BY: GRACE TATTER
Despite the rally today at 1 p.m., UNC’s student attorney general said Honor System procedure is unlikely to be altered. Sophomore Landen Gambill will probably go to Honor Court to face the charge that she created an intimidating environment for her ex-boyfriend.
Student attorney general Amanda Claire Grayson, a senior, joined junior Anna Sturkey, an Honor System managing associate (and former Campus BluePrint design editor), and senior Joe Holthaus, a vice chair on Honor Court, to answer questions at the Honor System Awareness Forum yesterday. The forum was hosted by the Campus Y.
UNC’s Honor System — which includes the attorney general’s staff and Honor Court — is student-run, a rarity among universities.
It has historically been a source of pride for UNC students. Lately, it’s also been a source of confusion.
Grayson, Sturkey, and Holthaus say the Honor System is meant to be transparent, even though individual cases must be private. The three said that they could not comment on specific cases, including Gambill’s. They stressed the magnitude of the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects students’ educational records and is attached to federal funding for the University.
However, they detailed the process enough to surmise what Gambill will face throughout the Honor System process.
Filing the Complaint
The Honor System process started for Gambill’s case when a student reported a violation of the Honor Code, probably through the Honor System website. The student who filed the complaint against Gambill probably met with Grayson at this point to discuss if there was reasonable basis for the charge. (Usually, for plagiarism cases, this step is unnecessary.) A lawyer representing Gambill’s ex-boyfriend has confirmed that the ex-boyfriend filed the complaint.
Gambill was then notified that someone had filed a complaint against her. Grayson conducted a preliminary investigation or “review” of the charge against Gambill, and found the charge fit at least one of three criteria: the Honor System had reasonable basis to believe the charge might be true, the Honor System had the right to adjudicate, or the University had “an interest to pursue the case.” The preliminary review included a sit-down with Gambill.
A judicial programs officer, who is employed by the Office of the Dean of Students, then helped file the charge.
In January, Gambill was one of many to file a complaint against Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls. The close ties between his Office and the charging process has led her to worry the charge is retaliatory. But Grayson said that the program officer mainly deals with paperwork, and does not offer opinions on the charge being filed. The judicial programs officer is a resource for both the accused and accuser, but an advocate for neither.
It was at this point in the process that the media’s story began. Last week, the attorney general’s staff sent Gambill a notice of the charge against her via e-mail. The notice listed all possible Honor Court sanctions. Sanctions vary in severity, from a written letter of warning to expulsion. The attorney general’s staff include the complete list in e-mails for every charge, including infractions as small as “misuse of property”, Sturkey said.
Now, Gambill will meet with one of the managing associates appointed by Grayson. The managing associate will go over UNC’s Instrument of Student Judicial Governance, which outlines the basis for different charges, possible sanctions, and student rights. Gambill will then decide to either plead guilty or not guilty.
She could plead guilty, but dispute a portion of the evidence, or not dispute any of the evidence, and have an expedited hearing process.
Alternatively, Gambill can plead not guilty, in which case a hearing will be scheduled within the next month, and she will meet with her defense counsel, most likely a member of the attorney general’s staff, unless she requests otherwise. Her accuser will meet with an investigative counsel comprised of members of the Attorney General staff.
Determination of Guilt and Sanctions
At the hearing, the counsel will argue her case in front of a panel of five Honor Court members, all of whom are students, who will decide if she is guilty or not guilty. Alternatively, Gambill could request the hearing be in front of a University Hearings Board, which is composed of two students, two faculty, and one administrator. The burden of proof is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
“That is a very high standard, and that’s why we find students guilty or not guilty, rather than guilty or innocent,” Holthaus said. Because the standard is so high, Holthaus said it is entirely possible for a student who did commit the violation of the Honor Code they’re being charged with to receive a “not guilty” verdict.
At least three students must vote “guilty” for Gambill to be sanctioned.
Should Gambill be ruled guilty of creating an intimidating environment for her ex-boyfriend, she can appeal the decision, either to a judicial programs officer, or to the judicial programs officer. The appeal will then be heard by a university hearing committee.
If she is ruled “not guilty”, her accuser may not appeal that decision.
And there is still the possibility that Gambill could submit a report stating her accuser violated the Honor Court, if there is reasonable basis to believe the report was filed with malicious intent.
Grayson, Sturkey, and Holthouse said such a scenario would be odd, but in the case, the above process would be repeated, with the roles of the accused and accuser reversed.