UNC students plan to file Title IX complaint with the Office of Civil Rights

UNC student survivors of rape have come forward with horrific stories of the school’s response to their reports—and they’re not resting until Title IX law is enforced on their campus.

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.”

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a national legal education campaign against campus gender-based violence. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, and NPR. Through Know Your IX, she has organized with students across the country to build campuses free from discrimination and violence, developed federal policy on Title IX enforcement, and has testified at the Senate. At Yale Law, Alexandra focuses on antidiscrimination law and is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. Alexandra is committed to developing and strengthening responses to gender-based violence outside the criminal justice system through writing, organizing, and the law. Keep an eye out for The Feminist Utopia Project, co-edited by Alexandra and forthcoming from the Feminist Press (2015).

Alexandra Brodsky is an editor at Feministing.com, student at Yale Law School, and founding co-director of Know Your IX.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/amck/ AMM

    A writing style gripe: nowhere does the article say what “UNC” is. Not saying what it is or where it is gives readers the impression that you have no interest in being read by anybody except the particular social group in the particular region where “everyone” just knows what UNC means. The WWW is, as its name suggests, a “World Wide” web, and you should keep in mind that your readers could be anywhere in the world (and BTW might not have English as their native language.)

    Since I grew up in Virginia (USA), I guessed that you meant “University of North Carolina (USA)”, but that might not occur to someone in, say Eboli or Mar del Plata.

    Also: University of North Carolina (like many USA state universities) has a number of campuses. Assuming you are, indeed, talking about University of North Carolina, your article doesn’t specify which one you are talking about.

  • http://feministing.com/members/alexandra123/ nadja

    Um…….is that really your response, AMM? This is pretty serious stuff and your comment is just noise.

    As a “UNC” student, this is pretty outrageous. Heaven forbid I ever find myself in this situation, but if I ever do I promise to give them Hell. Good for the victims for standing up for themselves. They’re very brave and let’s hope they get the treatment they deserve.

    • http://feministing.com/members/amck/ AMM

      Lots of things are “serious stuff.” I don’t know what sort of response you were expecting, especially since the original post doesn’t seem to be a call for action.

      While I agree the situation is “serious,” I’m afraid the world is full of “serious stuff” — atrocities and outrages — and of people demanding that I pay attention and be as outraged as they are. I’ve gotten outrage fatigue. I’m more interested in effective action. At this point in my life, a teaspoon full of action that makes a difference, however small, is more valuable than a gallon of outrage.

      And writing a whole article about “serious stuff”, without making clear where that “serious stuff” is happening[*], seems to me to be a few steps removed from “effective action.” (Although to be fair, the article was clear about other things.) My response was offered in the spirit of making that particular action more effective.

      [*] Note that I’m still not sure I know what is meant by “UNC.”