Feb 272013
 

 

newsobserver

UNCRALLY-NE-013013-TEL

UNC-Chapel Hill student Landen Gambill speaks during a press conference Wednesday, January 30, 2013 on campus. The students spoke out against what they say is a hostile environment and insufficient support at UNC-Chapel Hill for those who have been sexually assaulted.

TRAVIS LONG

Published February 26, 2013

By Jane Stancill — jstancill@newsobserver.com

CHAPEL HILL — Weeks after filing a federal complaint against UNC-Chapel Hill for its handling of sexual assault cases, a student faces an honor court trial herself, accused of “intimidating behavior” against a fellow student she says raped her.

Landen Gambill, a sophomore from Mooresville, was informed last week by the student-run judicial system that she has been charged with an honor code violation for speaking out about alleged abuse and sexual violence by an ex-boyfriend, who also is a UNC-CH student. A letter from the system to Gambill said that 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. UNC’s honor court is its student-run judicial system. Its hearings and outcomes are typically private.

Gambill said she has never publicly named him.

“I’ve never said his name. This isn’t about him,” Gambill, a women’s studies and philosophy major, said Monday in an interview. “This is clearly retaliation from the university about me filing the (Office for Civil Rights) complaint and about me speaking out.”

In a statement, the university flatly denied retaliating against Gambill and pointed out that honor court charges are decided by students without any interference from administrators.

“This University works hard to encourage students to come forward and report instances of sexual violence,” the statement said. “No student has ever been disciplined for reporting a sexual assault or any Honor Code violation. Further, no University administrator filed or encouraged the filing of charges in this case; there is no retaliation by the University.”

A student official with the honor court declined to comment. But news of the charge against Gambill spread across the Internet, sparking global headlines and provoking angry commentary. This explosive twist of the story even led to threats against the personal safety of student members of the judicial system, the university said late Tuesday.

Federal complaint

Last month, Gambill joined with two other students, a former student and a former assistant dean of students to lodge the federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The complaint 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.

Gambill has been outspoken about an honor court process that she contends re-victimized her. In January, she attended a news conference on campus, where she spoke about her case and how the process was handled by the university. She was widely quoted in media accounts, saying, “There are rapists on this campus, and the university knows it.”

She recounted how last year she first obtained from the Dean of Students office a “no contact” order against the ex-boyfriend. He was suspended from the university and did not return until this semester, when he moved into a dorm across the street from her, she said.

The honor court hearing came after the “no contact” order, Gambill said. It was not clear why the ex-boyfriend was suspended before the hearing.

Gambill said she felt traumatized when members of the honor-court panel questioned her in ways that seemed to place blame on her. The ex-boyfriend was found not guilty in the proceeding, according to Gambill.

He has not been charged criminally. Gambill said she was dissuaded by the Dean of Students office from going to the police and pursuing an honor trial at the same time.

Now she regrets ever going to the honor court, she said.

“It was awful,” she said. “It was a terrible, grueling experience. It was one of the worst days of my life. It made me and my family miserable. My parents still suffer because of it.”

Gambill said the court members asked her questions that seemed to imply the assaults were her fault. And, she said, a previous suicide attempt before she came to UNC-CH was used against her by her ex-boyfriend’s defenders during the court hearing, to question her credibility.

Now, she faces another trial, and a range of punishments, up to and including expulsion.

“I think they want me to shut up and to be quiet and not to talk about it any more,” Gambill said. “I think they’re trying to scare me into silence. I mean, that’s the only possible justification. They want to punish me for calling them out and saying, ‘We deserve better than this.’”

University spokeswoman Karen Moon said in a statement Tuesday that the campus judicial system is entirely run by students, and administrators can neither encourage nor prevent charges against students. Those decisions are made by the student attorneys general, she said.

“Given that these charging decisions are made by Student Attorney Generals and not by campus administrators, a claim of retaliation by the University would be without merit,” Moon’s statement said.

Faculty involvement?

Moon said that a faculty advisory committee is available to consult with the student court on difficult cases. But Moon said the university cannot comment on whether the faculty panel is involved in any specific case.

The honor system’s undergraduate attorney general, Amanda Claire Grayson, declined to comment about the case Tuesday, citing federal student privacy laws. “Please refer to the University’s statement on this matter,” she wrote in an email.

The action against Gambill has spawned outrage on blogs, on social media and at the university. Faculty traded emails on the news, and students and others took to Twitter, where they sounded off under the hashtag #StandWithLanden.

“Sick,” one wrote. Another tweeted: “It’s time to stop protecting the attackers and start helping the victims.”

Since Gambill’s sexual assault case went before the student court last year, the university has rewritten its policies about such cases. Now, sexual assault cases are no longer heard by the student court. Across the nation, universities and colleges are revamping policies to comply with anti-discrimination law under a recent directive from the federal government.

