.

Annie Clark, one of the complainants, said she reported being sexually assaulted to UNC administrators in 2007.

"When I reported that I was raped, I was told that rape is like football, and if I were to look back on it, what would I have done differently," Clark said. "I was just absolutely flabbergasted."

She said the complaint is an effort to change the culture of how rape victims are treated on college campuses nationwide.

UNC sexual assault Sexual assault victim: 'I was told rape is like football'

"It's about justice," Clark said. "This has been going on for far too long all across the country, and nothing has been done about it, so we finally decided to speak out."

UNC-Chapel Hill spokeswoman Karen Moon said the university has been notified of the OCR investigation and will cooperate fully with it.

Students have held rallies in recent weeks in support of sex assault survivors, including Landen Gambill, another one of the women who filed the complaint.

Gambill now faces possible expulsion for speaking out publicly about being assaulted last year. The student-run Honor Court has accused her of violating the university's honor code by creating an intimidating environment for her accused attacker.

She and other students say they want UNC-Chapel Hill to adopt new policies for handling sex assault cases, expand resources for alleged victims and require more training of administrators.

University administrators have defended their response to sexual assaults and denied they under-report such crimes.

They also hired Gina Smith, a former prosecutor and nationally recognized sexual misconduct expert, as a consultant to help the university review and revise its policies.

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  • mountainlover Mar 7, 5:37 p.m.

    Dpanter12: You have asked a fair question. Smith retired in 1997 and I would find it very difficult to believe that he was a part of anything unethical. As I have implied before, I do believe some unethical things are going on and I am not happy about it.

    I hate to tell you, but some people who support rival schools WOULD gloat...just as some UNC fans gloated when NC State was under investigation at various times. I don't like that sort of stuff, because it ends up hurting higher education in NC. I am all for pulling for my Tar Heels BUT not at the expense of ethics or of damaging educational opportunities.

  • Dpanther12 Mar 7, 5:18 p.m.

    @mountainlover...If unc would be punished for any of these scandals going on over there...I doubt anyone would actually gloat.

  • Dpanther12 Mar 7, 5:16 p.m.

    @mountainlover...Martins own report acknowledged phony classes back to 1994. Unc started the AFAM scheme in 1992 when those basketball team members switched majors. Did the man that graduated 98% of his players not know what was going on? Based on unc's conduct...of say that's a fair question. Too bad there is no reason to conduct an independent review.

  • mountainlover Mar 7, 4:56 p.m.

    Dpanther12: Please cite any evidence regarding Dean Smith, please?

  • mountainlover Mar 7, 4:29 p.m.

    For those of you who are gloating about this happening at Carolina, you should be ashamed; there is a push to lower crime statistics at just about every college and university in this country. You are just not aware of it, because you do not work at one of them. YOUR turn to be investigated could be next. And I am not taking up for UNC. Yes, I graduated from Carolina. But right about now, I am hanging my head in shame. There is a tone deafness to certain things that I want to be fixed.

  • Dpanther12 Mar 7, 4:20 p.m.

    The people on here attacking the alleged victim sound very much like the people that run UNC (and their BOG accomplices). It's not about determining guilt or innocence. It's about how they treat women who even come forward...and quite likely about covering up crimes (based on UNC's track record).

    Faculty remain silent while being thrown under the bus to protect the basketball team. I am embarassed for the alumni as they trip over themselves making excuses for behavior they used to look down their noses at. The BOG, John Swafford and Fmr Gov Martin have all demonstrated about any reasonable doubt the quality of their competence and more likely, their character.

    We have had mis-appropriation of taxpayer money, shady hiring practices, a decades long scheme to keep basketball players eligible that dates back to Dean Smith and John Swafford and now covering up and squashing rape allegations.

    When do we (and I mean you UNC) say enough is enough? When does ethics rear it's ugly head?

  • bill0 Mar 7, 4:02 p.m.

    " One goes to university police first. They report it up their chain of command, and then it gets swept under the rug."

    Actually, no. University police are actual police. This young lady went to college administrators to complain that her ex-boyfriend was stalking her. In making that case, she claimed she was raped about 4 months earlier. She never went to the police at the time and STILL hasn't.

    "Where are Gambill's parents in this whole mess? "

    She didn't tell them. One of her claims of discrimination is that the honor court notified her parents of her rape allegations.

    "She hasn't named him but he's screaming he's the victim? Sounds like a guilty dog barking to me"

    Well, he was immediately suspended from school and removed from campus. It's taken him about a year of petitioning and submitting to various psychological tests for him to be readmitted to school - even though honor court found the claims to be groundless.

  • mountainlover Mar 7, 3:48 p.m.

    The US Department of Education IS an expert in determining whether or not campus procedures were adequate for insuring that crime statistics were reported accurately on the university's Clery Report. Any college or university which accepts federal funds from DOE and disburses them to students in the form of federal financial aid must file a Clery Report each year. That report must list how many instances of certain crimes have taken place over the past year. It is my belief that DOE will not be too happy with the Honor Court handling sexual assault cases. This deal is not about this one rape case. It is about the Clery Report, the handling of sexual assault cases, and civil rights.

  • FairPlay Mar 7, 3:48 p.m.

    And the US Department of Education is an expert on investigating rape cases...how? Wouldn't the US Department of Justice be a BIT better at that?

    They are not investigating the rape cases themselves, but how UNC is handling the charges and cases. The department of ed is doing the investigation because they can cut some funding and their standing if they are found guilty of covering up the numbers.

  • masontom56 Mar 7, 3:37 p.m.

    UNC must be run by an Italian boat driver , it's sinking so fast.

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