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FAQ: What the changes to the updated sexual assault policy mean

The University released an updated sexual assault policy Thursday. Senior writers Bob Bryan and Carolyn Ebeling answer some of the most important questions about the policy and how it differs from the one UNC used previously.

Where can students report sexual assault?

According to the policy, students can report to Ew Quimbaya-Winship—the student complaint coordinator and deputy Title IX coordinator— and departments such as the UNC Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Dean of Students. Reports can be made — anonymously or not — in person, in writing, by telephone, by email or by an electronic form.

How does the policy define incapacitation and intoxication?

The new policy defines incapacitation as “a state beyond intoxication, impairment in judgment or ‘drunkenness.’” 

The policy states that someone who is incapacitated is unable to give consent. The 2012 policy, on the other hand, did not define incapacitation. One of the prime causes of incapacitation is the use of drugs and alcohol. 

The policy also says a person can be considered incapacitated because of a mental or developmental disability. No matter the level of inebriation, if the individual does not agree to engage in sexual contact, there is no consent. 

The policy does not state that people who are intoxicated cannot give consent.

An individual is still able to give consent when intoxicated as long as they give an affirmative yes, but if the affirmative yes is given and then an individual becomes incapacitated, then sexual activity must cease.

What will be the role of the investigators?

The investigators, who work in the UNC Title IX office, determine whether a policy violation has occurred and submit a preliminary judgment to the students. According to Christi Hurt, the investigators will provide students with immediate information about the case at hand. 

Several other universities, including UVA and Duke University, also use investigators in their sexual assault proceedings.

What will be the role of the hearing panels?

If an investigator determines that a policy violation has occurred, the case could be brought to a hearing panel. These panels will only include faculty and staff, who will go through a two-day training program as well as ongoing training. Students are not allowed to serve on hearing panels. That differs from the 2012 policy, which allowed for one student on each panel.

What is considered sexual assault?

Under the new policy, sexual assault is a sub-category under the broader Sexual or Gender-Based Harassment definition. It is defined as having or attempting to have sexual contact with another person without consent. The new policy then goes on to define both sexual contact and consent. Consent is determined by an affirmative decision indicating that the person agrees to the sexual contact. The policy also states that silence or lack of physical resistance is not the same as consent. If consent is not given by a person, then any sexual contact, or attempt at sexual contact, is considered sexual assault. This definition was expanded from a shorter definition in the old policy that did not include examples of what consent is not.

What are the possible sanctions for sexual assault? 

The University outlined immediate actions that can be taken once a report is filed and sanctions that can be handed down at the end of the review process. If a report is filed, the University can take actions including making class schedule or housing changes, imposing a “No Contact Order” with the Reporting Party, or allowing a voluntary leave of absence and University-imposed suspension for the person being accused, who is also known as the Responding Party.

Sanctions are also imposed after the findings of a hearing panel are presented to both parties involved in the claim. The hearing panel can impose sanctions it feels are necessary to stop any similar actions and maintain a safe environment. Sanctions can fall under two categories: those that impact standing with the University and those that do not. The sanctions that do not impact status range from a written warning or community service to housing restrictions. Sanctions that impact standing with the school, which are more severe, include a probationary period or expulsion from all UNC-system schools.

These sanctions are lengthier than those included in many other schools’ sexual misconduct policies. Both Duke University and the University of Virginia outline similar sanctions but do not separate it into categories or outline what individual sanctions entail, as UNC’s new policy does.

How does the appeals process work, after a case is given its sanction from the hearing panel?

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A responding party who does not agree with the findings or the sanctions handed down can appeal the decision to an Appeals Officer designated by the chancellor’s office. The procedure says that this person will most likely be a vice chancellor. An appeal can only be filed if the Responding Party feels that the process did not follow the procedure or there is new evidence that would have changed the outcome of the investigation. The Appeals Officer then has the option to confirm, change or send the decision back to the original or a new Hearing Panel. This decision will be done within 15 days of the appeal being filed.


UNC's updated sexual assault policy by The Daily Tar Heel