Consultant hired

Last month, after the federal complaint was filed, UNC-CH announced it was hiring a nationally known expert on campus sexual misconduct. Gina Smith, a consultant and former prosecutor of sexual assault cases, has visited the campus in recent weeks to meet with students and administrators. Smith also worked with Amherst College, which has dealt with damaging allegations from a student who wrote about poor treatment by the college after a sexual assault. Another Amherst sexual assault victim committed suicide.

Smith said she couldn’t comment on an individual case, but overall she’s helping the UNC-CH campus with training and education, and facilitating an open conversation around issues of sexual misconduct. She will return to campus early next month.

“There is, across this country, in every college and university, a similar challenge, and that is, ‘How do we implement our policies and procedures in a way that best serves student well being?’” she said. “If there is a perception out there that we are not doing it, the perception alone is a concern and a challenge. And so, we have to address that.”

Gambill said she asked to meet with outgoing Chancellor Holden Thorp when she learned of the honor court charge against her. She was told by his staff that he could not meet with any student with a pending legal action because he had to remain neutral.

In a statement Tuesday, Thorp said student well-being is one of the most pressing issues in higher education.

“The Carolina community cares deeply about all of our students, including both students in this specific matter,” his statement said. “If we are to achieve the ultimate goal of eliminating sexual assault and violence from this campus, we must all work together.”

Gambill said she won’t be silenced. If the charge is not dropped, she said, she will demand a public honor court hearing.

 

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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via CHAPEL HILL: Student who spoke out on UNC conduct is now accused | Local/State | NewsObserver.com.

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Feb 272013
 

washingtonpost

Posted at 09:00 PM ET, 01/23/2013

By Nick Anderson

.Higher education leaders made public a letter Wednesday night that is notable for stressing a point that should be obvious: “College completion must be our priority.”

Which raises the question: Since when has completion not been a priority?

The letter is from a group called the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment, comprised of representatives of six associations of college presidents. E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, chaired the commission. (As I was writing this, the letter had not yet been posted on a public Web site, but I believe it will be found here.)

Earlier Wednesday, Gee said in a telephone interview that colleges sometimes focus too much on getting students in the door and taking their tuition money, and not enough on making sure they get a degree for their troubles. Too many students, as a result, fail to earn a credential that could help them get ahead in work and life.

“It breaks our heart to think about the loss of American potential by the leakage in the system,” Gee said.

Stopping the leakage is a point that President Obama and his aides have been making since 2009.

One problem is that policymakers have trouble defining how well or poorly colleges are doing. Federal data on college graduation rates only account for those who are first-time, full-time enrolled students. Many, though, are transfer students or part-timers or in some other way “non-traditional.”

The commission’s letter notes that four-year public universities have a 54 percent graduation rate using the federal methodology. That rises to 63 percent if the calculations include students who transfer and graduate from another institution. Even more students who fail to graduate on time are still enrolled, in one way or another, and should not be counted as dropouts, the letter said.

Regardless, the letter said, completion rates are still too low. The letter highlighted several techniques that colleges could use to boost the share of students who earn diplomas.

Among them: change the culture on campus to underscore the importance of staying on track for a degree; assign “ownership” of the issue to a high-ranking official; improve the academic experience; facilitate transfer credit for previous learning; help college teachers improve; and deliver courses more efficiently.

Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, one of the members of the commission, said various types of colleges will try various approaches. “One size doesn’t fit all,” she said. “In this letter we’ve identified a number of strategies that are scaleable.”

Broad added that if schools invest as much time and effort on degree attainment as they do on access and recruiting, “we could make a lot of progress.”

By Nick Anderson

via College leaders: Focus on ensuring students get degrees – College, Inc. – The Washington Post.

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Feb 262013
 

 

reflector

By Wesley Brown

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

With the 2013 municipal election looming, Greenville City Council members extended olive branches on Monday, reaching a compromise to fund an additional early-voting site at the Drew Steele Center.

The selection, which requires approval by the Pitt County Board of Elections and U.S. Department of Justice, came at the expense of East Carolina University, a proposed polling location some said they thought was being eyed by potential candidates as a way to use the “very eager” student vote to influence the election.

The claim has been the focus of a three-year debate — which resumed last week — on who should decide where polling sites go.

After 30 minutes of deliberation on Monday, the council, unanimously approved the Drew Steele Center, a centrally located handicap-accessible recreational facility with ample parking and city bus access.

District 3 Councilwoman Marion Blackburn had advocated for the center, saying it is a polling site that “genuinely allows everyone to vote.”

“I think what it really comes down to is a fear that the location of a site on the ECU campus could lead to students tipping the votes,” at-large Councilman Dennis Mitchell said. “I do not share those fears and the site at the Drew Steele Center, I can go with it.”

