NEW Key Facts, FAQ, Background on Sexual Assault Complaints, Reporting Options, Campus & Community Resources & the Honor System
Students may pursue criminal charges with the police in addition to, or instead of, pursuing cases through a University process. The University encourages students to contact the police and pursue criminal charges and will assist students with that decision.
Any student who wishes to contact the police about a sexual assault should call 911. The University’s Department of Public Safety officers are trained to assist students who experience sexual assault. If the incident occurred off campus, officers will connect the student to the police department or law enforcement agency in the correct jurisdiction.
Are sexual assault cases handled by the Honor System? No. All sexual assault cases that proceed to a hearing are now handled by the Student Grievance Committee. Hearings are conducted by a three-person panel that includes a student, faculty member and staff member. These individuals receive specialized training to help them understand the complexities of sexual assault cases.
Did the Honor System handle sexual assault cases in the past? Yes. The Honor System traditionally handled all cases involving academic or student conduct on campus. However, the University recognizes that sexual assault issues are more complex, emotional and require special expertise and training. In January 2012, the University instituted an interim process that required all sexual assault hearings to be handled by a five-member University Hearings Board that included two students, two faculty members and one staff member. In August 2012, the University formalized the current policy that requires all sexual assault hearings to be handled by the Student Grievance Committee.
Why did the University change how it handles sexual assault cases? The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights directed colleges and universities nationwide in April 2011 to adopt new policies and procedures regarding sexual assault. At the time, the University was in the process of changing its procedures. The University since has removed sexual assault cases from the jurisdiction of the Honor System.
Other changes in policies include the adoption of a lower burden of proof (students may be found responsible for sexual assault based on a “preponderance of the evidence”) and a new appeals process that allows either party to appeal to the Chancellor or his/her designee if the grounds for appeal are met.
Why are sexual assault cases handled by the University and not the police? Students who experience sexual assault may pursue criminal charges in addition to, or instead of, pursuing cases through the University process. The University encourages students to contact the police and pursue criminal charges and will assist students with that decision.
The new federal guidelines from the Office for Civil Rights require colleges and universities to provide an avenue for students to pursue sexual assault claims separate from the criminal justice system. The current process affords students more support, resources and privacy and has a lower burden of proof. In accordance with guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education, a student may be found responsible for sexual assault based on a preponderance of the evidence.
Can my conversation remain confidential? Students who experience sexual assault can speak confidentially with the University’s Ombuds Office, an impartial, informal and independent resource. Students can also receive confidential counseling and support from the University Counseling and Psychological Services, Campus Health Services, UNC Hospitals Emergency Department and local support organizations, such as the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and The Compass Center for Women and Families.
People who experience sexual assault may have a variety of responses, including fear, anger and shame, and Carolina offers different services and resources to meet individual needs.
How does the University provide support? The University is deeply committed to providing support and care to students who experience sexual assault. Because sexual assault survivors may experience a wide range of responses, Carolina offers different services and resources to meet individual needs. A sexual assault resources guide may be found at: http://campusconversation.web.unc.edu/resources/
Does the University assist students in filing criminal charges? Yes. The UNC Department of Public Safety can work with students to pursue criminal charges for sexual assault cases. In addition, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs recently hired a Student Complaint Coordinator/Deputy Title IX Officer (Ew Quimbaya-Winship) who can guide students through the process of pursuing criminal charges. Ew may be reached at (919) 843-3878.
How is the University working to change the campus climate about issues related to sexual assault? The University has retained Gina Maisto Smith, a former prosecutor and national expert on college sexual abuse, to help guide campus-wide conversation about how sexual assault affects campus and culture. Her work is an instrumental part of the University’s efforts to strengthen current processes and to change the culture on campus. (Refer to Chancellor Thorp’s March 8, 2013, message to the campus community for additional context.)
What is the Honor System? For more than 130 years, Carolina students have helped form the University standards by which they live, and they maintain those standards through self-governance. Through the student-led Honor System, students consider cases involving allegations of Honor Code violations. For more information, visit: http://studentconduct.unc.edu/honor-system.
How does the Honor System work? The Student Attorney General’s office receives reports of suspected violations and determines whether or not to file charges. The Student Attorney General’s staff is responsible for working with the accused student and the reporting party to gather and prepare relevant material for the case.
During an Honor System hearing, members of the Student Attorney General’s staff act as either defense or investigative counsels representing the accused student or the University community, respectively. The Student Attorney General’s staff, accused student and reporting party present their evidence and testimony to the Honor System members. Honor System members are responsible for hearing alleged violations, deliberating on a verdict and determining appropriate sanctions, if necessary.
The University’s Office of Student Conduct in Student Affairs provides advice, training assistance and support services for Honor System members who are involved in a complaint, as well as for those who are leading the system.
What are the possible sanctions that may result from an Honor System proceeding? Sanctions range from a written letter of warning to expulsion. Students who face Honor System charges are informed of all possible sanctions. Only the Chancellor has the authority to permanently suspend or expel a student.
Has a student ever been disciplined for reporting a sexual assault? No student has ever been disciplined for reporting a sexual assault or alleging a violation of the Honor Code.
Why do students lead the Honor System? Carolina students have led the Honor System since 1875. Students hold each other accountable for the standards outlined in the Honor Code, and their peers participate in Honor System verdicts. Students value these traditions, and they are important parts of the University community.
Are faculty involved in the Honor System? Yes. A faculty advisory committee is available to the Student Attorneys General who manage Honor System cases for confidential consultation about difficult cases. This committee was established this academic year in response to recommendations from faculty and with Chancellor Thorp’s full support.
Can Honor Court decisions be appealed? Yes. If a student believes an Honor System decision is incorrect, there are options available for appeal within the Honor System. To learn more about the Honor System’s appeals process, visit: http://studentconduct.unc.edu/sites/studentconduct.unc.edu/files/Fall2012Draft8.14.12.pdf#page=45
Published March 18, 2013
Here is a list compiled by the Executive Branch of Student Government to address questions about the Honor System: