Misunderstandings Surround Gambill Case

BY: GRACE TATTER AND KYLE ANN SEBASTIAN

Last week, UNC sophomore Landen Gambill, who has been in the national press since filing a complaint against the University about the handling of sexual assault, was charged with a conduct violation of the University’s Honor Code. The charge claims Gambill engaged in disruptive or intimidating behavior against her ex-boyfriend, who was acquitted by the Honor Court last spring for her rape.

Gambill’s case has become a flashpoint for UNC students and activists around the world. Was a woman being punished for coming forward to report a crime? Why would any university want to foster an environment where crimes go unreported, and students feel unsafe?

But as this story has caught fire, there have been misunderstandings, causing undue attacks on Gambill and the University on blogs, social media, and in the comment sections of national publications.

Misunderstanding #1:  Gambill filed the case with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights — which sparked the initial media attention — to punish her alleged rapist

Gambill went to the Office of Civil Rights to settle a matter between her and the University, and their handling of her report of rape last spring, not to settle the matter between her and her alleged rapist. However, the fact that she was raped by a fellow student is a crucial part of the case that had to come out for her to challenge the university with any credibility.

Misunderstanding #2: Gambill is challenging her alleged abuser’s right to anonymity

Gambill has never used his name publicly or released any identifying characteristics, and never intends to. But, she can’t exercise her right to make a case about how the University mishandled her sexual assault without talking about the crime itself.

Misunderstanding #3: The University of North Carolina still addresses sexual assault through the student run Honor Court

The University did indeed address reports of rape and sexual assault through the student-run Honor Court last spring, when Gambill reported her rape. But, according to a Feb. 25 statement from the University: “Effective August 1, 2012, the University developed a new process for responding to sexual assault complaints. Under this new process, sexual assault cases are no longer addressed through the Honor Court system.”

Misunderstanding #4: The University can use the Honor Court to retaliate against students

The Honor Court is student-run. According to the UNC statement, “The Student Attorney Generals have the authority to make decisions about cases considered by the court independent of campus administrators. Administrators may not encourage or prevent the Student Attorney Generals from filing charges in a specific case.”

That being said, Gambill’s concerns about the autonomy of the Honor Court should not be discounted. “I guess I have a hard time believing that they are so separate when the Honor Court is overseen by the judicial programs officer, who is under the Dean of Students Office,” Gambill told The Daily Tar Heel. The judicial programs officer advises students as they form and file their complaints, Gambill said. (Campus BluePrint will be publishing a further blog post on how UNC’s Honor Court works on Thurs., Feb. 28.)

Misunderstanding #5: Gambill and other other students in the case should have just gone to the police. They shouldn’t have gotten the University involved in the first place

Many have asked why Gambill went immediately to the honor court instead of pressing charges with the police. “When I went to the University first, it was for a no-contact order to get him to leave me alone,” Gambill wrote in an exchange with Campus BluePrint.  She says that the University encouraged her to go to honor court, and that she was told at the time that she couldn’t do an honor court hearing and a criminal trial at the same time.

Misunderstanding #6: Gambill’s Alleged Rapist Was Found Innocent

Gambill’s ex-boyfriend was found not guilty by the honor court.  This is not the same as being innocent–it means there was not sufficient evidence to determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  However there is still the potential that Gambill could bring criminal charges against him. Gambill’s entire reason for challenging the University is based on her perception that her alleged rapist was not penalized by the honor court due to their mishandling of the situation.

Misunderstanding #7: Gambill is being charged with an Honor Code violation for reporting sexual assault

Reporting rape or other sexual assault is not an Honor Code violation, according to undergraduate student attorney general Amanda Claire Grayson.

Misunderstanding #8: If found guilty of an Honor Code violation, she will be expelled

According to the student conduct website on Honor System Procedures: “If the Honor Court finds a student has violated the Honor Code, it will apply a sanction that reflects the University’s goals to educate the student, protect the community, and redress any harm caused by the student’s act.”  While expulsion is an option, it is not the only one.  According to Grayson, expulsion is rarely utilized as a sanction.  Additionally, Gambill will have an option to appeal the Honor Courts decision.