Mitchell seconded a motion by District 5 Councilman Max Joyner to scrap the idea of an ECU polling place in favor of the Drew Steele Center as the 2013 municipal election’s fourth early-voting site. Other sites are the Pitt Area Transit Conference Room, the Pitt County Agricultural Center and the Community Schools building.

At a budgeted cost of $2,900, the city will fund the Steele Center site from Oct. 28 through Nov. 2, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Joyner said the basis of his suggestion was a memo by Dave Davis, director of the Pitt County Board of Elections, stating that the use of ECU’s Mendenhall Student Center as a one-stop polling station during the 2012 presidential election “did not prove to be an ideal location … because curbside voting was too far away and the room was too small and difficult to find.”

Davis added that the bigger problem with a ECU location is that the N.C. University System dictates that rooms cannot be booked on campus by outside agencies until after the 10th day of classes, meaning confirmation could not be made until September, past the July 12 deadline to submit approval request to the Department of Justice.

District 4 Councilman Calvin Mercer offered dissent to Joyner’s motion.

Mercer tried but failed to strike a “friendly amendment” with Joyner. Instead of recommending a particular site, Mercer wanted to provide criteria for an early-voting site to the Board of Elections and have it choose.

“I am uncomfortable with picking a particular site,” Mercer said. “My own preference would be to leave these decisions up to the Board of Elections.”

Mercer’s criteria was an additional site that was centrally located, convenient for students and the general public, on the city bus line, handicap accessible and had adequate parking. Blackburn was the only council member to support the amendment.

“To me, it is just plain politics,” Joyner said of the suggestion. “We are abiding by the (Board of Elections) instructions. This debate is an old hat that is contentious every time.”

Joyner said his goal was to get more people to vote in a municipal election that saw only 18 percent of its voters cast ballots.

Mercer said council disapproval of his amendment put him in “a bit of a quandary.”

“I am simply trying to keep the process non-political and as pure as possible,” Mercer said.

Some members of council said they found Mercer’s comment objectionable.

Mitchell said that minus himself and Mayor Allen Thomas, all members on the council have approved an additional early-voting site in each of the past two municipal elections.

Blackburn said she shared Mercer’s sense of discomfort, but both elected to support the Steele site for its convenient qualities.

Blackburn said the polling place even includes a perk.

“You can bring your tennis racket,” she said “and before or after you vote, play a game of tennis.”

 

via The Daily Reflector.

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Feb 262013
 

reflector

By Wesley Brown

Monday, February 25, 2013

A $2.5 million Medical Research Park and $10 million in street resurfacing projects will be on the table tonight when the City Council convenes for a specially called meeting to continue planning Greenville’s economic future.

Also on the agenda for the meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall is a motion to host two city-funded early-voting sites for the 2013 municipal election at the Pitt Area Transit System Conference Room at 1717 W. Fifth St. and on the campus of East Carolina University.

The medical research park and resurfacing investments are seen as major infrastructure improvements needed to propel the city into becoming the economic and medical hub of eastern North Carolina.

While road repaving may be seen by some as less glamorous, the immediate needs on Greenville streets are well-documented. Approximately 100 miles of city roads are in poor condition, a deterioration staff estimates that at $100,000 per mile, could cost $10 million to resurface.

New roads could help a medical research park in Greenville — the only economic development initiative that gained majority support from the council during its planning session in late January, with four members selecting it as one of the city’s most important needs.

The biotech facility is being promoted as a way for the council to achieve its strategic economic goal of “diversifying the city’s tax base and increasing general revenue” by attracting support businesses to the medical district and the campus of East Carolina University.

Community Development Director Merrill Flood said in a memo to the council last week that such an endeavor might offer expansion space and development-ready sites for private businesses wishing to locate in a collaborative environment with a focus on the life sciences.

A medical research park is not a new idea for Greenville.

The city’s original Medical District Development Plan was adopted and implemented in October 1974 and created the supportive environment necessary to facilitate the hospital and medical complex.

The plan has been updated several times and has served the city well, expanding the city’s boundaries more than 11,500 acres to promote a vibrant, efficient and sustainable medical core, consisting of a hospital, medical school, residential neighborhoods and a commercial district to serve the local population, daily visitors and area employees.

For the projects, Greenville’s Financial Services Director Bernita Demery has said the city could afford $420 million in debt if it explored a mixture of potential revenue sources, such as limited obligation and special revenue bonds, installment purchase agreements and a one-time contribution of $4.2 million from the general fund.

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.

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Feb 262013
 

newsobserver

Published: February 25, 2013

Editorial

Choosing the next chancellor for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is much more than the ritual of periodic change in leadership. This hiring will decide not only who guides the university but also who will shape it and, in some respects, restore it.

Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina system, will select the next chancellor from finalists submitted to him by a committee appointed by UNC-CH trustees. His decision will come after two years of turmoil over academic and athletics scandals.

