By Martha Waggoner
The Associated Press
Friday, March 8, 2013
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The federal office investigating allegations about the way the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill handles sexual assault cases is seeking reams of information from the school within 20 days, a deadline that campus officials say they’ll work to meet.
The Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education outlined its demands in a letter to UNC-CH dated March 1, setting a March 21 deadline.
Among the documents requested are those regarding policies, procedures, training and grievance procedures for sexual assault complaints. The office also wants a spreadsheet describing all student complaints about sexual assault, including details on whether it was formal or informal, whether the school investigated, who investigated and whether the assault was on campus or off.
Three students, a former student and a former assistant dean of students filed the complaint with the federal government in January. The former student, Annie Clark, released Wednesday her copy of the letter, and UNC-CH also posted its copy Thursday on the university website.
The federal office also wants to know how UNC-CH distributes and publicizes its policy on sexual assault and evidence of that information, including website links or copies of flyers that the school distributed.
The civil rights office will address separately allegations of disability discrimination and retaliation, the letter says.
“The university is committed to cooperating fully with the Office for Civil Rights during its investigation, and that will include responding to their requests for information and data in as timely a manner as possible,” UNC-CH spokeswoman Karen Moon said Thursday.
The federal office pointed out in the letter that it is a fact-finder and that “opening the allegation for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to the merits of the complaint.”
The rights office said the complaint alleges that UNC-CH failed to respond appropriately to concerns about sexual assault and that it didn’t provide impartial investigations. The complaint also alleges that the school didn’t have appropriate grievance procedures and didn’t provide appropriate training for residential life staff and others.
Junior Andrea Pino, one the complainants, has said the complaint includes reports from about 60 unidentified students who say they were victims of sexual assault at UNC.
Wade Hargrove of Raleigh, chairman of the UNC-CH Board of Trustees, said the allegations are serious and the school is regarding them seriously. “We’ll deal with them in the most responsible way,” he said.
The school also has hired someone to investigate complaints about harassment, sexual misconduct and discrimination. In a posting on its website, UNC-CH said Jayne Grandes, who previously administered affirmative action policies at Rutgers, began working Tuesday.
A Department of Education spokesman said the office of civil rights received more than 120 complaints between fiscal years 2009 and 2012 specifically addressing sexual violence allegations. Of those, more than 50 involved postsecondary institutions. The office doesn’t have numbers on how many of those cases it investigated, he said.
Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc
via The Daily Reflector.