The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, requested public records from the university about sexual assaults on campus. Journalists want to know who has been held responsible for sexual assault and how the perpetrators were punished.
The University denied the request citing federal privacy laws, and the newspaper says the next action is a lawsuit.
The University changed their policies around sexual assault reporting and response following a number of high profile sexual assaults at the school. Andrea Pino is one of the students who says the University did not provide enough resources after she was sexually assaulted in 2012. She has since become an advocate for sexual assault survivors.
Pino is generally in support of public records requests. She told The State of Things host Frank Stasio, “It’s very important for the public to know how many students are found responsible for sexual violence at universities and what is the resulting punishment.”
“There’s much more of a likelihood of being expelled if you’re found responsible for academic misconduct than sexual misconduct,” Pino said.
At the time of her assault, the system was not designed to support survivors, Pino said. The school established a Title IX Task Force to examine the issue of sexual assault. The Task Force developed new policies, added extra resources, and created confidential advisor positions. Students can turn to these advisors to get help with a sexual assault, without foregoing their anonymity.
Christi Hurt is the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff for Student Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is also the former chair of the Title IX Task Force and has been active in updating UNC-Chapel Hill’s survivor resources and in creating a safe environment for survivors to speak out.
“Hearing that survivors didn’t feel like they would get the resources they needed when they came forward was one of our top priorities,” says Hurt.
Hurt says the Title IX Office response group on campus listened to survivors and has helped set up a range of different support options. Find more information about Title IX support at UNC-Chapel Hill click here.
Editor’s Note: WUNC initially was among the members of the media coalition pursuing public records from the university. The station has since withdrawn from the request.