UNC Charlotte dean: Sexual misconduct reports up as issue becomes more open

Reports of sexual misconduct have increased significantly at UNC Charlotte in the last two and a half years, said Dean of Students Christine Reed Davis.

“I cannot say that it’s more of a problem. I think it’s more in the open, which results in more reporting,” said Davis, who spent six years as director of student conduct, in charge of overseeing the investigation of sexual assaults on campus.

“I think there is more education. There’s more in the media. When we educate our community about issues, people no longer feel shame in reporting.”

UNCC reported two “forcible sex offenses” in 2010, two in 2011 and five in 2012 to the federal database established in 1992 after passage of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

The law was named for Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her campus dorm in 1986. It requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their campuses.

Davis said UNCC’s “code of student responsibility” outlines five areas of “sexual misconduct” that is much broader than the reporting required under Clery. The five areas are sexual acts, sexual contact, exhibitionism, sexual exploitation and sexual harassment, all without consent. Under that umbrella, UNCC tracked seven violations in 2012, and three students were suspended as a result, Davis said.

Davis described a multistep investigative process that takes place whenever a sexual misconduct complaint is filed. Sometimes the complainant just wants officials to be informed and chooses not to name the perpetrator or pursue the complaint. In that case, the university provides support, such as referrals to counseling or assistance with a change in on-campus housing.

If the perpetrator is named, university officials investigate to see if that person has a criminal background and if the complaint can be substantiated. Both the complainant and the alleged attacker are interviewed, as well as other witnesses. Reports are issued to the university’s Title IX coordinator and the director of student conduct, who can decide on discipline with input from the complainant.

If the complainant chooses, the case can go to a three-person panel, chosen from 12 faculty and staff members who are trained to handle sexual misconduct cases. Sanctions range from referring a student counseling to suspension or expulsion. A student expelled from UNCC is not allowed to attend any college in the UNC system, Davis said.

“We try very carefully to make sure … the process is fair and equitable for each party,” she said.