February 25, 2013
Following is a statement University spokespersons provided to news media representatives inquiring about Honor Court allegations:
“The University cares deeply about all of its students and is committed to providing policies and procedures that are fair for everyone, especially about an issue that is difficult and often involves strong opinions on both sides like sexual assault. Because of concern for our students and their privacy, and in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), we are unable to discuss the specifics of an Honor Court case or related allegations involving students.
At UNC-Chapel Hill, the Honor Court is a student-run process. (See http://studentconduct.unc.edu/). The Student Attorney Generals have the authority to make decisions about cases considered by the court independent of campus administrators. Administrators may not encourage or prevent the Student Attorney Generals from filing charges in a specific case. Given that these charging decisions are made by Student Attorney Generals and not by campus administrators, a claim of retaliation by the University would be without merit. Because of faculty interest in strengthening the Honor Court process, the University established – with Chancellor Thorp’s support – a faculty advisory committee to be available to the Student Attorney Generals for consultation in difficult cases. The University may not comment on when the faculty advisory committee becomes involved in cases.
Effective August 1, 2012, the University developed a new process for responding to sexual assault complaints. Under this new process, sexual assault cases are no longer addressed through the Honor Court system.
It’s also important to have the current context about UNC-Chapel Hill’s policies and procedures and the current dialogue occurring on campus under the guidance of Gina Smith, a nationally recognized lawyer and leading consultant on sexual misconduct issues retained by Carolina. She has been on campus in recent weeks to guide an open and transparent conversation about how the issue of sexual assault affects the campus and culture that is focusing on education and engagement. Smith, a former prosecutor, educator and consultant, has guided other campuses on issues related to their handling of sexual assault complaints.
As part of this effort, the University has launched a website, Campus Conversation on Sexual Assault, that includes information about relevant policies, schedules for meetings and educational programming and a checklist for next steps. An electronic suggestion box on the site allows anyone to submit ideas to the core team working on implementation.
The website includes recent updates about the University’s hiring of a new Title IX Officer/Student Complaint Coordinator and response to allegations made in connection with the filing of a complaint with the federal Office for Civil Rights in January. The University is on record pledging complete support and cooperation with the OCR, which is currently reviewing the complaint.”