Education

UNC drops Honor Court case against student who reported rape

Posted June 6, 2013 6:34 p.m. EDT
Updated June 6, 2013 9:32 p.m. EDT

— University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp is dismissing an Honor Court case against a sophomore who has questioned the university's handling of sexual assault cases, he said in an email to students and employees Thursday afternoon.

Landen Gambill was charged with violating UNC's Honor Code for allegedly creating an intimidating environment for a man who she says raped her, although she never publicly named him.

A campus board cleared him of the sexual assault charge and found him guilty of harassing her.

In March, Gambill and four other women filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to look into what they called an atmosphere of sexual violence at the school.

Gambill said Thursday that she withrdrew from the spring semester "because of the stress and re-traumatization that resulted from trying to deal with the charge."

She said she's relieved the charge has been dismissed.

"Now I can look forward to school next semester without having to worry about the threat of expulsion," she said.

Gambill has maintained that the honor code violation was retribution by the university for filing the complaint and speaking publicly about her case. Thorp, however, said that an outside review by a nationally recognized consultant on sexual misconduct issues found no evidence that the university retaliated.

"This has been a difficult situation for the students involved, and it has led to me to carefully re-examine two issues: How we can continue to protect our students' right to free speech, and the Honor Code provision dealing with disruptive or intimidating behavior that was the basis of the original charge," Thorp said.

UNC has revised its policy so that no student can be charged by the Honor Court with the violation until the Committee on Student Conduct "can adequately evaluate the provision."

"This action is not a challenge to the important role of students in our Honor System but is intended to protect the free speech rights of our students," Thorp said.

Gambill's attorney, Clay Turner, said the university's internal review was selective and narrow in scope. He also said his client's complaint that the school retaliated against her remains with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

The department has not began that investigation, he said.

Dropping the charge is "a step in the right direction, but a step many months too late," Turner said.