We know that the issue of sexual assault continues to be top of mind for our campus community, and we understand that heightened awareness brings a great deal of concern and questions regarding our process. We are always listening and looking for ways to ensure our policy is working, meets federal requirements and addresses the specific needs of our campus community.
Many of you may not have been on campus when we implemented the revised policy addressing sexual assault in fall 2014. The policy was created by a cross-campus community task force who spent more than a full year working to define key terms and create a more easily navigable adjudication process to ensure personal support and care, thoroughness and fair process. The task force, comprising students, faculty, staff and a community member, held numerous open forums to solicit feedback and input into the emerging policy. As the policy was released we pledged to continue to evaluate its efficacy through an annual review. As part of that pledge, we released an annual report containing information about steps taken under the policy and convened an advisory group to review the policy, evaluate support and resources available, assess the effectiveness of the resolution process, and examine feedback from those who have been affected by the policy. The policy is a work in progress and we will continue to share information from this review process.
Recently students and others have requested that we prepare some important reminders and answers to frequently asked questions about our policy and procedures for reports against students. These topics are complex, and we are trying to make them as easy to understand as possible without oversimplifying critical aspects of the federal laws and regulations that also inform our policies. We encourage you to explore this website, the Q&A below, and visit safe.unc.edu to learn more about our policy and procedures, as well as your options for receiving care and support and for filing a report.
Above all, we want to emphasize that we care deeply about the health, safety, and well-being of our students, and are committed to doing everything we can to promptly and thoroughly respond to reports of sexual assault. One of our continued priorities is to find even more ways to support and make resources available to all parties, as needed, throughout the process. We also are working to bolster and improve measures that focus on preventing sexual violence in our community.
Please know we welcome your questions and feedback because they better help us serve you. We want to assure you that teams of people at Carolina will continue to work very hard every day to assist our campus community to help provide a safe campus where all can have an opportunity to thrive.
Felicia A. Washington, Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement
Becci Menghini, Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement
- Every student is required every year to complete an online Title IX Awareness and Violence Prevention training, which will be distributed later this academic year.
- Employees (all staff and faculty) are required to complete the Title IX Awareness and Violence Prevention online training every other year. Other departments also provide education and prevention programming.
- Student Wellness offers a One Act bystander intervention program, and EOC works with campus partners to provide an in-person Haven training that offers skills to support those impacted by violence.
- Student Wellness also leads the Raise the Bar program to partner with local establishments to provide them with tools to help them recognize drug facilitated sexual assault.
- EOC also has the Heels United for a Safe Carolina awareness campaign, which provides the opportunity for EOC to hand out information on campus about resources and types of prohibited conduct throughout the year.
- In addition, we staff tables at many events to help get information out to and receive feedback from the campus community.
We also reach out every time we receive a report that includes an individual’s name, no matter who makes the report. We listen carefully to what the student says about what happened and we work to identify those areas of the student’s life where there might be a sense of fear or anxiety so that we can help where possible. We also provide the student with information about resources, protective measures, and procedural options. We discuss the student’s reporting options to move forward with an investigation under University policy, as well the student’s options to report to local law enforcement to pursue a criminal investigation. Our goal is to provide the student with as much information as possible to help them make informed decisions about available options. Also, sometimes the needs of a student change with time, and we will continue to work with them to provide needed care and support throughout their time at Carolina.
When a report moves forward to investigation with the University, our Report and Response Coordinators will reach out to the individual identified in the report (responding party) and invite them to meet. The Report and Response Coordinators will provide information and resources to the responding party including information about the investigation process and support resources available. It is at this time that an EOC investigator will be assigned and both parties will have an opportunity to provide a formal statement, evidence, and to identify any relevant witnesses.
For example, in each and every case, we let students know:
- all the campus resource options and that the student can also go to law enforcement,
- that a criminal investigation is a separate process from our providing care and support and the University’s adjudication process, and
- that we can connect students to law enforcement to explore pursuing a criminal investigation.
Additionally, we offer the following in each and every case, when they are warranted or requested, to:
- call Housing to check on availability of other rooms, when a student does not feel safe in their current space.
- call Counseling and Psychological Services to make a personal introduction.
- contact the University’s Gender Violence Services Coordinators at the Carolina Women’s Center to facilitate an introduction so that the student can receive confidential support.
- assist the student with obtaining a no-contact order to help them feel safe and supported on campus and not be contacted by the responding party.
- work with faculty members to help make adjustments to exam or paper deadlines.
Every day, we work hard to help connect our students to the confidential medical care, confidential emotional and psychological support options, law enforcement reporting options, and our process for addressing reports under the University policy. We help both reporting and responding parties.
- (1) pursuing disciplinary action, which includes an investigation and adjudication
- (2) voluntarily resolving the matter where appropriate, and
- (3) taking no further action.
We work with each student to address the report in a way that reflects their preference for moving forward, where possible. These possible steps are in addition to the option of contacting law enforcement to pursue criminal charges.
Please see the detailed flow chart that outlines all available options on page 11 of our procedures for reports against students.
We agree that the time it takes to complete an investigation is very important – and we try to complete every investigation as promptly as possible. However, it is even more important that we conduct the most thorough investigation we can and provide the most balanced and equitable resolution possible. Sometimes, that means investigations take longer than 60 days.
- A single investigation may involve scheduling and conducting interviews with 25 or more witnesses. We interview all witnesses and must work around their response times and schedules, which often can mean waiting until witnesses return from a semester break or a study abroad program.
- Scheduling around the calendars of each party’s attorneys or support persons as required frequently causes significant delays.
- Some cases involve identifying and reviewing hundreds of pages of information, including emails, social media posts, text messages, and medical records. It can take a significant amount of time to gather and process these materials even when we eventually get them. Further, as we have no subpoena power, some of these materials may take a significant amount of time to access.
- Cases involving forensic evidence often take longer because we must rely on testing and analysis conducted by agencies outside the University.
Given the complex and devastating nature of these cases, we understand that there will almost always be someone who is disappointed in the outcome or by the process. Title IX staff work with students to help them understand the process in advance, and address questions along the way. We also continue to provide resources and support to students, even if the outcome is not what they wanted. We understand that the investigation and hearing panel processes affect all students differently, and we work to make the process as accessible and easy to navigate as possible.
The hearing panel is new to the facts and circumstances, and will assess evidence, as well as the credibility of witnesses, to reach an independent determination as to responsibility. The hearing panel will review the investigation report and all evidence, including any live testimony, to make a determination by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) as to responsibility.
Students may have an attorney and support person of their choice join them. We provide private rooms for their support person so that they can connect with them in private when needed, place physical barriers in the room so that parties don’t see each other, and offer the ability to participate in the hearing by phone or by videoconference in lieu of appearing in person.
We also don’t allow parties to directly question each other. Parties submit questions to our hearing coordinator in advance. The hearing coordinator reviews the questions and asks questions to the parties. Questions asked by the panel may be uncomfortable based on the nature of the subject matter, but they are necessary to assess credibility and to thoroughly examine the facts. For example, questions about clothing and a person’s level of intoxication, while never used to place blame or judge an individual, are often necessary areas of inquiry to explore potential sources of physical evidence (is clothing ripped, torn or does it have biological stains), to understand the full context of the incident, or to evaluate whether the person was incapacitated such that they were incapable of consenting to sexual activity.