May 1, 2013
Message from the Chancellor: Update on Campus Response to Sexual Assaults
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
As the semester winds to a close, I write to share an update about the progress of our campus conversation on sexual assault issues. There are three key points:
1. This is an extremely important issue for Carolina.
We are committed to doing everything we can to create a safe environment for the people who live, study and work at Carolina. When people commit sexual assaults, sexual misconduct or other acts of violence, we must provide all who are affected with the care, support and resources they need. We also provide a process for investigating and adjudicating complaints that is fair to everyone involved.
2. We are taking additional steps to improve and enhance our existing procedures, and that work will continue this summer.
We continue to review our policy and procedures for handling sexual assaults after making several significant changes over the past two years to enhance these efforts.
For example, the Student Grievance Committee that adjudicates sexual assault cases is represented by an equal number – six – of students, faculty and staff. Each hearing panel that considers a case has one student, one faculty and one staff representative. We created three new positions to respond to sexual assault claims, provide students with additional support and resources, and lead our Title IX compliance efforts. We also brought Gina Smith, a national expert on sexual assault, to campus to identify ways we can continue to improve how we handle these issues.
There is still work to be done. Ann Penn, Director of our Equal Opportunity/ADA Office, today announced the appointment of a 21-member task force that will review our process for handling student-on-student complaints of harassment, sexual misconduct and discrimination. The task force includes students, faculty, staff and a local expert who represent the many voices of our University community. The task force will start meeting this month, continue working over the summer and make recommendations to Ms. Penn.
For details about the task force and its membership, go to the announcement on the University’s homepage, http://www.unc.edu/campus-updates/task-force-reviews.
3. If you experience a sexual assault, you may pursue criminal charges with the police in addition to – or instead of – pursuing cases through the University.
There has been much discussion about whether sexual assault complaints should be handled by the University or by law enforcement agencies. The University is required by federal law to provide a process for investigating and deciding these cases. Students may pursue criminal charges with the police in addition to – or instead of – pursuing cases through a University process. We encourage students to contact the police and pursue criminal charges. The Office of the Dean of Students can support and assist survivors in making that decision or pursuing the University’s grievance process. In addition, there are a host of resources available at Carolina and in our community to assist you, regardless of whether you file a formal report. You may find a list here http://campusconversation.web.unc.edu/resources.
Finally, I want to thank you for your concern and support on this important issue. You have made your voices heard, and we are listening. I appreciate your efforts to make sure Carolina addresses the issue of sexual assault in a positive and constructive way.