UNC Sexual Assault Policy Reforms Underway

By Rachel Nash Posted September 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm

CHAPEL HILL – We should see concrete changes in UNC’s sexual assault policy by the end of this year, according to the University’s top leaders. After months of work by Carolina’s sexual assault policy task force, some improvements have already been implemented.

The group was charged with reviewing and enhancing the University’s policies and procedures on the issue. It’s a diverse, 22-member assemblage of students and leaders with in the Carolina community.

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said she met with the sexual assault policy task force just last week.

“We will stay vigilant in this area, but it’s something that requires a community-side effort,” Folt said to the Board of Trustees. She added, “Nobody could be watching the news and not constantly be thinking about what we can do to ensure the safety of our communities. We have a lot of work. Just two days ago, we met with the Chief [McCraken] and went over those plans.”

Several changes outside the policy process have already been put into effect. In the coming months, faculty, staff and students will have access to online training concerning Title IX requirements, and there will be a campus-wide emphasis on preventing all forms of violence.

UNC Student Body President Christy Lambden has been working with the task force since its creation.

“We must start to implement increased training around this issue for all members of our community,” Lambden said.

Lambden and members of the Student Government began work this spring on a new Smartphone app that will allow members of the university community to report incidents of sexual violence.

“We as a community must undergo a shift in the culture surrounding this issue on our campus,” Lambden said. “We must support those who have been assaulted and continue to educate our community about how to prevent sexual assault from occurring.”

Carolina’s emphasis on improving its sexual assault policy began after Landen Gambill told the UNC Honor Court in the spring of 2012 that she was repeatedly assaulted by her ex-boyfriend. She then filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the University. Gambill and four others claimed that Carolina acted with insensitivity and carelessness when handling these cases.

As of the summer of 2012, sexual assault cases have been removed from the Honor Court’s jurisdiction.

In the wake of the Federal Investigation, then UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp brought in Gina Smith, a former prosecutor, in January of this year. She worked with members of the campus community, including the sexual assault task force, to discuss how the University handles cases of sexual misconduct.

Winston Crisp, UNC’s Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, has been monitoring the work of the task force. He told a Board of Trustees committee that they can expect clearer policy language about the reporting of sexual misconduct. Specifically, a more concise definition of what sexual assault is.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen almost a revolution across the country, particularly around the processes we use and how we execute the process so that it is more humane and pays more attention to the feelings and the emotions,” Crisp said.

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