UNC-Chapel Hill implements new sex assault policy

Posted August 28, 2014 2:22 p.m. EDT
Updated August 28, 2014 6:41 p.m. EDT

— Eighteen months after federal officials began investigating how sex assaults on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus are handled, university administrators on Thursday implemented a new policy for such cases.

"The adoption of this policy is a vital step in taking a wide-ranging approach to ensuring a safe and welcoming campus," Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement.

The policy, which also addresses harassment and related misconduct, interpersonal violence and stalking, applies to all students and employees, Folt said, adding that all outstanding reports of sexual violence will immediately be handled using revised procedures.

Early last year, 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 accused 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 had created a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.

Subsequent student protests over campus sex assaults prompted then-Chancellor Holden Thorp to appoint a 21-member task force to study the issue.

"The task force thoughtfully examined every aspect of our institutional processes, from reporting, support and response, to investigation, adjudication and appeals," Folt said. "Even as the policy was being developed, campus groups were working together to significantly improve processes and streamline coordination."

UNC-Chapel Hill also unveiled a website that details prohibited conduct, including stalking gender-based harassment, provides resources for victims and outlines the adjudication process.

A UNC system security initiative recently adopted a recommendation to remove students from grievance panels that hear sex assault cases and have only trained personnel handle the cases.

Folt said UNC-Chapel Hill officials would continue to review the policy for any needed changes and will soon provide online training to students, faculty and staff about the policy.