UNC’s student-led Honor System has suspended a proceeding involving a student who had been charged with harassing another student in the wake of a rape case, which was decided by another University judicial board.
The student attorney general took the action on a request from Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86, who did not identify the case in a letter to the campus community.
The case involves a complaint by sophomore Landen Gambill, who has said that in 2012 she was raped repeatedly by her boyfriend. The alleged assailant was found not guilty by the University Hearings Board last May; at that time, the University was in the process of relieving the Honor Court of jurisdiction in sexual-assault cases.
Gambill subsequently joined four other women in filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education about UNC’s handling of such cases. Earlier this year, the former boyfriend filed a complaint with the Honor Court, saying that Gambill was harassing him; the court then filed a charge against her.
With the education department now investigating UNC, Thorp said that for the Honor Court to proceed on the harassment case raised the possibility of conflicts.
Gambill and her attorney have not returned calls from the Carolina Alumni Review, but news media have reported that Gambill has filed a complaint with the education department about the harassment charge, claiming the University is retaliating against her for bringing the original education department complaint. UNC officials have denied any retaliation.
“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,” Thorp wrote in an open letter to students, faculty and staff.
“Recognizing the potential conflicts that may exist by allowing both processes to continue, we have asked the Student Attorney General to suspend the Honor Court proceeding pending an external review of these allegations of retaliation. The University takes all allegations of retaliation seriously, whether against an individual or an institution, and this allegation is no exception.”
Thorp also invoked the Carolina community’s long tradition of encouraging students to exercise their right to speak out. Thorp’s campus message is available online.
The University has made changes to its policies in recent years and brought in a national expert on sexual assault issues to help lead campus conversations to help further strengthen the University’s current response to sexual assault. Those discussions are ongoing.
The Office for Civil Rights has emphasized its role as a “neutral fact-finder” engaged in collecting and analyzing evidence from the complainants, the University and other sources.
Thorp has called sexual assault one of the greatest challenges facing college campuses nationwide, including Carolina.