After weeks of allegations that accuse high-level administrators of protecting rapists, the University is beginning an attempt to mend a damaged relationship with sexual assault victims — and to reform its system.
Defying a tendency to address sexual assault strictly within the University, administrators have turned to two outside experts this week.
Time: 4 p.m. today
Location: Queen Anne Faculty Lounge of the Campus Y
On Tuesday, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp announced the appointment of Ew Quimbaya-Winship as UNC’s Deputy Title IX Officer, or student complaint coordinator, who will be the initial contact for sexual assault victims starting March 11.
That announcement comes on the heels of the University’s decision to consult Gina Smith, a nationally known expert on sexual violence, to review and improve UNC’s policies and climate surrounding sexual assault.
The consultation of Smith came after a complaint was filed by three students, one former student and a former administrator with the Department of Education. It accused UNC of falsifying the number of sexual assaults it reported to the federal government, among other things.
Leslie Strohm, UNC’s general counsel, answered the allegations in a Jan. 24 meeting of the Board of Trustees, stating that the University actually reported more cases than was alleged in the complaint. Chancellor Holden Thorp announced the hiring of Smith in the same meeting.
Smith and Thorp will host a forum today to discuss the climate surrounding sexual assault on campus, and to receive input.
“It’s important that (students) know that the University takes these things seriously and is not in denial of the fact that we still have work to do,” said Thorp, who added that this is the most pressing issue facing UNC.
Smith said she aims to prevent the recurrence of sexual assault and to change UNC’s culture by examining policies, considering the dynamics of sexual assault and understanding UNC’s climate and history.
“To accomplish this, I’ll come in with a clean slate,” she said. “I have no predisposition. What’s important for me is to actively listen.”
Smith, who recently worked with Amherst College in revisiting its sexual assault policies, said it isn’t unusual to see concern about the way sexual assault is handled.
“But what is unusual is the openness that we’ve seen at Amherst and UNC,” Smith said. “It’s refreshing to see a commitment by entire campus and community.”
The hiring of Quimbaya-Winship stemmed from a recommendation by the Title IX coordinator search committee to Crisp.
Though the process was plagued by complaints from students that administrators failed to prioritize the hiring and ignored student input, Quimbaya-Winship emerged because of his communication skills and experience, Crisp said in an email.
Quimbaya-Winship, who spearheaded the launching of Warren Wilson College’s Title IX office and worked to update its sexual assault policy, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
“He’s different than administrators here because he actually wants students to be a part of the process,” said Andrea Pino, the sole undergraduate on the search committee and a principal filer of the complaint against UNC.
“He’ll challenge Carolina because he’s well-versed in the policy and in working with survivors.”
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