In an open letter to students, faculty and staff, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp addressed the latest updates in the Campus Conversation about Sexual Assault.
Thorp announced that the student-led Honor System has been asked to suspend an Honor Court proceeding involving a student who has spoken out about sexual assault issues on campus. In connection with that case, Thorp said campus officials understand that a claim of retaliation may be filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the University.
“For several weeks, the University has grappled with how best to respond to a public claim of retaliation against the University while maintaining the autonomy and integrity of our Honor Court proceedings and the privacy of the individuals involved,” Thorp wrote.
Of UNC’s ongoing engagement and education efforts, Thorp wrote, “I hear your concerns, and I share them. These conversations are important. They keep your concerns top of mind as we address these challenges.”
Following is the text of the Chancellor’s letter sent via email on March 26, 2013.
Message from the Chancellor: Update on the Campus Conversation about Sexual Assault
March 26, 2013
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:
Our ongoing conversation about sexual assault represents one of the most important issues I have faced at Carolina. And rightly so.
It is clear that our students, both men and women, are passionate about this issue. In our conversations over the past two months, our campus community has raised meaningful questions: How can we address the root causes of sexual assault? How we can better support students who experience sexual assault? What is the most appropriate way for the University to handle these complex issues?
I hear your concerns, and I share them.
One issue that has attracted your attention is an Honor Court case involving a student who has spoken out about sexual assault issues on campus. In connection with that case, we understand that a claim of retaliation may have been filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the University.
For several weeks, the University has grappled with how best to respond to a public claim of retaliation against the University while maintaining the autonomy and integrity of our Honor Court proceedings and the privacy of the individuals involved. Recognizing the potential conflicts that may exist by allowing both processes to continue, we have asked the Student Attorney General to suspend the Honor Court proceeding pending an external review of these allegations of retaliation. The University takes all allegations of retaliation seriously, whether against an individual or an institution, and this allegation is no exception.
In the meantime, we will continue our important work to address the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence that affect all college campuses. For several weeks, we have participated in a period of community engagement and education. Throughout this process, the University has continued a long tradition of encouraging students to exercise their right to speak out. That’s how most important social change occurs. The University will continue to encourage frank and candid dialogue among our community members and to create a safe space for that conversation.
We brought one of the nation’s leading experts on this issue to Carolina in January. Gina Smith has since met with dozens of campus groups and talked with hundreds of students. She wanted to hear directly from you, and your input has been valuable in helping her identify ways to improve how sexual assault cases are handled by the University.
These conversations are important. They keep your concerns top of mind as we address these challenges.
I’ve said before that our system is not perfect — but it’s important to recognize that we have made many significant and positive improvements in recent years. Most recently, we hired two new staff members to investigate sexual assault complaints and provide students with the compassion, support and resources they need if a sexual assault does occur.
We continue to look for additional ways we can address your concerns in a responsible and meaningful way.
As we move forward, we will continue to seek your input and ideas. We will continue to cooperate with investigations into our handling of sexual assault cases and our campus security program. And we will continue to do everything we can to support our students.
Thank you for being part of the positive changes we are making. If you have additional ideas or concerns regarding these matters, do not hesitate to contact me personally or to submit your feedback to our online suggestion box at the Campus Conversation website.
- Campus Conversation about Sexual Assault
- Resources for students who experience sexual assault.
- Key Facts, FAQ, Background on Sexual Assault Complaints, Reporting Options, Campus & Community Resources & the Honor System.
- UNC response to Office for Civil Rights request.
Published March 26, 2013.