Sophomore Landen Gambill offers an account of consistent mistreatment throughout her experience with the school’s internal disciplinary process. During her hearing against her violent ex-boyfriend, Gambill was asked why she hadn’t just left her abuser; a member of the Honor Court tasked with handling her case was sure that, if she were in the same situation, she “would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened.” Gambill’s history of depression was used as evidence against her, and her details of the assault provided for the proceeding were released, without her consent, to her parents because the school-provided counsel “thought… they should know.” The cruel ineptitude of the school’s response to Gambill’s abuse is perhaps unsurprising given the “hour at the most” of training that the Honor Court received.
According to student activists, Gambill’s experience is indicative of the school’s systemic mishandling of sexual violence reports. UNC survivor Andrea Pino told me in an email:
[The] UNC administration has violated the equal opportunity mandates under Title IX, including but not limited to: facilitating a hostile environment around students reporting sexual violence, tolerating employment discrimination and retaliation when University employees addressed the above discrimination (violating Title VII) and by dismissing medically diagnosed and documented mental disabilities during court procedures, violating Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Pino, Gambill, and UNC alumnus Annie Clark plan to bring a Title IX complaint against their school through the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The need for federal intervention is urgent: according to Pino, the school’s “treatment of survivors has worsened since the University began rushing to ‘comply’ with the Dear Colleague Letter,” a set of Title IX guidelines released in 2011. The same administrators who were known to silence victims in hearings were the primary authors of the new policy, while students and allies in the faculty and administration were excluded from the drafting process.
The UNC students’ accounts come after a series of disturbingly similar stories from Amherst, Northwestern, and Rice and recent Title IX complaints at colleges including Princeton and Yale (which, full disclosure, I signed). While Pino’s efforts focus on UNC policy, she insists that “all these headlines reveal a national dialogue that needs to happe[n]… Equal opportunity cannot exist until universities fully take action to ensure the equal safety, support, and success of all member[s] of their community—action that requires a full acceptance of the need to end violence, harassment, and discrimination.”