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UNC SB President Says Charges Against Gambill Weren’t Started By Honor Court

By Joel Pagan Posted February 28, 2013 at 3:44 pm
CHAPEL HILL – UNC’s student body president Will Leimenstoll says the charges brought against sophomore Landen Gambill have gained lots of attention on campus.

“People are definitely frustrated, and understandably so,” Leimenstoll says. “(They’re) concerned about some of the allegations that have been put out there and kind of asking a lot of questions. I think that that’s completely reasonable. I think there’s definitely issues about sexual assault and safety on both UNC’s campus and pretty much campuses all across the country.”

Gambill has been charged by the UNC Honor Court with engaging in disruptive or intimidating behavior. The person who allegedly filed the complaint against Gambill was her ex-boyfriend who she says she has not named publicly throughout the entire process. When she presented her original case to the Honor Court in the spring of 2012, she named her assaulter, but all cases are private.

Leimenstoll says it’s important to know from where exactly the Honor Court charges come.

“The Attorneys General staff does decide whether the charge is worth investigating, but it’s my understanding they are not the ones who write up the charge or decide to charge someone,” Leimenstoll says.

The person who accused Gambill says she damaged his or her character by continuing to express it to the public. Late last month, Gambill and others who claimed to be sexually abused, held a press conference about how the University has been handling sexual assault cases.

At that press conference, while not focusing her attention on her attacker, she expressed the fact that she’s upset with how the University handled her case.

“The vast majority of the trial was spent on what I had done wrong or why I hadn’t left him earlier, why I was ever around him in the first place instead of why did he did this to me,” Gambill says. “So it was a really victim-blaming focus.”

Leimenstoll says the University has since made changes to its sexual assault polices.

“The student-run Honor Court system did indeed handle sexual assault cases at one time, but that’s been changed since Landen’s went through, in part because of that and in part because of a lot of other issues that are raised with students handling sexual assault cases,” Leimenstoll says. “I think that the Honor Court still does what it is meant to do very well.”

Gambill has commented on the fact that she believes these charges are in retaliation to her comments about the Honor Court. But, as Leimenstoll said, the Honor Court did not create the charges, only expressed that they will be investigated.

He says the Honor Court is simply a means for students to resolve issues they don’t want to take to a higher system.

“If they have a conduct case, they may not want to go through a criminal proceeding, but they do want some kind of justice,” Leimenstoll says. “I think that the Honor Court system is built to kind of handle that and support that because we want to make sure that students are cared for in the best way possible.”

And, Leimenstoll says charges brought against someone are not a sentencing.

“If they decide it’s worth investigating, that does not mean that they think that person is clearly guilty or clearly not guilty,” Leimenstoll says. “It means that they think there’s enough uncertainty that more information and perhaps some type of trial is indeed necessary to find out.”

In fact, a line from the note in which Gambill was informed that she was charged says “Please note that being charged with a violation does not imply guilt.”

Leimenstoll says it’s important to know processes are in place to be sure safety is upheld.

“The University does have a responsibility to protect every student here at Carolina,” Leimenstoll says. “That’s part of its job. I think its important that people keep that in mind that everyone deserves to be protected if they’re a student here at Carolina.”

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