Education

Report: UNC system should remove students from sex assault hearings

Posted July 31

— Students would not be involved with disciplinary hearings involving complaints of sexual violence at University of North Carolina System schools if final recommendations released Thursday by the system’s Campus Security Initiative are implemented.

Removing students from such hearings is among 34 recommendations by the group, tasked with offering suggestions to upgrade security and crime prevention efforts within the system’s 16 university campuses.

The report comes as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is under federal investigation for how administrators handled sexual assault cases on campus. The inquiry by the U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights was launched after five women alleged the school under-reported assault cases and created a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assaults.

In May, former Elizabeth City State University Police Chief Sam Beamon was charged by the State Bureau of Investigation with willful failure to discharge his duties after the department failed to properly investigate nearly 80 campus crimes, including sexual assault cases, between 2010 and 2013.

Because sexual assault, dating violence and stalking are considered violations of the student code of conduct at UNC campuses, the incidents are handled at some schools by panels that include students – some are even run by students – for adjudication.

The initiative’s final report suggests a system-wide campus security committee to share best practices regarding sexual violence and other safety concerns.

Other recommendations include:

  • Setting clear standards of training and experience for anyone investigating sexual violence complaints.
  • Campus police departments providing interpersonal violence training for all police investigators.
  • Expanding staff capacity to meet growing responsibilities in confronting sexual violence and other serious offenses.
  • Adopting a system-wide policy requiring regular reporting on alcohol and substance abuse issues to campus and system-level policymakers.
  • The UNC system exploring shared, online training to combat substance abuse.

Launched last fall by UNC System President Tom Ross and co-chaired by N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson, the initiative brought together administrators, campus police, faculty, students and others across the UNC system to explore issues surrounding sexual assault and other violent crimes, campus security and crime reporting.

Some of the suggestions, including adopting a system-wide policy on sexual harassment and sexual violence, would require approval by the UNC System Board of Governors, said Joni Worthington, system spokeswoman.

Other suggestions, including each campus establishing a committee to develop and implement efforts addressing substance abuse, can be implemented without board approval, Worthington said.

“With some of these recommendations, they may already be in place on some of our campuses,” she said. “Through the work of the initiative, part of what they were doing was looking to identify best practices and see what certain campuses were doing particularly well or what were the best practices, and filter out through greater collaboration or sharing resources that they can extend those best practices to all UNC campuses.”

Several UNC campuses are currently involved in a pilot program emphasizing alcohol and substance abuse prevention and treatment. Representatives from system schools will also serve on the Governor's Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force.

11 Comments

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  • 678devilish Aug 8, 11:42 a.m.

    The legal age in North Carolina is 18. Enough said. Regardless of their maturity or adolescents. 18 is the legal age in North Carolina. Learn the legal law for as age goes.

  • kermit60 Aug 5, 10:42 a.m.

    Not sure why schools do this in the first place. We wouldn't let a buch of workers at a factory decide if a co-worker was guilty of a crime. He would get a trial and lawyer.The night shift at the local hospital doesn't decide if one of their co-workers committed an assault or not. It's properly reported to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction. Both the acuser and acused have rights when acusations are made and they shouldn't be withheld because of where the crime took place.

  • ncmike Aug 1, 3:01 p.m.

    Whether a crime is committed on or off campus - regardless of the crime, its a crime and should first be dealt with by law enforcement. If there is a conviction, then and only then should the school itself get involved. That's just plain common sense.

  • tiblet Aug 1, 1:42 p.m.

    all crimes need to be handled by law enforcement...period. Sexual assault cases should not go before the honor council. If a student is convicted of a crime the university should have a plan for how they will respond to that.

  • SomeRandomGuy Aug 1, 1:11 p.m.

    "Some of the suggestions, including adopting a system-wide policy on sexual harassment and sexual violence, would require approval by the UNC System Board of Governors,"

    Um, NO, it wouldn't. The policy has already been adopted, by the NC legislature and made in to General Statutes, i.e. LAWS. Why do state run Universities get to choose which laws to follow??

  • sinenomine Aug 1, 12:57 p.m.

    SEANKELLY15, whether students should be able to attend or not is debatable and I offer no opinion here, but I think you are off-base when you say that they are adolescents.

    Most people are eighteen when they enter college. Therefore, almost by definition, the students in these cases are going to be at a minimum in their late teens or early twenties.

    Under current law adulthood is reached when one turns eighteen.

    You may disagree with the law; I know I have problems with it as well (when I was growing up the age of majority in the vast majority of states was twenty-one). The law is, however, the law and these young people are legally adults, period, just as 678DEVILISH said.

  • seankelly15 Aug 1, 11:53 a.m.

    678DEVILISH - "These students are young adults and should be allow to attend. PERIOD!"

    NO THEY AREN'T... by definition they are still adolescents. We are talking about potential criminal conduct on the part of the accused and the confidentiality of the proceeding. This is not like cheating on a test or plagiarism. This is not something for students to adjudicate.

  • 678devilish Aug 1, 11:31 a.m.

    These students are young adults and should be allow to attend. PERIOD!

  • Objective Scientist Aug 1, 10:58 a.m.

    My history with UNC-CH is long. Decades ago I earned a bachelors degree. I subsequently earned a masters and a Ph.D. degree. All in all I was a student at UNC-CH for a total of 8-9 years... almost a full decade as a student over a time span of ~15 years, working full-time between each degree. I have also maintained a close connection to UNC-CH since completing the last degree. During orientation for my freshman year the UNC Honor Code/System was presented. Beginning with that presentation I questioned the level of student AND University involvement with matters that were - frankly - CRIMES! Cheating on a test, plagiarizing on paper, etc. is one thing... assault, sexual or otherwise, is yet another thing. It has always been my opinion that if the result of an act committed off-campus by a non-student would be a misdemeanor or felony charge... it should be the same for an act by a student on campus - and therefore investigated by law enforcement and handled by the justice system!

  • lewiskr45 Aug 1, 8:58 a.m.

    hmmmmm, not so sure removing all students from this is conducive to openness.

    — Posted by scubagirl2

    Sure it is, they aren't saying the hearings are being less open, just getting unqualified students out of the hearings.

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