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Student’s Sexual Assault Claim Turns Attention to UNC Policy

Two years ago, with the start of the 2014-15 academic year, the University put in place a revised policy on sexual violence. The policy described the types of conduct prohibited by the University, offered clarity on key terms — such as “consent” and “incapacitation” — and aimed to create a more easily navigable adjudication process for cases that go to hearings.

It also aimed to:

  • Clarify definitions of various types of assault and harassment;
  • Make it easier for complainants to understand where to go for help and what happens at each point on that path;
  • Beef up assault awareness and action training for everyone on campus; and
  • Change the way UNC adjudicates cases that are carried all the way to hearings, a process that had been determined to be flawed.

On Tuesday, a student at UNC came forward, accompanied by her lawyer and her father, at a news conference to assert that she had been sexually assaulted by another student at Carolina in February and that the University has not handled the case appropriately. “I did everything a rape victim is supposed to do,” sophomore Delaney Robinson said, and argued the University had not done what it was supposed to do.

Besides notifying the University’s Title IX office, Robinson said that she reported the assault to UNC police and that neither they nor the Orange County district attorney’s office had brought charges.

Earlier on the day of the news conference, Robinson swore out warrants in the Orange County magistrate’s office, charging UNC football player Allen Artis, a junior and linebacker from Marietta, Ga., with misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor sexual battery. Robinson’s lawyer, Denise Branch, said that the misdemeanor charges resulted from the police and the University not taking action against Artis. Branch referred to an email she had received in early August from an assistant district attorney indicating the office did not expect to file charges; on Tuesday, media reports quoted Orange County District Attorney James Woodall ’82 (’85 JD) as saying no final decision had been made on whether to file charges.

Later that day, Artis was suspended from the football team, according to team spokesman Kevin Best ’93. That step is the standard procedure when a player is charged with a misdemeanor.

Robinson’s allegations have been widely reported in national media, and the University responded with a statement from Joel Curran ’86, vice chancellor for communications and public affairs. It read:

“While the University is aware of allegations made today by attorney Denise Branch regarding a student, under federal privacy law we are prohibited from responding to those allegations.

“The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is deeply committed to the safety and well-being of our students and takes all allegations about sexual violence or sexual misconduct extremely seriously.

“Chancellor Carol L. Folt and her administration have made addressing these issues our highest priority. Two years ago, the University adopted a revised comprehensive policy on discrimination and harassment, including sexual assault and sexual misconduct, that was developed based on recommendations and broad input from the campus community and outside experts. That policy establishes a rigorous process conducted by well-trained investigators. The University provides compassionate care to all students who need support.

“These matters are complex and often involve multiple agencies including law enforcement. While the University always tries to complete an investigation as quickly as possible, our priority is to ensure that the factual investigations are complete and conducted in a fair and thorough manner.

“While we understand and appreciate the public interest in today’s allegations, we are unable to comment further at this time.”

More than two weeks after Robinson went public with her claim, Artis said he was innocent, according to The News & Observer. In an interview at the home of his attorney in Durham, Artis acknowledged that he had been drinking on the night Robinson described but that everything that happened had been consensual. Artis remained suspended from the team.

More than 200 institutions are now under Title IX investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education; those include UNC, which was one of the initial 55 colleges investigated. The University has been under that investigation for more than three years.

Robinson’s news conference is available at various media sites as well as on YouTube.


 

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