Misunderstanding #9: The University of North Carolina is an especially bigoted environment

Clearly, mistakes have been made here in Chapel Hill. But the culture of interpersonal violence and victim-blaming is pervasive and extends far beyond our campus, at other schools and in other communities. The difference is, thanks to voices like Gambill, our community is actually finally addressing it.

thecampusblueprint

12 Comments

  1. When a person can be charged after a Honor Court hearing because they have the desire to see that justice is served is wrong. The system should be altered to prevent such from happening especially when the original perpetrator is not named.
    It seems that the University has seen the error of its ways by removing rape from what honor Board can handle.
    I believe that to a minor extent that this has brought fort some change simply because on the campus there is discussion and change taking place. I hope that there is more positive change and that the personal attacks stop.
    The question of why a University would want to under report issues is simple if the numbers are high people will not attend.
    If the numbers are high the budget must be adjusted to increase the funds for security.
    If security is increased one of 2 things must happen either fees increase or funds to other programs suffer. This could/should include funds to Mens sports as they tend to have the lions share of funding.
    I do not know about others but I do not (nor ever did) believe her complaint was ever directed at her attacker (rapist) but the process. HOW FROM START TO FINISH IT WAS HANDLED. How other such complaints have been handled. How it seems to be directed to reduce reporting of crime. Serious crime. Enrollment effecting crime. The lets not tell no one will know (pen state mentality) close your eyes to an issue that can effect enrollment everything will be OK.
    She has not said his name and Honor board should not have accepted the complaint.

  2. That being said, Gambill’s concerns about the autonomy of the Honor Court should not be discounted. “I guess I have a hard time believing that they are so separate when the Honor Court is overseen by the judicial programs officer, who is under the Dean of Students Office,” Gambill told The Daily Tar Heel. The judicial programs officer advises students as they form and file their complaints, Gambill said.

    I really appreciate most of these points of clarification, but this whole section under #4 is really puzzling. Why did you quote Gambill as a way of verifying her own concerns?

  3. Now you know how Duke feels about every. Single. Story that gets put in the national news about them. Except there’s even more misinformation, because it takes the news 2 months to pick up on civil rights violations at UNC, but 2 seconds to pick up on any bit of anything at Duke.

  4. “This is not the same as being innocent–it means there was not sufficient evidence to determine guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Your statement is incorrect. Not guilty CAN mean insufficient evidence OR it CAN mean innocent.

    Students before the UNC honor court are found: (a) not guilty, (b) guilty, or (c) guilty of a portion of the charges stated. There is no innocent finding.

    I don’t know if her ex-boyfriend raped her, I wouldn’t presume to make a judgement. But your definition allows for no innocence option – your post makes a judgment that the court did not and cannot.

  5. “As an alumna of UNC and a three-year participant on Honor Court, I’d just like to clear one thing up for all readers.

    If Ms. Gambill was charged with II.C.1.c., the charge had to have been instigated by another University student as the reporting party. In this case, Ms. Gambill’s ex-boyfriend would be the reporting party. The University had no part in this charge. The Honor System has a duty to investigate the charge instigated by Ms. Gambill’s ex-boyfriend because he is still a University student. Ms. Gambill’s ex-boyfriend must have evidence that Ms. Gambill has disparaged his character in such a way that adversely affects his opportunities at the University. http://studentconduct.unc.edu/… See page 7 for her charge.

    In three years on Honor Court, the ONLY charge I dealt with where the University was the reporting party was a rather large (and highly publicized) charge of theft of the University’s property. In that case alone, the University was the reporting party.

    Ms. Gambill’s ex-boyfriend is the one seeking retaliation in this case, NOT the University. The University has NO role in this charge whatsoever.

    As to whether Ms. Gambill’s case was handled properly, no one in this forum has the right or knowledge to answer that question with certainty. As a woman, and the sister of a rape survivor, I greatly feel for Ms. Gambill. Even if her case didn’t have enough evidence to reach the standard of proof in the University’s honor system (and most cases don’t have the evidence to reach the standard of proof in our legal system either), living with those feelings of objectification day-in and day-out can be devastating, as I’ve witnessed first-hand.

    I think we as a society need to to figure out a better way to handle sexual assault cases–that much we can all agree upon. I’m glad that we are beginning to open up dialogue in a meaningful fashion. However, PLEASE do not revert blame to the University in this case. Ms. Gambill’s ex-boyfriend has the same student rights Ms. Gambill has. If there is any retaliatory motive in this case, it’s between Ms. Gambill’s ex-boyfriend and Ms. Gambill, not UNC and Ms. Gambill.”

  6. “This is not the same as being innocent”

    That is exactly what Not Guilty means if you believe in the presumption of innocence.

    The logic goes like this:
    The accused is innocent until proven guilty.
    The accused is found not guilty (not proven guilty).
    Therefore the accused remains INNOCENT.

    Go slow and sound it out if you have difficulties. I would hope you’d like to remain innocent if you were accused of a heinous crime you claimed to not have committed.

    • Go easy on them. They’ve spent the last couple of years learning how to pronounce things like “man-splaining”.

      • If you can take a moment from congratulating yourselves on your brilliant wit, you might learn something. As the article and comments have stated, UNC’s honor court is NOT a criminal court. This has nothing to do with “innocent until proven guilty” about the crime of rape, because the honor court does not have the capability to determine that. There is no double jeopardy, no gag order, and if this were a criminal case we would more than likely already know the alleged rapist’s identity. As someone above stated:

        “Students before the UNC honor court are found: (a) not guilty, (b) guilty, or (c) guilty of a portion of the charges stated. There is no innocent finding.”

