UNC Honor Court Threatens to Expel Sexual Assault Victim
Landen Gambill, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina and a sexual abuse survivor, has said that she received a threat of expulsion after criticizing her alleged rapist and the school’s management of the situation, which UNC says was a violation of its Honor Code.
Last month, Gambill was part of a group of over 60 students, all sexual abuse survivors, who filed a civil complaint against UNC with the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly infringing upon the victim’s rights as guaranteed by the federally-mandated Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights.
In the complaint, Gambill and the other students claim that UNC frequently violated their rights and failed to adequately respond to the incidents and not aiding the victim’s recovery. Survivors stated that the school told depressed victims they were “being lazy,” and that the Honor Court would often blame the victims while shielding the alleged perpetrators.
But UNC responded to the complaint by issuing Gambill, who was one of the only students who filed with the Education Department to reveal her real name, with a notice of an Honor Code violation for “disruptive or intimidating behavior” against the man who allegedly raped her, despite having never publicly stated who he was.
If the school’s Honor Court finds against Gambill, she faces risk of possible grade reduction, suspension, or expulsion.
“Obviously, I’m afraid. I never meant to make anyone mad at me [by speaking out],” said Gambill. “I’m mostly surprised at just how crazy it is, that they’re willing to charge me with something just because my rapist is feeling uncomfortable.”
UNC responded to Gambill’s disclosure of the notice by stating that while unable to speak specificically about Gambill’s case due to confidentiality laws, the college’s administration was not retaliating against Gambill for the civil complaint she helped file. According to UNC spokesperson Susan Hudson, the Honor Court itself has its cases chosen by the student attorney general, and that the school may not “may not encourage or prevent” what actions the court may take.
“Given that these charging decisions are made by student attorneys general and not by campus administrators, a claim of retaliation by the university would be without merit,” Hudson said.
Gambill says that her previous experience with the Honor Court, which found her defending her actions during her alleged rape, was in fact part of the cause for her to join the civil complaint against UNC, and that the process was “traumatizing.” As a result, the Honor Court itself is currently under investigation by the Education department and is no longer used by UNC to investigate instances of sexual assault.
Gambill must enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” before the Honor Court this week.