It’s hard to imagine any president facing a more pressurized environment. Some of that pressure is internal, from interest groups on campus wanting a leader who will suit their needs. (And there is a multitude of such groups.) From the outside, there are alums who think the big-time athletics drive that the university embraced at its peril is misplaced.

Indeed, in a recent survey of alumni, faculty, staff and students, only 22 percent cited athletics excellence as a top priority. That is a positive turn.

Ross will feel pressure, though, from sports boosters worried that a new chancellor will de-emphasize athletics. He must ignore that pressure. The university has some rebuilding to do in terms of its reputation. The next chancellor needs to understand that and have the courage to confront and correct problems. Pretending that these athletics and academic scandals are no big deal or that they will just blow over can’t be tolerated.

The spotlight

In the process of choosing finalists, members of the search committee have heard and will hear from specific groups of faculty members and student organizations that will say the next chancellor must be trained in academics first and foremost. They will hear from others that an outsider, a business person, is needed to manage the university more effectively. Other groups will demand an inside candidate familiar with the Chapel Hill “culture.” And still others will say a fresh perspective, another president from another school, is the clear path.

The attention on this choice is all the more intense because of the turmoil under departing Chancellor Holden Thorp, a man who gave great service to the university as a teacher and administrator for over 25 years. The high-profile and embarrassing problems in the football program, which brought sanctions for the first time in 50 years, and in the university’s respected academic program, with false courses in the African studies department, were by no means Thorp’s creation.

But the inexperienced chancellor had trouble seeing the potential range of the problems and then acting to resolve them quickly. With a superstructure of deans and faculty gifted with the security of job tenure, a university sometimes moves with the speed of a battleship, no matter who is in charge. When these crises arose, that speed wasn’t good enough.

Vital on the vitae

Let us hope trustees seek experience. This university needs a leader from within or without academia who has faced and weathered major challenges, either in a university or in business. Such experience forges confidence, something that a good leader has and can instill in others.

The average length of time in a president’s job varies depending upon whether institutions are public or private, but such a job tends to be held five to eight years. That makes sense, in a way, because the jobs tend to be rigorous and universities need fresh perspectives from time to time.

While university faculty members tend to believe that institutions need to be run with collaborative input (particularly from faculty), UNC-Chapel Hill has grown to an immense size counting undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, including a hospital complex. It demands a leader who can manage not necessarily in the style of a CEO (universities are sometimes characterized as “businesses,” but they are not), but certainly with decisiveness and the courage of conviction.

The UNC-CH chancellorship is one of the greatest jobs in American public higher education. It must be filled by someone who is honored to hold it and who will be recognized as someone who is both worthy and ready.

via The next chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill must have broad experience | Editorials | NewsObserver.com.

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Feb 262013
 

newsobserver

Published: February 25, 2013

Paul Scott, in his Feb. 8 Point of View piece “African studies must be taken seriously,” is right that Afro-American studies suffers disrespect. How else to explain The N&O’s publication of a sweeping analysis of the field by a “truth minista” apparently without credentials or publications? Would chemistry get this treatment?

Scott distorts the discipline’s history, misconstrues the scandal at UNC and gives young scholars inadequate advice. To treat the UNC scandal as a major episode in Afro-American Studies is like comparing “American Idol” to the Normandy invasion.

The problem was not any challenge to “traditional Euro-centric thought,” but instead one former professor and one former administrator who offered athletes credit but not education.

Our dilemma is the tension between the mission of a university and the needs of a sports franchise. Afro-American studies in the 21st century marks its own mission with rigor and relevance.

Historically black institutions and also those Scott derides as “white-controlled institutions” have rich archives in black history. Aspiring scholars will find mentors here training a new generation of thinkers and teachers and writing good books.

Afro-American studies is alive and well in our universities, still challenging America to become, as Langston Hughes put it, “the land that never has been yet / and yet must be.”

Timothy B. Tyson

Senior Research Scholar, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University

Chapel Hill

via Timothy B. Tyson: Proving the point | Letters to the Editor | NewsObserver.com.

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Feb 262013
 

newsobserver

Published: February 25, 2013

The recent discussions over Gov. Pat McCrory’s comments on liberal arts education do not address what is really hindering today’s college graduates. Regardless of students’ course of study, if college-educated adults don’t enter the world with a passion for reading, writing, thinking critically and taking care of their health, our work force, and more broadly society, will have serious issues.

As long as college-aged students reach for Facebook before a real book and continue to overindulge on alcohol, the Internet and other instantaneously available distractions, their abilities to communicate and work effectively in any role will erode.

These are the insidious problems we face in reforming not our educational institutions, but the way in which young adults pass through them.

Sam Harris

via Sam Harris: College kids distracted | Letters to the Editor | NewsObserver.com.

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