UNC Sexual Assault Policy Reforms Underway

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.


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.



New Title IX Coordinator Says She’s Ready To Tackle UNC Sexual Violence Issues

CHAPEL HILL – UNC now has a full-time Title IX coordinator. Chancellor Holden Thorp announced last week that Christi Hurt will serve in an interim role until a national search is completed. It’s a part of the university’s on-going effort to reduce and prevent sexual violence.

“It is an exciting time at the university. I am personally really excited by the commitment we are making—both in terms of long-term commitment of Title IX issues. We are really setting our best foot forward in moving to address the sexual assault policy and the response system here at the university,” Hurt said.

Hurt is currently the director of the Carolina Women’s Center.

She’s a graduate of North Carolina and has worked with local, state, and national nonprofit organizations that are advocates for ending gender violence.

She will have a number of deputy coordinators working with her, including newly-appointed Deputy Title IX Coordinator in Student Affairs Ew Quimbaya-Winship.

Students and faculty members recently filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights claiming the University underreports sexual assault cases, sparking a federal investigation into the accusations.

In the wake of the controversy, three new positions have been created this year to address sexual violence on campus—including the Title IX coordinator.
“I think it’s really a fantastic move by the university’s part to invest resources behind permanent positions at that level to really enforce Title XI compliance at the university,” she said. “I’m happy to see that they’ve made more concrete investments in deepening that work over time.”
Title IX—which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary—requires gender equity in all federally funded universities.

“It is beyond athletics. We’ve heard about it a lot in athletics but it’s really about a whole campus climate—a whole campus environment to make sure that everyone is free to pursue their education free of discrimination or harassment based on gender.”