UNC Title IX Task Force Recommendations Anticipated To Be Ready By End Of April
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said Friday that she anticipates having a report from the University’s Title IX Task Force by the next Faculty Council meeting, which is on April 25.
The Task Force has been working since May of 2013 to rewrite UNC’s sexual assault policy. The tentative goal was to have had recommendations ready by the fall of last year.
“I think we are all waiting for the report from the Task Force, and I know some people wish that report would come forward,” Folt said.
Christi Hurt, Chair of the Task Force, who also served as Title IX Coordinator for an interim period, has said that the group is regularly reexamining their work and ideas on the sensitive issues.
Once a draft is completed, it will be presented for campus community feedback and then will go before administration for final review.
The Task Force was formed in response to changing federal Title IX requirements for universities and incidents on UNC’s own campus that prompted the need for change.
Folt, who spoke during Friday’s Faculty Council meeting, said she applauded the extent to which the task force is “trying to get it right.” She said a number of changes have already been implemented.
“We believe that a number of ideas that are being put forth by our Task Force are already anticipated, or would be the ones that are the guidelines, for some of that federal attention,” she said.
In January, President Barack Obama announced the creation a national task force to combat sexual assault, particularly at the university level.
The same month, Folt traveled to the White House to participate in policy discussions on a number of topics. During the trip, she spoke with the President and Vice President Joe Biden about policies regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Biden is leading the efforts of The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, as it is called.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
“There is a great deal of interest built on concern that sexual violence has reached epidemic proportions in our nation’s universities,” Folt said.
A number of representatives from UNC have participated in the on-going national conversation.
UNC graduate student Katie Akin, a member of the UNC Title IX Task Force, was invited to sit at the table next to the Vice President in February during a discussion on sexual assault. She offered several recommendations for his consideration.
Vice President Joe Biden talks with Katie Akin; Photo by David Lienemann
UNC Sophomore Charged After Report Of Sexual Assault, Erratic Nudity
A call to police Friday reporting a sexual assault at a UNC dorm ended in the arrest of a student who was found naked on the floor in his residence hall.
Twenty-one year old Charles Love Talmadge of Charlotte was acting erratically, according to police, in a third-floor dorm of Lewis Residence Hall when police arrived at around 11:15 p.m.
The UNC sophomore reportedly broke into another student’s dorm room and sexually assaulted a female.
Talmadge was subdued with a stun gun before police could arrest him. He was charged with breaking and entering, resist/obstruct/delay of arrest, assault on law enforcement officers, vandalism, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The report of sexual assault is still under investigation.
Carrboro Police Seek Information In Sexual Assault Reported Sunday
The Carrboro Police Department is seeking information about a reported sexual assault from Sunday evening on Old Fayetteville Road between NC 54 and Jones Ferry Road.
The assault reportedly occurred at approximately 10:00 p.m. The victim was not able to provide the police with a description, and the victim did not know the male suspect.
Carrboro police are directing people to be aware of your surroundings and take safety precautions if you’re out after dark.
If you have any information about the case, call Investigator Coyle at 919-918-7415 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. All calls will remain anonymous.
DPS Seeking Family House Assault Suspect
CHAPEL HILL – UNC’s Department of Public Safety is searching for a man accused of sexually assaulting an individual at the SECU Family House on Old Mason Farm Road.
DPS sent out a message to campus through Alert Carolina on Saturday warning people of the incident that took place on Friday. According to DPS spokesperson, Randy Young, the victim was not a UNC student nor affiliated with the University. He said no other details were available at the time.
SECU Family House spokesperson, Janice McAdams, released a statement saying the incident involved a family and was not the result of a break-in. On Twitter, the SECU Family House said “it continues to be a safe place for our employees, guests, volunteers, and friends.”
DPS is searching for a man in his 30s, about 5’4” tall with dark hair and a buzz cut. When last seen, he was wearing khaki pants and a dark short-sleeve shirt. He has tattoos on his inner and outer left forearm and upper right arm, and he has a small scar on the left side of his chest.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the UNC Department of Public Safety at 919-843-6165 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls will remain anonymous and a cash reward could be available for anyone assisting in an arrest.
The SECU Family House provides a place to stay for families of patients who are being treated for critical illness or injury at UNC Hospitals.
Title IX Coordinator: Task Force Making Progress
CHAPEL HILL – Christi Hurt, interim Title IX coordinator at UNC, says it’s a challenge at times getting the task force designed to keep your local campus safe to agree on definitions.
