U.S. Department of Education to Investigate UNC Sexual Assault Response
As the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill continues to weather criticism regarding the treatment of Landen Gambill, a sexual abuse survivor who now faces expulsion for allegedly “intimidating” her accused abuser by speaking out about her rape, the original complaint she helped file against UNC has now received an official response: an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).
Gambill and a number of other students had filed the complaint in January, which alleged that UNC did not properly handle matters of sexual assault on campus by not having impartial hearings and mismanaging investigations of sexual violence and assaults. The complaint named Assistant Dean of Students Melinda Manning as also being responsible for systematically under-reporting sexual assaults on campus. Gambill has said that her charge of an Honor Court violation is in retaliation for this complaint, which the university has strenuously denied.
In a letter dated March 1st, Robin C. Murphy, an official with the Office for Civil Rights, declared that the federal agency had opened an investigation into the university.
“Based on the information you provided in your complaint and in extensive supplemental documentation, we are opening your allegation for investigation,” Murphy wrote.
UNC has denied instructing Manning or any other school official to under-report the number of sexual assauls, but has hired Gina Smith, a consultant and former prosecutor, to help reform the school’s policies regarding sexual abuse and assault.
“The University has received a letter from OCR and we will respond appropriately to their requests and cooperate fully,” said UNC spokeswoman Susan Hudson.