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Sexual assault task force reconvenes

The UNC Sexual Assault Task Force held a meeting on Jan. 7, 2014 at the Friday Center.
The UNC Sexual Assault Task Force held a meeting on Jan. 7, 2014 at the Friday Center.

Under UNC’s current sexual assault policy, “consent” is defined in four sentences.

But UNC’s Sexual Assault Task Force’s current draft of the policy has defined the term in 14 sentences.

The task force hopes the changes will make the policy specific enough that survivors of sexual assault won’t have to research terms and definitons on their own.

“I think we all agree that pulling up a 20-page PDF isn’t going to be how somebody seeks help,” said Christi Hurt, director of the Carolina Women’s Center and chairwoman of the task force.

And that definition is still subject to change — for seven hours on Tuesday, members of UNC’s sexual assault task force worked in small groups and as a large group to discuss the policy.

UNC’s current sexual assault policy is 48 pages.

Title IX Coordinator Howard Kallem, a former lawyer for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights who began his position last week, said it is important for colleges to have the clearest policy possible.

In Kallem’s previous position, he looked into federal complaints against colleges’ handling of sexual assault.

“The issues we see frequently are when there are a number of policies and it’s not clear what applies under what circumstance,” he said.

To clarify the policy revisions the task force has worked on since summer 2013, task force members tried to break down everything from acronyms to definitions of words such as “complicity,” “stalking,” “incapacitation” and “sexual exploitation.”

These terms are not defined in the University’s current sexual assault policy.

Hurt said she wants the policy to be as user-friendly as possible.

During the meeting, the task force split up into small groups to view the policy draft through the lens of a reporting party, responding party, an adjudicative body, an investigator and a third party.

After hours of discussing, the members presented their ideas for how to make the policy draft more accessible and clear.

“The policy as a whole is very Title IX-focused,” said Student Body President Christy Lambden, a member of the committee. “This is very specific and needs to broaden up at some point.”

Director of the LGBTQ Center Terri Phoenix said deciding the training and qualifications of the hearing panel which adjudicates sexual assault cases was a key area to change.

The task force voted in November that students would no longer sit on the grievance committees.

“This stuff around the hearing panel is going to glue or unglue the policy,” Phoenix said.

“We want to make sure it can’t be manipulated by Board of Trustees, Board of Governors — anyone who has a vested interest. We do have cases that can get high profile.”

Many of the members also had questions about the section of the policy draft which states that “the University seeks to resolve all reports within 60 days.”

Undergraduate Student Attorney General Anna Sturkey said this section was unclear.

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“Where does this start and where does it end — does that include appeals?” she said.

Hurt said the task force, which has been meeting since the summer, would try to meet weekly until February.

The task force must present its policy recommendations to Chancellor Carol Folt.

“We have a long list of things to still work on, but our bones are there,” Hurt said.