“I think the biggest term we worked on is the definition of consent and all of the different ways that consent can be withdrawn, the way that consent needs to be addressed at each subsequent sexual contact,” Hurt says. “Those sorts of nuances and specific issues, those are the things that have brought up the richest conversation of our group so far.”
Students and faculty continue to work through the summer to complete the school’s new sexual assault policy.
Hurt says the sexual assault task force spends half of its time on how to address sexual assaults on campus and half on what the definitions on the policy should be.
She says that there are no particular hurdles or issues of contention within the task force, but says the make-up of the task force itself lends itself to a difficult process.
“The challenge in the group is that it’s such a big and diverse group and it’s truly a wonderful group to have the privilege of working with,” Hurt says. “The challenge is then that everyone has a different side to each issue.”
At previous meetings, members of the task force said they hoped the sexual assault policy would be complete by the time school begins. Hurt says the committee would rather focus on making sure the policy turns out right than be speedy.
“So while we certainly have a lot of procedural and implementation changes on the ground and we’re ready for initiation this fall, I do believe that this task force will continue its work into the fall with recommendations coming out mostly in another couple of months,” Hurt says.
Still, she says the task force is making better progress with each meeting.
“Each meeting, we go a little bit deeper into each of those two topic areas and we’re making progress every time we get together on all of those fronts,” Hurt says.
The 23 member panel started work on May 1.
Honor Court Charges Against Gambill Dropped
CHAPEL HILL – Honor court charges against Landen Gambill have been dropped, according to a statement released by UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp on Thursday.
The sophomore was charged with breaking the honor code with disruptive and intimidating behavior. That charge was brought before the Honor Court by the man who Gambill accused of sexually assaulting her. He said the constant attention her case was getting by way of campus rallies and conversations caused him to be threatened even though she never publicly announced his name.
Gambill publicly announced that she believed the honor court charges were retaliation against her for constantly drawing attention to the way it handled her case. She said the honor court was underprepared and that students should not handle sexual assault charges.
UNC has since taken sexual assault review out of the control of the honor court.
An independent external review was conducted in March in regards to Gambill’s allegations of retaliation. Chancellor Thorp announced that the review conducted by Barbara Lee, a nationally recognized expert in handling sexual harassment grievances and a human resource management professor at Rutgers University — found no evidence that the University retaliated against the student.
However, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp—after consulting with campus colleagues, including Richard Myers, the chair of the Committee on Student Conduct and a professor in the School of Law, and Faculty Chair Jan Boxill about this issue—recommended no student should be charged with violating this section of the Honor Code until the Committee on Student Conduct can adequately evaluate the provision.
In his statement, Chancellor Thorp announced that he agreed and that the change was to take effect immediately.
He made it a point to announce that the decision of the University was not a challenge of the honor court and its processes, but instead a step to insure that all students are protected and treated fairly.
This ongoing issue comes at a time when colleges and universities nationally are dealing with the review of their sexual assault policies. UNC recently formed a special task force to review its current policies and form new ones. The 22-member panel meets every Wednesday and is chaired by the interim Title-IX coordinator, Christi Hurt. While the task force hopes to have a new policy in place in time for the start of the fall semester, it says it will take as much time that is needed to discuss the sensitive matter fully.
A Message From UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
In March, we commissioned an independent, outside review following public allegations that the University retaliated by bringing an Honor Court charge against a student based on statements made about our response to sexual assault incidents and issues on campus.
We want to share new information with you about the results of this inquiry.
The review — conducted by Barbara Lee, a nationally recognized expert in handling sexual harassment grievances and a human resource management professor at Rutgers University — found no evidence that the University retaliated against the student.
This has been a difficult situation for the students involved, and it has led to me to carefully reexamine two issues: (1) how we can continue to protect our students’ right to free speech, and (2) the Honor Code provision dealing with disruptive or intimidating behavior that was the basis of the original charge.
This review brought into sharp focus concerns about this particular Honor Code provision. As a result, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp consulted with campus colleagues, including Richard Myers, the chair of the Committee on Student Conduct and a professor in our School of Law, and Faculty Chair Jan Boxill about this issue. Vice Chancellor Crisp recommended that no student should be charged with violating this section of the Honor Code until the Committee on Student Conduct can adequately evaluate the provision.
