Landen Gambill says Honor Court charge is retaliatory
After months of speaking out about the University’s handling of sexual assault cases, sophomore Landen Gambill said the system she has tried to change is once again working against her.
Gambill said she was charged Friday with a conduct violation of the University’s Honor Code that claims she engaged in disruptive or intimidating behavior against the man she has accused of raping her.
“It’s ridiculous — I’m shocked, afraid and upset,” Gambill said.
“But those feelings of shock have been followed by realizing that this isn’t just about me at all, it’s about how the University is willing to treat survivors unjustly in order to protect rapists,” she said.
But University officials play no role in determining Honor Court charges, said a UNC spokeswoman, who added that any claim of retaliation is unfounded.
In the spring of 2012, Gambill filed a sexual assault charge against her ex-boyfriend through interim proceedings in the Honor Court. She said he was found not guilty and that the case was handled inappropriately by members of the Honor Court and administrators.
Sexual assault was fully removed from the Honor Court’s jurisdiction in August 2012.
Along with four others, Gambill filed a complaint last month with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against UNC, claiming that the University handles sexual assault cases with negligence and insensitivity.
Gambill said she learned 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.
“What my ex-boyfriend is saying is that by speaking out about how the University has handled my case, I’ve created an intimidating environment for him on campus,” she said.
“I’ve never mentioned his name, or anything about him to anyone,” she said. “If no one knows who he is, how can he feel intimidated?
“If anything, him — the guy who raped me — being on campus creates an intimidating and unsafe environment for me.”
Gambill said charging her with the violation is an example of administrators’ punishment of sexual assault victims who speak up about UNC’s inappropriate handling of cases.
But administrators are not responsible for the newest charge against Gambill, officials said, adding that decisions are left up to the students who run the Honor Court.
Karen Moon, director of UNC News Services, said in an email that the two student attorney generals have the decision power in all Honor Court cases.
There is a faculty advisory committee, she said, but that group is available specifically for consultation.
“Given that these charging decisions are made by student attorney generals and not by campus administrators, a claim of retaliation by the University would be without merit,” Moon said.
Gambill said she is doubtful that upper administrators work independently of the Honor Court.
“I guess I have a hard time believing that they are so separate when the Honor Court is overseen by the judicial programs officer, who is under the Dean of Students Office,” she said.
Judicial Programs Officer Erik Hunter, Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp could not be reached for comment.
Gambill said she is also worried that the charge against her will discourage other victims of sexual assault from speaking up or reporting cases to the University.
“When I met with (Graduate and Professional Schools Student Attorney General Elizabeth Ireland) about the charge filed against me, I asked her if by saying I was raped, if I could be found in violation of the Honor Code,” Gambill said.
“She responded by saying, ‘That sounds like a loaded question, but yes,’” Gambill said.
Ireland referred all questions to Hunter when contacted.
Crisp wrote in an email to Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton on Monday night that the Honor Code does not include any charge that would punish reporting sexual assault.
“I know of no circumstances where the good faith report of a rape would result in Honor Code charges,” he wrote in the email, which was provided to The Daily Tar Heel by Chilton.
Amanda Claire Grayson, undergraduate student attorney general, said reporting a sexual assault would never lead to an Honor Code violation.
Gambill said she plans to respond to the charges with a claim of not guilty.
Grayson said the charge does not carry with it any set punishment. But, like with any charge, Gambill could face a range of light punishments up to expulsion.
Grayson said that most Honor Court hearings do not result in expulsion. She stressed that though the burden of proof to move a complaint to a trial is low, the burden of proof to find a student guilty is beyond a reasonable doubt, which is much harder to prove.
Grayson said Honor Court trials typically last three to five weeks and are heard by a panel of five experienced student members of the Honor Court.
But Gambill said she is fearful of using a student-driven process in determining the outcome of her conduct violation.
“I don’t have a lot of faith in the honor system at this point,” Gambill said.
“I obviously hope that they see how ridiculous and unfounded this charge is.”
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