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The Daily Tar Heel

University did not retaliate against student, review finds

Complaints that the University retaliated against sophomore Landen Gambill — who was charged with an Honor Court violation for creating a hostile environment for another student — were unfounded, according to an external review.

Chancellor Holden Thorp also announced Thursday that the Honor Court provision under which Gambill was charged was dismissed, as was the case her ex-boyfriend brought against her.

In February, Gambill was charged with a violation of the University’s Honor Code that claimed she had engaged in intimidating behavior toward her ex-boyfriend, who she publicly accused of raping her. The charges were filed by her ex-boyfriend, and an Honor Court trial was slated to take place within weeks.

The following month, Gambill filed a federal complaint against the University — her third — alleging that the Honor Court charges were inappropriate, retaliatory and a violation of her First Amendment rights.

Thorp immediately suspended proceedings between Gambill and her ex-boyfriend to investigate Gambill’s charges of retaliation.

But according to a statement from Thorp, a review conducted by Barbara Lee, an expert in handling sexual harassment grievances, found no evidence of retaliatory actions by the University.

Thorp also said in the statement that moving forward, no student will be charged under the provision of the Honor Code dealing with disruptive and intimidating behavior — the charge Gambill faced.

“This action is not a challenge to the important role of students in our Honor System,” wrote Thorp, who has long denied administrator control in Honor Court cases, “but is intended to protect the free speech rights of our students.”

Thorp said Honor Court cases currently under this provision, including the one against Gambill, will be dismissed.

The full text of Thorp’s statement is below.

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

In March, we commissioned an independent, outside review following
public allegations that the University retaliated by bringing an Honor
Court charge against a student based on statements made about our
response to sexual assault incidents and issues on campus.

We want to share new information with you about the results of this

The review — conducted by Barbara Lee, a nationally recognized expert
in handling sexual harassment grievances and a human resource management
professor at Rutgers University — found no evidence that the University
retaliated against the student.

This has been a difficult situation for the students involved, and it
has led to me to carefully reexamine two issues: (1) how we can continue
to protect our students’ right to free speech, and (2) the Honor Code
provision dealing with disruptive or intimidating behavior that was the
basis of the original charge.

This review brought into sharp focus concerns about this particular
Honor Code provision. As a result, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Winston Crisp consulted with campus colleagues, including Richard Myers,
the chair of the Committee on Student Conduct and a professor in our
School of Law, and Faculty Chair Jan Boxill about this issue. Vice
Chancellor Crisp recommended that no student should be charged with
violating this section of the Honor Code until the Committee on Student
Conduct can adequately evaluate the provision.

I agree with Vice Chancellor Crisp, and this change will take effect
immediately. Honor System charges involving this provision of the Honor
Code, including the case in question, will be dismissed.

This action is not a challenge to the important role of students in our
Honor System, but is intended to protect the free speech rights of our

The Honor System is a Carolina tradition that dates back more than 100
We are one of the last universities in the nation with a student-led
Honor System, and our students have invested an impressive amount of
effort in sustaining this tradition.

This situation has raised important issue that will deserve further
discussion. While I will not be here to take part in those discussions,
I am confident that all of you will work together to help develop
solutions that work for the whole Carolina community.


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