I agree with Vice Chancellor Crisp, and this change will take effect immediately. Honor System charges involving this provision of the Honor Code, including the case in question, will be dismissed.
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.
The Honor System is a Carolina tradition that dates back more than 100 years.
We are one of the last universities in the nation with a student-led Honor System, and our students have invested an impressive amount of effort in sustaining this tradition.
This situation has raised important issue that will deserve further discussion. While I will not be here to take part in those discussions, I am confident that all of you will work together to help develop solutions that work for the whole Carolina community.
This email is sponsored by: Office of the Chancellor
Task Force Begins Rebuild Of Sexual Assault Policy
CHAPEL HILL – UNC’s new Title IX task force, which is charged with developing the University’s new sexual assault policy, has to be able to quickly get past the sensitive nature of the topic in order to efficiently cover all areas in the redesign.
“We are the group that’s charged with looking at a really sensitive issue and really sensitive human issues that we want to unpack here as a group,” says task force chair and interim Title IX coordinator, Christi Hurt speaking just after the first of many meetings of the group. “I think we need to spend some time getting to know each other so that there’s some group comfort and some relationship building that we do as a group. But we also don’t want to pretend like we’re the only people who have something to say about the issue. So, going back and engaging with our own communities on campus and off campus about how they want their issues represented is going to be really important.”
Wednesday morning’s meeting was to set the groundwork for the task ahead and inform everyone involved where the process currently stands.
Gina Smith is a former prosecutor whom UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp hired in January as a consultant to discuss with members of the campus community how the University handles cases of sexual misconduct. She says campuses across the nation are dealing with the same issue due to a recent paradigm shift.
“We have additional regulation, laws, and direction from government agencies, law enforcement authorities, state governments, the federal government, and local government,” Smith says. “The next aspect of this paradigm shift is something that was very public, and that was the conduct of Jerry Sandusky. It’s not just a Penn State issue, and it keeps us focused on the responsibility of one who chooses to act and take advantage of another human being. I take you to the next element, and that is the courage of students throughout this country to speak up and share their experience. The last one from my perspective—in terms of why this has changed—is the use of social media.”
The 21-member task force has people from all over campus, including LGBTQ Director Terri Phoenix, Deputy Chief of the Department of Public Safety, George Hare, Director of Counseling and Wellness Services, Allen O’Barr, and Student Body President Christy Lambden who says it was evident in the first gathering that there are going to be moments of discomfort that the group is going to have to get past.
**The task force is made up of 22 members. Women and Gender Studies Department faculty member, Karen Booth was added just before the meeting after a recommendation was made to include someone from that department.
“I think that will be a challenge to get over, but I think it’s one that we’re going to do really well,” Lambden says. “Looking around the room, it’s one of the moments at Carolina that I have frequently where I’m inspired and I feel incredibly confident that we are going to be able to get done what we need to get done given the personnel that we have available and who are here trying to do the work.”
Hurt says the way to do that is dive in head first from the moment the process began.
“It’s really that we’re dealing with a complex series of issues that are all really interrelated, and we have to know a lot about each one and really look at several different issues distinctly along the way but make sure we’re looking at the whole policy as a whole,” Hurt says.
The task force meets weekly throughout the summer. Hurt says there’s no defined timeline for when the process will conclude, but she hopes the group can have the new policy in place by the start of the fall semester.
UNC To Suspend Honor Court Hearing Of UNC Student Pending External Review
CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp announced Tuesday that he has asked the Honor Court to suspend its hearing involving Landen Gambill.
The hearing was scheduled to take place some time in the next couple weeks and centers around complaints made by Gambill’s ex-boyfriend that she engaged in disruptive or intimidating behavior by continually referencing the fact that she was sexually assaulted. Gambill claims she never publicly announced her ex-boyfriend’s name.
Early this week, Gambill’s lawyer Henry Clay Turner, wrote a letter to Chancellor Thorp asking that the proceedings be dismissed. It also announced that Gambill filed a formal complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights claiming that she believed the University was retaliating against her for all the attention and now investigations she has brought to the University.
To see the letter from Turner to Chancellor Thorp, click here.
However the lawyer representing Gambill’s ex-boyfriend, John Gresham of Tin Fulton in Charlotte, says that can’t be true.
“The University had nothing to do with that. It was handled exactly like any other complaint,” Gresham said. “It was reviewed by a third-year law student which is exactly the way the Honor Court is supposed to work to determine if there is a basis for the charge. She determined there was a basis for the charge. So then it was in the Honor Court proceeding, exactly like any other Honor Court proceeding.”
