CHAPEL HILL A task force will begin to review UNC Chapel Hills policy on sexual assault cases Wednesday four months after several women filed a federal complaint against the university and more than a year after campus leaders with expertise in sexual violence expressed concerns about the universitys policies and procedures.
At its first meeting on Wednesday, the 21-member panel of administrators, faculty, staff and students will hear from a nationally recognized consultant on sexual misconduct who has spent months meeting with groups on campus. The consultant, former Philadelphia sex crimes prosecutor Gina Smith, was hired by UNC for $160,000 for eight months of work, a university spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Smith will give an overview on federal expectations for sexual assault policies and tell the panel about suggestions shes heard from a variety of people at the university.
Then the panel will get to work, meeting weekly during the summer to come up with recommendations for a revised policy, said Christi Hurt, chairwoman of the task force and interim Title IX coordinator, who is on leave from her position as director of the Carolina Womens Center.
The development of this task force acknowledges that we always have miles to go before we sleep, said Hurt, who worked for a decade on a statewide sexual assault coalition in the state of Washington. The university is willing to put resources and energy behind making sure that we are taking steps in the right direction to make it a safe campus for everyone.
She said the panel will be open to fresh ideas as it works to come up with revisions. Hurt will blog weekly about proposals; an online suggestion box will collect public input.
Were trying really hard to make this a process that people can engage with and help tell us their interests and concerns as we go, Hurt said, so that we are flexible about how we move forward.
The appointment of a broad-based review panel follows widespread media attention about UNCs handling of sexual assault cases. In January, five women students, a former student and a former administrator filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights, alleging that the university mishandled sexual assault cases and violated the students rights under the federal Title IX gender equity law.
A federal investigation of UNC is underway, and across the nation, other campuses are fighting similar battles after similar complaints.
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