        And by charges, they mean honor code violations. Not laws, this was not a police investigation or a trial before a qualified judge. So, the defendant could be innocent, sure. But the honor court’s ruling tells us nothing about that.

        And as others have already pointed out numerous times, all of this is fairly irrelevant to Landen’s case. Saying “I was raped and treated disrespectfully by a university honor court” is NOT defamatory. Even if she said “John Doe raped me,” it would not be defamation unless she was proven to have had a “knowledge of falsity” or “reckless disregard for the truth.”

      • “Even if she said “John Doe raped me,” it would not be defamation unless she was proven to have had a “knowledge of falsity” or “reckless disregard for the truth.” ”

        Yes and exactly that may end up being proven. My guestimate is the guy sues and somebody pays him a quarter million. UNC needs to go in CYA mode so they don’t end up paying it.

  7. Grace and Kyle Ann, you state that “However, the fact that she was raped”. Has this been established as fact? That is quite a serious statement to make and draws your integrity into question as you have clearly chosen sides, yet you provide no proof for this “fact”. You seem just to assume that this true and on what basis exactly? If I stated that the fact is that she wasn’t raped, you would be outraged and ask me my proof…
    False rape accusations do exist and are more frequent than you think, precisely because most actual rapes are not reported and indeed contribute to this sad state of affairs where women feel they cannot report rape.

    • JAN YOUR RIGHT
      THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW IF A SEXUAL ASSAULT TOOK PLACE WOULD HAVE THE “HONOR COURT” REFER IT TO A BRANCH OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. THE HONOR COURT DID NOT DO SO. THEY FAILED. THE UNIVERSITY DOES NOT HAVE THE SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE, OR AUTHORITY PROPERLY PURSUE A PROPER AND JUST INVESTIGATION IN THE MATTER OF SEXUAL ASSAULT OTHER THEN WORSE CASE “EXPEL” THE STUDENT. ANY INFORMATION THAT WOULD/COULD HAVE BEEN GLEAMED WOULD UNDER THE RULES OF EVIDENCE BE CONSIDERED TAINTED. THE PROCEEDINGS ARE “CONFIDENTIAL” THUS THE ABUSE THE VICTIM CLAIMS SHE RECEIVED IS NOT CONFIRMED NOR IS IT SHOWN TO BE FALSE. THE FACT THAT OTHERS FEEL THIS IS RETALIATION, COMBINED WITH THE ALLEGATIONS OF RAPE NO LONGER BEING UNDER THE PREVIEW OF “HONOR COURT” SAYS THAT THEY SHOULD NOT HEAR THIS FILING. HOWEVER IF THEY FEEL THEY SHOULD IT, SHOULD BE POSTPONED UNTIL THE FEDERAL PROCEEDINGS ARE CONCLUDED. IF THEY FIND THERE WAS MIS-BEHAVIOR INTIMIDATION OR ANYTHING THAT SHOULD BE FACTORED INTO IF THE CASE AGAINST MS.LANDEN GAMBIL.
      IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER MS.LANDEN GAMBIL DID NOT GO TO FILE A RAPE CHARGE BUT TO GET A NO CONTACT ORDER BY “HONOR COURT” BUT IT SEEMS IT WAS ALTERED ALONG THE WAY. SHE WAS 3TOLD SHE COULD DO HONOR COURT OR A POLICE REPORT IF SHE WANTED TO CAUSE HER ASSAILANT (ALLEGED OR OTHERWISE) PUBLIC EMBARRASSMENT OR PUBLIC HUMILIATION WOULD HAVE FILED A POLICE REPORT WHERE HIS NAME AND OFFENSES WOULD BE PUBLISHED IN THE PAPER. SHE HAS NOT SAID HIS NAME TO ANYONE IN PUBLIC THE FACT THAT HE IS KNOWN FOR DATING HER AS I UNDERSTAND IT MAKES HIM ONE OF AT LEAST TWO. THUS SHE HAS NOT
      AS I UNDERSTAND IT SHE HAS SAID “I was raped and treated disrespectfully by a university honor court” NOT EFFECTING ANY OTHER STUDENT AND IT IS NOT DEFAMATORY AS POINTED OUT EARLIER IN ANOTHER POST. AND AS PREVIOUSLY STATED EVEN IF SHE HAS SAID JOHN DOE RAPPED ME UNLESS IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT IT CAN BE PROVEN TO BE “RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR THE TRUTH” OR “HAVE A KNOWLEDGE OF FALSITY”
      AND IF SHE PERCEIVES WHAT HAS BEEN SAID AS TRUTH THIS CAN NOT /SHOULD NOT STAND.
      HER CLAIMS ARE AGAINST THE UNIVERSITY NOT THE STUDENT.

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