“Ms. Gambill’s actions were affecting his ability to take full advantage of the education at Chapel Hill,” Gresham explained. “He was subject to comments, and threats of physical injury. He was facing signs across campus that said, ‘Intimidate Rapists.’”
“He was having to travel on campus with someone else to make sure that there was someone else there to observe what occurred and to also make sure that Ms. Gambill could not say in any way that he had interfered. He was under an obligation not to have contact with her. He changed a class so that he would not even be in the same area as her,” Gresham said.
Gresham says the University has to be sure it’s treating everyone justly.
“I can understand the University wanting to ensure that everything has been dealt with appropriately since the University has been under attack,” Gresham says. “However, whether the University is under attack or not, it still has its obligations to all of its students.”
Gresham told WCHL he would be in contact with the University immediately following the interview to ask what the suspension of the Honor Court proceedings mean.
Gambill’s complaint is the third filed with the OCR against UNC; it’s also investigating the University for the handling of sexual assault cases after a complaint was filed by 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.
A representative from Turner’s office told WCHL the he would not be able to answer questions from the media via telephone due to the number of requests. She said he would be answering them via email, but WCHL has not yet gotten a response.
In part of a letter addressed to the UNC faculty, staff, and students, Chancellor Thorp said, “For several weeks, the University has grappled with how best to respond to a public claim of retaliation against the University while maintaining the autonomy and integrity of our Honor Court proceedings and the privacy of the individuals involved.”
To see the full letter from Chancellor Thorp, click here
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
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp Addresses Sexual Assault Investigation
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
The conversation on campus surrounding sexual assault is growing louder and more passionate. Let’s talk about it.
To make meaningful changes that will improve how sexual assault is addressed at Carolina, we must have an open and honest dialogue. Those conversations are taking place across campus. Informally and formally.
In small groups and large. Among students, faculty, administrators, staff and other members of our campus community.
Sexual assault is one of the greatest challenges facing campuses across the nation, including Carolina, and it is an issue that I am committed to addressing before I leave office. We’re focused on the safety of our students, as well as faculty and staff, and have an obligation to do everything we can to provide the care and support they need if a sexual assault occurs. In those instances, we must act promptly to thoroughly investigate and address any misconduct.
This week, as expected, we were notified by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that it has opened an investigation about our handling of sexual assault complaints. The University is cooperating fully with this investigation. In fact, we welcome it. Our response will show how the University has made significant changes in the past 18 months about how sexual assault complaints are handled. They include removing sexual assault cases from the jurisdiction of the Honor System and implementing a new process that involves students, faculty and staff who are specially trained to deal with the complexities of these cases. In addition, we continue to build on our existing relationships with the University’s Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement officials and rape crisis counselors to provide a comprehensive range of support services to students who experience sexual assault.
We began making many of these changes long before the Office for Civil Rights complaint was filed several weeks ago. In fact, much of this work is in response to guidelines and recommendations issued by the Office for Civil Rights to universities nationwide in 2011.
Our system is still not perfect.
There is more work to be done, and we are committed to making additional changes that will improve the way sexual assault cases are handled at the University. This month, we brought on board two new employees to investigate sexual assault allegations and help survivors of sexual assault get the information and resources they need.
Gina Smith, a nationally recognized expert on sexual assault issues, continues to work closely with the University. She returned to campus this week to meet with students and engage in open discussions about these issues. Her work will elicit important feedback and produce clear recommendations to help us strengthen our processes.
We are also gathering valuable feedback from students and faculty in other ways. I recently received a letter from Dr. Joanne Hershfield, chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, offering suggestions on how to address sexual assault issues on campus. I look forward to evaluating those recommendations and working with Dr.
Hershfield and other faculty members to continue the dialogue about how we can do better.
Additional feedback from students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of our campus community is being collected through an online suggestion box athttp://campusconversation.web.unc.edu/suggestion-box/. It’s a website where you can learn more about the steps we are taking, find the latest news about this issue, and confidentially share your thoughts about the important work that still needs to be done.
While our students and faculty take a well-deserved break for rest and reflection next week, let me assure you that we will be hard at work, mindful that the ultimate goal is to eradicate sexual violence and misconduct from our campus. Our students and this community deserve no less.
Enjoy your Spring Break. Be safe. I look forward to continuing this conversation when you return.