The Sexual Assault Task Force said it would have its new policy ready by the beginning of the year. The release has been delayed several times since the Task Force originally convened in May 2013. At first, the group said it would release preliminary recommendations for the University before the start of the 2013-14 academic year.
“We expect (the updated policy) to be released very soon,” said Joel Curran, Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs.
The University began evaluating its sexual assault policies after three students filed a complaint against the University with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging that UNC facilitated a hostile environment for victims reporting sexual assault. Since then, members of the Sexual Assault Task Force have spent months defining words like “consent,” “inebriation” and “black-out drunk” to craft a new policy that would address the emerging prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
Curran declined to comment on why the new policy wouldn’t be ready today. Junior Sarah-Kathryn Bryan, a member of the Sexual Assault Task Force, said the Chancellor’s office didn’t receive the group’s final draft until last wee k.
“We had our final meeting in June,” Bryan said. “But we had to make sure all the language was in line with the task force.”
Between May 2013 and June 2014, the Sexual Assault Task Force met 20 times, according to The Daily Tar Heel’s analysis of the group’s schedule.
The group spent $4,842.88 on food, beverages and catering for these meetings, according to public records provided to The Daily Tar Heel. University trust funds, not student fees, paid for the food expenses, the record shows.
The University is part of the growing number of colleges and universities to revisit their sexual assault policies as the national dialogue around sexual assault on college campuses surges.
In July, the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight released a report that said universities are largely failing to address sexual assaults. A survey of 440 universities found that 40 percent of schools had not investigated a single instance of sexual assault in five years.
In its report released earlier this month, the UNC-system Board of Governors said that system schools should promptly investigate and adjudicate reports of sexual assault.
After releasing its new Gender-Based Misconduct Policy for Students last week, Columbia University was criticized for failing to address accommodations for survivors and leaving the appeals process in the hands of administrators with little experience. Harvard University also updated its Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment Policy earlier this summer after its original policy failed to provide academic and therapeutic support for victims.
The task force was committed to including student and administrative feedback, and Curran said that means releasing the report took longer.
Administrators have already adopted many of the policies laid out in the task force’s report, Bryan said.
“Having a formal rollout wasn’t expected,” Bryan said. “We have people working in accordance with the new policy even though it hasn’t been integrated into the whole campus.”
Going forward, the members of the task force will work with the University to ensure the new policies are implemented smoothly.
“I will be focused on dispensing as much information to people entangled in interpersonal violences issues,” Bryan said.