UNC-CH seeking changes to sex assault policies
Posted May 7, 2013
Updated May 8, 2013
Chapel Hill, N.C. — As federal investigators examine how the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill handles sexual assault cases on campus, a university task force will be picking apart policies and procedures in hopes of improving its system.
Five women 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 and alleged that campus officials have created a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.
Student protests in recent months prompted Chancellor Holden Thorp to appoint a 21-member task force to study the issue. Christi Hurt, an alumna who directs the Carolina Women's Center and serves as the interim Title IX coordinator, heads the panel, which will meet for the first time next week.
"What we're trying to do is clarify different points of procedure (and) make them really transparent for students, so people can really make informed choices as they're figuring out how to proceed in the process," Hurt said Tuesday.
Student feedback will be critical to revamping policy, she said. Task force head: UNC-CH system for sex assault cases not broken
"I don't feel like the system is broken," she said. "I feel like there's always more opportunity to daylight the critical places where people can intersect with the system and what that will look like before they start."
Andrea Pino, one of the women who filed the federal complaint, said she is pleased with the diversity of the 21 members on the task force and that UNC-Chapel Hill is tackling the issue.
"I think that our complaint and what we've been advocating has definitely challenged the university – that it's more than just compliance, that it's more about appropriate, corrective and timely action," Pino said. "I think we have a long way to go, but we're definitely taking the right step."
UNC-Chapel Hill has also hired Gina Smith, a former prosecutor and nationally recognized expert on sexual assault issues, to help the school strengthen its policies in such cases.