UNC is committed to a fair, respectful process

TO THE EDITOR:

In the past few days, there have been a number of media stories about a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights challenging our campus response to allegations of sexual assault.

I have not seen the complaint. I understand that the Office for Civil Rights received the complaint and is in the process of reviewing it now.

Nevertheless, the DTH has reported that the complaint contains allegations that accuse both the institution and a number of individuals, including myself, of a number of specific actions.

As I have indicated to writers for the DTH, the University cannot respond to a complaint that we have yet to receive from the Office for Civil Rights.

Even after we receive the complaint, we are obligated to respond to it through the proper legal channels.

For myself, and for others, I am confident that an appropriate opportunity to more fully and directly respond to these accusations will present itself in time, and I very much look forward to that opportunity.

In the meantime, please know that for the entirety of my more than 20 years of service to this campus community, I have been absolutely committed to helping create and maintain an environment conducive to a healthy educational process for each and every student enrolled here.

My actions have always been and always will be consistent with that commitment.

The complaints of sexual assault heard by the University’s Student Grievance Committee (and, until fall 2012, the Honor Court) almost always involve charges brought by one UNC student against another UNC student.

When you hear only one student’s description of what happened to him or her, it’s easy to pass judgment. When you listen carefully to both students, the task often becomes more difficult.

Talk with any student who has served on a hearings panel responsible for reaching a decision in one of these cases, and I think you will hear how gut-wrenching and agonizing the deliberations can be.

Of course, these matters are significantly more painful for the students directly involved, and we try to always be mindful of that fact while staying true to our legal and procedural requirements.

During the past year, Dean Jonathan Sauls and I (and many other members of the campus community) have devoted countless hours to strengthening the campus process for responding to allegations of sexual assault. I believe our policy, which can be found at http://www.unc.edu/campus/policies/harassanddiscrim.pdf/ is committed to a fair, respectful process, not only complies with federal guidelines, but is also effective, fair and supportive of the students involved.

I am also proud of the resources our campus makes available to students who have survived interpersonal violence. A summary can be found at http://safe.unc.edu/resources/ is committed to a fair, respectful process. More information is also available through our UNC student wellness office.

In addition to these resources, we are close to adding two new positions that will focus on these issues. We are currently recruiting a student complaint coordinator.

This coordinator will help students understand University policies that address complaints of sexual assault and will connect students to the resources they need.

A search committee, with both undergraduate and graduate/professional student representatives, has completed its work.

During the process, student feedback was solicited as part of on-campus interviews with the candidates.

In addition, the Equal Opportunity/ADA Office is close to concluding a search for a new investigator position that will be responsible for handling student harassment, including sexual misconduct, and discrimination cases. The addition of this investigator position will assure that these complaints are pursued promptly so that resolution can be achieved quickly.

We recognize that there is more work to be done. There will always be more work to be done.

We must continually educate and train faculty, staff and students about the issues and about our campus policies and procedures. We must continually work to engage the entire campus community in an effort to eradicate all forms of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination.

Most of all, we must continually strive to assure that our process is fair, accessible and respectful. We are committed to doing just that.

Winston Crisp
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

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