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UNC officials deny underreporting of sexual assault cases

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story said Gina Smith will be assisting the University in dealing with the complaint. Smith, a lawyer, will be consulting with the University. The story has been changed to reflect this.

At a UNC Board of Trustees meeting Thursday morning, University officials denied allegations that the University underreported sexual assault cases in response to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education last week.

Among other things, the complaint states the number of sexual assault cases reported in 2010 was incorrect. According to the complaint, there were three fewer cases reported than the number originally submitted by then-Assistant Dean of Students Melinda Manning, who filed the complaint along with four others.

At the meeting, Vice Chancellor and General Counsel Leslie Strohm presented an email showing that Manning reported a total of 16 sexual assault cases during 2010. Strohm presented the Annual Campus Security Report, which reported 23 sexual assault cases.

“The Office of the University Counsel reported every single sex offense that Melinda Manning sent to us, plus seven additional sex offenses that we gathered through our outreach to other offices on campus,” Strohm said.

At the meeting, Chancellor Holden Thorp also announced that the University is in the process of hiring Gina Smith, a legal and policy expert, to consult with the University.

Thorp said in an interview he believes she would be an asset because of her previous experience with a sexual assault case at Amherst College.

“I had followed in the higher education news the way they had handled it and I thought they had done a good job,” Thorp said.

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