“Dear Colleague” letter from the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education puts U.S. colleges on notice to review and upgrade their policies for handling of sexual assault complaints; UNC begins a review of its policies and makes some changes.
Then-freshman Landen Gambill requests a no-contact order from the Office of Student Affairs against her former boyfriend after he made comments about the couple’s sexual relationship to others and those comments got back to Gambill; Gambill then files a sexual misconduct charge against the boyfriend. Subsequently he is suspended from the University.
(Note: The scenario between Gambill and her former boyfriend was provided by the latter’s attorney, John Gresham of the firm Tin Fulton Walker & Owen of Wilmington. Gambill gave interviews early this year but then stopped; she has declined to be interviewed by the Review. She has been open about her own identity, but neither she nor anyone else has identified the boyfriend by name.)
The former boyfriend is told he can overturn the suspension only by undergoing a psychological examination. He withdraws from school for the rest of the semester, and a series of such examinations ensues, lasting into the fall.
When the sexual misconduct case is heard, UNC is in the process of relieving the Honor Court of jurisdiction in sexual assault cases. In the interim, the University Hearings Board (two students, two faculty members and one administrator) hears the case and finds the defendant not guilty, unanimously. It finds him guilty, by 4-1, of verbal harassment.
The former boyfriend is reinstated to UNC for spring 2013 on the condition that he continue to see a psychologist, who would report results to UNC.
Five women — including Melinda Manning ’94, former assistant dean of students at UNC who also earned her law degree from UNC in 2001, and Gambill — file a complaint with OCR claiming UNC does not adequately handle concerns of sexual harassment, sexual assault and sexual violence; provide appropriate grievance procedures and impartial investigations for the same; provide appropriate training to some of the people charged with handling complaints; among other complaints. The complaint as yet has not been made public and has not been shown to the University. The complainants released a copy early on to The Daily Tar Heel but apparently not to anyone else.
University retains Gina Smith, a nationally recognized consultant on sexual misconduct issues, to advise it. She initiates a series of forums on campus to “broaden the conversation” on the issue.
The former boyfriend files a harassment complaint against Gambill with the Honor Court. The court charges Gambill.
UNC issues a statement that says some students who work in the honor system have “received threats to their personal safety” after Gambill was charged with harassment.
Gambill files a complaint against UNC, claiming the harassment charge is the University’s retaliation against her for filing the OCR complaint. UNC responds that the Honor Court is independent of the administration. UNC says its administrators do not interfere with the court’s student attorneys.
OCR notifies the University it will investigate the complaint.
Just before the start of spring break, Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 writes to the campus community, inviting a broader dialogue on sexual assault.
UNC hires a new investigator in the Equal Opportunity/Americans with Disabilities Act Office and a new student complaint coordinator/deputy Title IX officer. It says it will hire a third new staffer in this area.
According to news reports, Gambill files another complaint with the OCR related to the Honor Court harassment charge against her. In response, Thorp asks the court to suspend its hearing on the case. The court complies.