Current Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2013 11:38:03 -0500
Three UNC students, one former student and one former administrator filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Wednesday morning, claiming that the University facilitated a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.
The complaint, more than 30 pages in length, has emerged just one month after sophomore Landen Gambill and another female student revealed to The Daily Tar Heel how the University handled their rape cases.
Their stories — rich with what they called unequal treatment from administrators, inappropriate questioning in UNC’s Honor Court and blatant violations of rights — reflected what victims say is a deeply rooted problem at the University.
That problem prompted junior Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, who graduated from UNC in 2011, both of whom are sexual assault survivors, to spearhead the filing of the complaint in an effort to seek justice for survivors and change what they say is UNC’s culture of hostility.
“The only thing that’s worse than rape is betrayal,” Pino said. “That’s something I’ve felt by this University time and time again.
“Administration revictimizes survivors and then tells them they want to make things better. They aren’t making things better.
“They’re covering things up. And part of the reason we’re filing is to expose that.”
The complaint was also signed by Gambill, the female student who asked that her name not be used for safety reasons in the December DTH article, and former Assistant Dean of Students Melinda Manning, who stepped down from her position in December after 11 years at UNC.
The complaint was filed with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, accusing the University of violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 — a law that prohibits gender-based discrimination and guarantees equal opportunity in all educational programs that receive federal funding.
Title IX, while most known for its requirement that schools provide males and females equal athletic opportunities, also applies to all aspects of gender equity, including sexual assault.
The law implies that improperly investigated cases of sexual assault can create an environment that denies victims their right to education.
“When students are mistreated by UNC, they don’t feel comfortable here,” Pino said. “And that means they haven’t been given an equal opportunity education.”
The complaint also charges that UNC violated the Clery Act’s Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights.
That bill of rights requires that colleges and universities provide sexual assault victims certain basic rights, such as the right to be notified of counseling services and the right to be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding.
Clark said the University failed to provide victims many of their guaranteed rights and violated Title IX on multiple counts.
“We’re not filing to try to vilify the University,” Clark said. “We’re filing because this is a problem that’s been happening for years.
“We’re doing this because we love UNC and we want the best for it, not because we’re angry at it.”