Current Date: Fri, 07 Mar 2014 23:37:41 -0500
Students rallied Tuesday to demand an Honor Court charge against sophomore Landen Gambill, which she has called retaliation for publicizing her sexual assault, be dropped.
But the University urged caution in a statement addressing news of the Friday charge, which Gambill said claims she engaged in disruptive or intimidating behavior against the man she has accused of raping her.
“The University’s honor system has been the subject of internet commentary and media attention, and some of its student members have received threats to their personal safety,” the University’s release stated.
“Sexual assault evokes passionate responses and concerns. But it is important, particularly in a higher-education community, to avoid judgement based upon speculation.”
More than 200 people gathered at the Campus Y Tuesday to show support for Gambill and discuss ways to improve the environment for sexual assault victims on campus, fueling discussion that has circulated for months.
The central goal of the meeting was to gather support for dropping the Honor Court charge against Gambill.
“I expected there to be some sort of response from the University. The last thing I expected was not just to be revictimized and retraumatized by all of this but to be accused for speaking out solely on the basis that I was making this campus uncomfortable for rapists,” Gambill said at the meeting.
“It’s a big example of how this University sees survivors as a threat and sees the appearance of having a sexual assault problem is worse than actually having a sexual assault problem,” she said.
Student Attorney General Amanda Claire Grayson said the attorney general must find a reasonable basis that there is no longer a violation of the Honor Code for charges to be dropped in a case.
“A decision is made by an attorney general in consideration of the evidence that they have before them,” she said, though she said she could not comment on the specifics of this case.
Gambill said a complaint was filed against her in January, citing that her intimidating behavior — going public with her case — adversely affected her ex-boyfriend’s pursuits within the University. But Gambill said she has never publicly named him.
“(This is) not a super typical charge, but it’s also not something that is often reported to the honor system,” Grayson said.
Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said student judicial boards might not be well prepared to deal with claims like Gambill’s case, resulting in an inadequate hearing process for the accused.
“Essentially this is a defamation claim and a student disciplinary board is just not well-equipped to be sitting in judgment of defamation claims,” LoMonte said.
“That’s the problem with putting legal cases through a disciplinary board that doesn’t necessarily have to follow all of the same legal or constitutional standards,” he added.
The University’s statement cited rights held by the accused party in an Honor Court proceeding, including the presumption of innocence, the presentation of evidence and a fair and impartial hearing.
Gambill previously filed a sexual assault charge against her ex-boyfriend through interim proceedings in the Honor Court last spring.
She said he was found not guilty, but that the case was handled with negligence and insensitivity. Gambill never went to the police.
Since Gambill’s case, the jurisdiction for sexual assault cases has moved from the Honor Court to a student grievance committee to comply with a change in federal policy.
The University statement also stressed that this charge is not a retaliation.
“Further, no University administrator filed or encouraged the filing of charges in this case,” it stated.
Senior Writer Paula Seligson contributed reporting.
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