Current Date: Mon, 10 Mar 2014 15:14:12 -0400
Sophomore Landen Gambill filed a third complaint with the federal government today, according to a letter sent to the University from her attorney.
Gambill’s attorney, Henry Clay Turner, said in a Monday letter to Chancellor Holden Thorp that Gambill filed a retaliation complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging that UNC has attempted to silence and discredit her through administrators’ responses to the Honor Court charges brought against her. Turner provided The Daily Tar Heel with a copy of this letter.
On Feb. 22, Gambill was charged with a conduct violation of the University’s Honor Code that claims she engaged in disruptive or intimidating behavior against the man she has repeatedly accused of raping her.
The charge was brought by Gambill’s ex-boyfriend. He has said in a previous interview that Gambill’s speaking out about sexual assault has created an intimidating and uncomfortable environment for him on campus.
Gambill has vehemently denied that her public advocacy has ever provided identifiable characteristics of her ex-boyfriend, the man she has accused of rape.
But Gambill’s ex-boyfriend has refuted this denial, citing that Gambill’s disclosure of key details — including their long-term relationship and the proximity of his dorm to hers — makes him easily identifiable.
Turner said in the letter that the charges brought against Gambill are a violation of her First Amendment rights.
“The First Amendment protects Ms. Gambill’s right to speak out about her experience as a survivor of sexual assault and about UNC’s shameful handling of her case,” Turner said in the letter.
“The retaliatory charges against my client are inappropriate, unconstitutional and utterly without
merit,” he said elsewhere in the letter.
The letter also says that Gambill will not participate in the Honor Court case against her and demands that Thorp drop the charges against her, calling the charge against her a “reckless prosecution.”
In the letter, Turner doubts UNC’s statements that upper administrators play no role in charging students with Honor Court violations.
“You, Chancellor Thorp, have the authority and the responsibility to immediately dismiss this charge,” the letter says.
“It is time for the University to take responsibility for the broken system it has created, starting by
dismissing this case,” Turner wrote later in the letter.
But Thorp has previously denied the University’s role in Honor Court cases, citing that the Court is a solely student-run system.
“The accusation that the University has retaliated against a student for filing a complaint is totally and completely false,” Thorp said in a March 2 statement. “Administrators have no authority over how charges are made in individual Honor Court cases.”
Honor Court trials are typically held four to six weeks after a charge is brought against a student. If Gambill is found guilty, she could face a range of consequences from light punishment to expulsion.
Amanda Claire Grayson, undergraduate student attorney general, has said most Honor Court hearings do not result in expulsion.
Gambill is also one of five co-authors of two other complaints filed with two offices in the Department of Education — the Clery Act Compliance Division and the Office for Civil Rights. Both departments announced investigations of UNC this month.