Published: Mar 01, 2013 06:57 PM
Modified: Mar 01, 2013 06:58 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Pressure is building for UNC’s Honor Court to drop the case against a sophomore who was charged with intimidating her ex-boyfriend by speaking out about his alleged sexual assault.
On Friday, about 200 people rallied for Landen Gambill, the student they’ve called a brave whistleblower. Gambill is among the students, a former student and former administrator who filed a federal complaint in January about the university’s handling of sexual assault cases.
“It is our responsibility as members of a community to hold ourselves and our neighbors accountable for upholding the status quo, which currently entitles the perpetrators of violence to greater protection than is granted to survivors,” said student Sarah Kathryn Bryant.
Several speakers suggested it was time for the university to assert power over the Honor Court to dismiss the charge against Gambill, but the administration said it has no influence over charges in the student run honor system.
“Sexual assault is intolerable – at Carolina or anywhere else,” Chancellor Holden Thorp said late Friday. “The accusation that the university has retaliated against a student for filing a complaint is totally and completely false. Administrators have no authority over how charges are made in individual Honor Court cases.”
Thorp said many changes were under way to improve the process for dealing with sexual assaults, which are no longer adjudicated through the Honor Court. Gambill’s case was heard last year.
Gambill, from Mooresville, has been charged with an honor code violation for speaking out about an ex-boyfriend, who also is a UNC student. A letter said she had been charged with “disruptive or intimidating behavior that willfully abuses, disparages, or otherwise interferes” with another’s academic pursuits at the university.
The accusation was made by the ex-boyfriend, who was found not guilty in an earlier honor court proceeding, according to Gambill.
Gambill said she has never publicly identified him.
“I’ve never said his name. This isn’t about him, “ Gambill, a women’s studies and philosophy major, said in an interview. “This is clearly retaliation from the university about me filing the complaint and about me speaking out.”
The federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights accuses the university of violating the rights of sexual assault victims and of creating a hostile climate that denies victims the right to an education. At a news conference in January Gambill spoke about her case and was widely quoted in media accounts, saying, “There are rapists on this campus, and the university knows it.”