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Sexual assault task force says it’s close to conclusion

After more than 20 meetings during the course of this year, the task force to revise the University’s sexual assault policy has almost completed its responsibility.

“What we all are very committed to is having something in place for the fall,” said Christi Hurt , chairwoman of the task force. “I’m hopeful that we’ll have recommendations going forward to the Chancellor and the cabinet this summer, mid-summer, probably, by the time we tighten all of these pieces up.”

Hurt said the task force will pass the completed policy to Felicia Washington, vice chancellor for workforce strategy, equity and engagement, and Winston Crisp, vice chancellor for student affairs, who will then present it to Chancellor Carol Folt and her cabinet.

“The chancellor will get to choose exactly what to do with it in concert with her cabinet,” Hurt said. “I mean, it’s a group decision — I shouldn’t put it on the chancellor. It’s the whole cabinet.”

In the view of the task force, the entire process will be finished for the fall semester, but Folt said she might have other plans.

“Like any recommendation, you have to bring that back to a working group and say, ‘How will you put this in place?’” Folt said in a separate interview.

The introduction of another working group would presumably slow the process. But Folt said it was a key step that would allow members of her administration to gather different perspectives on how the recommendations could be implemented across the University.

Sarah-Kathryn Bryan , an undergraduate member of the task force, said she is especially proud of the definitions section of the policy.

“The definitions of discrimination and different forms of discrimination ensure that more students can find their experiences validated within the policy,” Bryan said.

“So I suspect there will be fewer barriers to reporting a variety of forms of discrimination that are unique to UNC’s campus, including micro-aggressions and forms of sexual assault that are non-penetrative.”

Bryan said the committee had to establish trust early last summer, but the current working culture is highly amicable.

“We’ve understood more or less that we share the goals of validating survivor voices and making it so that people who behave unethically are held responsible,” Bryan said. “A lot of our process has been working through the unintended impact of statements and attitudes that really share the same goals.”

Anna Sturkey, former undergraduate attorney general , said the diverse task force has been united through Hurt’s sensitive leadership.

“People have so many different experiences and can bring so much to the table from the different areas of the university or community they’ve been involved in,” she said.

“Being able to have the opportunity to hear all of those experiences has really led to very comprehensive policy.”

Activist Andrea Pino praised the high priority that sexual assault policy has taken on Chancellor Folt’s agenda but said the University still does not provide proper training to resident advisers and others. She also objected to a lack of academic and medical resources for sexual assault survivors.

“I think there are many gaps,” said Pino, who isn’t a member of the task force. “I think that the two biggest things are we are focusing too much on adjudication, we’re not talking about training or resources, and I think these are things that are going to impact many more students. Many more students are going to be impacted by bad training and by a lack of communication of resources than they are by adjudication.”

Former Student Body President Christy Lambden said only a few steps remain before the policy can move to the approval process.

“Basically (we’re) just reviewing the language that we have in place making sure that it’s everything that we’ve talked about, following up on the incapacitation debate that we had today and then also waiting on some federal legal guidance on some other parts of the policy that we haven’t been able to decide yet.”

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