As the U.S. Department of Education begins an investigation into the University’s handling of sexual assault, administrators are making efforts toward fostering an improved relationship with survivors of sexual assault.
The University appointed Jayne Grandes to fill the new position of investigator in the Equal Opportunity/Americans with Disabilities Act Office, a role designed to more thoroughly look in to complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment.
Grandes started the position Monday, just days after Chancellor Holden Thorp received a letter March 1 announcing that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights had opened an investigation of UNC’s treatment of sexual assault cases.
The investigation stems from a federal complaint filed by three students, one former student and one former administrator on Jan. 16, accusing UNC of underreporting cases of sexual assault in 2010 and facilitating a hostile environment on campus for sexual assault survivors.
Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said in an email that UNC will be investigated for allegations of failure to respond to sexual harassment concerns, provide appropriate grievance procedures, impartially investigate and train officials.
While UNC begins to meet the investigation requests — including submitting multiple documents detailing UNC’s sexual assault policies — Grandes is establishing her role.
“This is part of a larger effort in the University,” said Ann Penn, an Equal Opportunity/Americans with Disabilities Act officer at UNC.
“The position was created to help the University better respond to these complaints. We take them very seriously and want to make sure that we have a campus and environment where people do feel safe and free from any kind of discrimination or harassment,” she said.
Penn said the position was initially created last fall after the federal government released a “Dear Colleague” letter in April 2011, mandating that federally funded campuses update sexual assault policies.
Grandes will review evidence and conduct interviews from both the complainant and the accused, Penn said.
“The officer prepares a written report that will include factual findings and also a determination of whether there is good cause to move forward,” Penn said.
Though Grandes will be involved in Title IX cases, her work will differ from that of Ew Quimbaya-Winship, the new Deputy Title IX officer starting next week.
Penn said complaints will be heard by Quimbaya-Winship and referred to Grandes, who will be responsible for investigating them.
Grandes has most recently worked at Rutgers University, where she administered policy and handled complaints.
She said she has worked with students for 17 years and has experience serving as a Title IX coordinator.
Given the nature of sexual assault cases, Grandes said, she wants to be respectful of both survivors and the accused.
“I want to make sure that both parties feel they have been heard and have gone through a fair and equitable process,” she added.
That fair process has been a point of contention between administrators and sexual assault survivors — and was largely a subject of the 34-page complaint, which was obtained by The Daily Tar Heel.
The complaint accuses administrators and Honor Court members of handling sexual assault cases unfairly, saying that accused students were given unfair advantages and that survivors were treated insensitively — specifically in the case of sophomore Landen Gambill, one of the filers. She has been leading the campus conversation about survivor rights.
But Gambill’s ex-boyfriend, whom she has publicly accused of rape, said the process was equitable.
He was found not guilty of two counts of sexual misconduct but guilty of verbal harassment in Spring 2012 by a University Hearings Board.
“None of the questions in the trial were out of place,” he said in a previous interview, adding that he and Gambill were asked equally probing questions.
“Both counsels have the opportunity to object to an unfair question,” he added.
He said the time distribution of the trial favored Gambill, who was questioned for an hour and a half. By contrast, he said, he was questioned for three hours.
But complainant Annie Clark said she is not surprised an investigation was opened.
“I think that this case at UNC can be a catalyst for a nationwide change for us as a country to start talking about sexual assault and sexual harassment,” she said.
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