Posted: 44 minutes ago
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Officials at North Carolina’s flagship public university dispute claims they under-reported sexual assaults in 2010 to avoid looking bad.
The top attorney at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told campus trustees Thursday that the allegations are false. General Counsel Leslie Strohm and Chancellor Holden Thorp said they had not seen a complaint filed earlier this month with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
A copy of the report was obtained by the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. That newspaper reported last week that current and former students and former assistant dean of students Melinda Manning accuse the school of under-reporting sexual assaults in an annual report to the federal government on campus crime.
They did not return messages Thursday seeking comment.
Strohm said 23 sex assaults on and off campus were reported in 2010, which was more than the number Manning forwarded to UNC-Chapel Hill officials.
“The allegations of under-reporting sexual assaults is false, untrue and just plain wrong,” she said. “Some false allegations are the result of misunderstanding. I fervently hope this is a result of a misunderstanding.”
The 34-page complaint alleges that university officials also violated federal laws by dismissing the reports of sexual assault victims who came forward and failing to adequately train employees in offering support for those victims.
The university takes “a balanced approach” to sex assault allegations, Thorp said.
“It is a daunting responsibility to get this right,” he said. “It involves sensitive and difficult issues, and it involves trying to treat people fairly within that environment.”
UNC-Chapel Hill is considering hiring an outside expert on college reporting of sexual assaults, Thorp said, and he has reached out to the president of Amherst College in Massachusetts, which has had similar issues.
Students have started an online petition, which has received more than 1,000 signatures, asking Thorp and the Board of Trustees to take action against “hostility, victim blaming and lack of certain administrators’ support when reporting sexual assault and harassment.”
Reporter: Julia Sims
Web Editor: Matthew Burns