UNC SB President Says Charges Against Gambill Weren’t Started By Honor Court
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.”
UNC SB President Elect Says Confusion About Gambill Charges Fills Campus
CHAPEL HILL – The recent controversy surrounding UNC sophomore Landen Gambill has the University’s Student Body President elect pondering issues that he says need continued attention.
“I think things have already been put in place to suggest that the system’s changing,” Lambden says. “Hopefully that will indicate that the issue will be handled differently and more effectively in the future.”
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He was elected just more than a week ago to take over for Will Leimenstoll on April 2. Lambden says he has heard mixed emotions on campus about the situation.
“I think people are incredibly surprised about the charges that have been brought against Landen,” Lambden says. “I think some people are angry about the charges that have been brought against Landen. Other people are struggling to understand why it’s happened, and they’re struggling to understand where it’s coming from.”
A great bit of confusion seems to be at the heart of the matter. Was it the Honor Court that accused Gambill of engaging in disruptive or intimidating behavior? Or was it someone else? Possibly her ex-boyfriend?
“I think some of the confusion lies in the fact that not all students have a full understanding of the exact Honor Court procedure in these sorts of circumstances,” Lambden says. “There is some confusion around who has brought the charges and whether it’s the Honor Court that has brought the charges and is trying them as well. I think it’s something that the student government and the Honor Court is working very hard to try to make clear to people at the moment.”
In fact, all matters discussed by the Honor Court are confidential in nature. So, the person who officially filed the claim against Gambill cannot be announced.
Gambill actually believes it is the Honor Court attempting to get back at her for filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the University and speaking out publicly about how, in her mind, the Honor Court was not prepared to oversee sexual assault cases.
Regardless of how the charges are settled against Gambill, Lambden says the root of the matter is still the most important going forward.
“We need to be looking to get input from students, from faculty, from staff, and from administrators into the writing of the policy so that we are in compliance with our obligations under federal law, but that we are representing and giving students what they need, deserve, and want from the sexual assault policy,” Lambden says.
Of course Lambden also feels it’s very important that the charges against Gambill are properly reviewed by the Honor Court.
Students Speak Out Against Honor Court Charges On UNC Sophomore
CHAPEL HILL – Students hanging out in “The Pit” on UNC’s campus Wednesday reacted with disappointment and shock at Landen Gambill being charged with the Honor Court infraction of engaging in disruptive or intimidating behavior.
Funmi Solar, a graduating senior who knows Gambill personally, notes that the charges bring the silencing and alienation of those who are oppressed on campus into the public eye.
She mentions that this victim-blaming system will leave a scar on UNC’s reputation.
“It’s just really sad—I’m a graduating senior this semester—to know that when I say UNC, people are going to say ‘Oh, the school that a woman got sexually assaulted in and now she’s getting punished for it’,” Solar says.
Solar says that Gambill’s case shows the misogyny that occurs within rape culture.
“Because it’s such a high crime against women, it’s kind of victim-blaming, and that comes from misogyny,” Solar says. “Because if I say I was robbed, I don’t think that people would not believe me. But if I said that I was raped, people would question what I was doing wrong.”
On a similar note, senior Katie Womble mentioned that the Honor Court case could discourage other assault victims from speaking out.
“It shows a lot of factors that you would see at other colleges across the country: that even if there’s some basis for investigating whatever Gambill did, it’s going to do far more damage than good in the long-run for other women on the campus,” Womble says.
Matt Poland, a master’s student at UNC, is also frustrated at the Honor Court’s decision to charge Gambill. He is sickened by the thought of Gambill’s potential punishment:
“If she is expelled, then she has been expelled from a public university essentially for being raped and not being quiet about it,” Poland says.
The Honor Court is run by members of the Student Body, and there is a faculty advisory committee if necessary. However, according to UNC spokesperson Karen Moon, the decision to charge Gambill is entirely up to the Student Attorneys General. So, when asked what the university could do to prevent another public controversy like this, the students answered as follows:
“I think [through] training, being culturally competent, and understanding that we live in a society where we’re bringing our biases to the Honor Court—I think it’s impossible to be 100% impartial,” Solar said. “But you have to confront the systems of oppression.”
“I still don’t know how much I think that the administration should intervene, other than maybe through back-channels putting pressure on the Honor Court to not make such a ludicrous, sexist miscarriage of justice,” Poland said.
UNC Student Faces Punishment For Speaking Out Against Sexual Assault Attacker
CHAPEL HILL – According to multiple sources, one of the students who recently charged UNC with mishandling her sexual assault case has been accused of breaking the Honor Code.
In the spring of 2012, Landen Gambill, a sophomore at UNC, told the Honor Court she was assaulted repeatedly by her ex-boyfriend. Sexual assault cases have been removed from the Honor Court’s jurisdiction as of the summer of 2012.
Last month, she 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.
Later, she told the Daily Tar Heel that speaking out about how UNC handled the case caused her ex-boyfriend to file a complaint that stated she negatively affected his future at Carolina; the Honor Court’s student attorney general has charged her with engaging in disruptive or intimidating behavior against him.
The Honor Court is a student-run process that has the ability to consult with a faculty advisory committee if necessary. However, UNC spokesperson Karen Moon says administrators may not encourage or prevent the Student Attorney Generals from filing charges in a specific case.
Gambill told the DTH she plans to plead not guilty to the charges. The Honor Court could issue a punishment of any level including up to expulsion, as the charges do not carry a set punishment.
On Tuesday, more than 200 students gathered at the Campus Y in support of dropping the charges against Gambill. The University recently released a statement that says the charges did not stem strictly from her explanation of the sexual assault, but the continued coverage that has brought increasing attention to the accused.
Other than Moon, officials at UNC were not available to comment on this matter; Gambill has not replied to repeated attempts of contact by WCHL.
There’s still some dispute, meanwhile, about what the Honor Code violation would entail. According to an article on the national blog Jezebel.com, Gambill “asked whether she could have violated the Honor Code simply by saying she was raped (and) the answer was yes.” But in an email response to an open letter from Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp said that merely making an allegation of rape would never constitute an Honor Code violation—and if a student were charged with doing so, the University “certainly would not allow or support any charge of that nature.” (Chilton posted that exchange on the OrangePolitics blog; you can read the full exchange there.)