New Task Force To Tackle UNC Sexual Assault Issues

CHAPEL HILL – The on-going federal investigation around UNC’s handling of sexual assault cases is far from over. But a new task force has been charged to review and enhance the university’s policies and procedures on the issue. It’s a diverse, 21-member compilation of students and leaders with in the Carolina community.

Christi Hurt, UNC’s new Interim Title IX Coordinator, will serve as the chair of the task force. She’s currently on leave as director of the Carolina Women’s Center.

“We’re going to really line-up the current policy with all of that feedback and federal regulations to create a product that works for the entire campus community,” Hurt said.

Click here to see UNC’s current policy.

Ann Penn, UNC’s Equal Opportunity/ ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Officer, appointed the task force. Members were selected based on their experience and/or research related to the complex issue. They’ll meet through out the summer.

UNC Student Body President, Christy Lambden, is a member. In preparation for the work to be done this summer, Lambden created an all-student task force that has met three times. They came-up with 27 recommendations that he’ll present to Hurt.

“Change is in the works and change is likely to happen over the summer; I am excited to be a part of it,” Lambden said.

Terri Phoenix, the Director of the UNC LGBTQ Centerhas done interpersonal primary prevention work for most of her career. She’ll bring expertise in national best-practice approaches to preventing sexual assaults.

“I think that I can bring a perspective that is really a tune to looking at all of the intersecting identities and communities that we have on campus as we think through the policies, the prevention, and the response planning,” Phoenix said.

The task force will follow guidance from the Office for Civil Rights and build on the recommendations of Gina Smith.

Smith is a former prosecutor whom Chancellor Holden Thorp recruited in January. Smith is helping the University sort through the sexual misconduct investigations. She’s working with more than a dozen universities, helping to open up dialogues about sexual assault.

In an earlier interview with WCHL, Smith said she sees her role as on opportunity to shift the University’s culture regarding the way sexual assault is viewed.

“Her feedback and the feedback she’s has collected from the people at UNC is going to be a tremendous influence on this policy,” Hurt said.

Hurt says the goal is to present recommendations to Penn at the end of the summer—but the work won’t end then.

“I expect us to be a living document figuring out what is working here for the community so there will be an unveiling in the fall, but we will continue to welcome feedback,” Hurt said.

Hurt invites the community to visit the Campus Conversation on Sexual Assault website over the summer—it will continue to be updated with the work of the task force.

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and others may submit ideas to the task force through the site’s virtual suggestion box.


Task Force Members

  • Christi Hurt (Chair), Interim Title IX Coordinator and currently on leave as Director, Carolina Women’s Center
  • K.E. Akin, graduate student
  • Kiran Bhardwaj, Graduate and Professional Student Federation President
  • Sarah-Kathryn Bryan, undergraduate student
  • Alice Dawson, Senior Assistant Dean, Academic Advising Program, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Jayne Grandes, Investigator, Equal Opportunity/ADA Office
  • George Hare, Deputy Chief, Department of Public Safety
  • Robert Joyce, Charles Edwin Hinsdale Professor of Public Law and Government, School of Government, and Chair, Student Grievance Committee
  • Christy Lambden, Student Body President
  • Rebecca Macy, L. Richardson Preyer Distinguished Chair for Strengthening Families, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor, School of Social Work
  • Sandra Martin, Professor of Maternal and Child Health and Associate Dean for Research, GillingsSchool of Global Public Health
  • Laurie Mesibov, Ombuds, University Ombuds Office, and Professor of Public Law and Government, School of Government
  • Allen O’Barr, Director, Counseling and Wellness Services
  • Terri Phoenix, Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Center
  • Robert Pleasants, Interpersonal Violence Prevention Coordinator, Campus Health Services
  •  Kelli Raker, Rape Prevention Coordinator, Dean of Students Office, Student Affairs
  • Ew Quimbaya-Winship, Deputy Title IX Coordinator/Student Complaint Coordinator, Student Affairs
  • Desiree Rieckenberg, Senior Associate Dean of Students, Dean of Students Office, Student Affairs
  • Kara Simmons, AssociateUniversity Counsel
  • Anna Sturkey, Undergraduate Student Attorney General, Student Government’s representative, Committee on Student Conduct, and a member of the Sexual Assault Policy Response Team
  • Amy Tiemann, community member and a Chapel Hill author and educator focused on issues of parenting, child safety, politics and culture.

Serving ex-officio are:

  • Ann Penn (Ex Officio), Director, Equal Opportunity / ADA Office,
  • Winston Crisp (Ex Officio), Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.

Landen Gambill Adds To Complaints Filed With DoE-OCR Against UNC

CHAPEL HILL – The UNC student who has been at the forefront of rallies on campussupporting sexual assault victims and a change in how the University handles the cases has filed a federal complaint against the University.

According to multiple sources, Landen Gambill’s lawyer Henry Clay Turner told UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp in a letter that Gambill has filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The letter asks that the Honor Court charges against Gambill be dropped.

This is the third complaint filed with the OCR; it’s also investigating UNC for the handling of sexual assault cases after Gambill and several other women including former assistant dean for students Melinda Manning, and for possible Clery Act violations. The Clery Act is a federal law that requires campuses to disclose crime statistics.

The Honor Court charges Gambill’s lawyer has asked to be dropped were made by her ex-boyfriend whom she has not publicly named but accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting her. The ex-boyfriend filed the charges stating she engaged in disruptive or intimidating behavior against him. In the letter, Turner said Chancellor Thorp has the right and the responsibility to step in and dismiss the charges even though they are often handled by students and faculty.

Turner also stated that Gambill will not be participating in the Honor Court hearings because “the retaliatory charges against my client are inappropriate, unconstitutional, and utterly without merit.”

Gambill could face any range of punishment up to and including expulsion as the charges do not carry a specific penalty.

UNC Answers Feds’ Questions About Sexual Assaults

CHAPEL HILL – Officials with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say they’ve responded to questions from federal education officials about campus response to sexual assault cases.

The school had until Thursday to file its response to questions from the Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education. OCR sent a letter in March, saying it would investigate the school after five women filed a complaint in January about how UNC-CH handles sexual assault cases.

The five women alleged violations of Title IX, education’s gender-equity law, in the handling of sexual assault cases. They filed another federal complaint under a law that often deals with the underreporting of on- and off-campus crimes. UNC-CH has denied underreporting crimes.

The OCR has never issued its biggest punishment, withdrawal of federal funding.

Friday, UNC released its response to the OCR. To view that document, click here.