Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tarring the Tar Heels

Rape is like a football game, Annie. If you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback and you’re in charge, is there anything that you would have done differently in that situation? 
I don't generally talk about "rape culture." You just can't describe the ways we interact by dividing the world into victims and perpetrators. But when a college administrator responds to a student's 2007 allegations of rape this way, I'm going to call it a "rape culture" at University of North Carolina.

UNC is embroiled in a major scandal over the way it handled allegations of sexual assault on campus over the past decade. Last week, four students and one former administrator, Melinda Manning, filed a complaint with the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

The complaint, leaked to UNC's student paper the Daily Tar Heel, alleges that the University created a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault and then failed to comply with federal law by under-reporting these assaults to the US Department of Education. Although the story was picked up nationally, it appears that the student paper is doing most of reporting, and it has not published the leaked complaint.

In 2012, the University undertook a review of it's sexual assault policies at the behest of the Department of Education. Pending the review, allegations of rape and sexual assault were heard by a University Hearings Board composed of one administrator, two faculty members, and two student members of the school's Honor Court. There is dispute as to to how much training these Board members received. I'm thinking, not enough.

Here's how one member questioned a woman reporting long-term emotional and sexual abuse by her boyfriend.
Landen, as a woman, I know that if that had happened to me, I would’ve broken up with him the first time it happened. Will you explain to me why you didn’t?
The Board found Landen Gambrill's story non-credible based on her history of depression and attempted suicide. The members also forced her to recount graphic details of the sexual abuse she suffered and then gave the transcript to her parents without her consent, believing they had a right to know.

Other students report similar experiences with the Hearings Board and UNC administrators. Melinda Manning, the former UNC Dean of Student Affairs tasked with handling reports of sexual assault, confirmed that the hostility to victims was part of a wider culture at the University. Under the Clery Act, schools must report all cases of sexual assault to the Department of Education. In drafting the report, Manning was told the number of assualts was "too high."
For two weeks, she received multiple phone calls from various members of University Counsel staff asking her to ‘make sure that her numbers were correct.’ 
Obviously, it's not that UNC men raped too many women. It's simply a numbers problem! According to the complaint,
The number of sexual assaults that appeared in that year’s Clery report was three lower than the number Manning submitted to the Office of University Counsel . . .
The University reported six incidents of forcible sex offenses on campus for 2009, 19 for 2010, the year for which Manning was asked to compile statistics, and 12 for 2011. 
Lucky thing Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls is such a math whiz!

Hey, let's do a little math right here. For Feminism.
Which kind of makes that 12 reported to the Department of Education in 2011 sound like BS, no? Even if only 10% sought redress through the UNC system, the number would be somewhere between 30 and 50. Then again, why would any woman turn to this school administration for help?

Today's $5 is for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill North Carolina.

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