Friday, January 18, 2013

Jukin' the Stats: Complaint Alleges UNC Underreported Campus Sexual Assaults

In a complaint filed this week with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, a former associate dean at the University of North Carolina reportedly alleged that the university violated Title IX and other laws when the university counsel's office pressured her to under-report instances of sexual assault.

Melinda Manning, then the Association Dean of Students, was responsible for compiling statistics on sexual assault on campus and reporting them to the Department of Education in compliance with the Clery Act.  In 2011, Manning received pressure from the university counsel's office to reexamine the statistics she had compiled on 2010.  She was told they were "too high" and received repeated instructions to "look over [them] again" and "make sure those numbers were correct."  When Manning stood by her figures, the university counsel's office allegedly took it upon itself to shave three instances off of the final tally before submitting it to the Department of Education.    

Manning's complaint is joined by three students and one former student, who add their own allegations about the hostility they experienced as sexual assault victims seeking justice through the campus disciplinary process. Specific allegations include the administration’s "failure to train Honor Court members who facilitated sexual assault hearings, to treat both the accused and accusing student fairly and to keep survivors informed."

Hostility also describes the environment Manning endured after advocating for better handling of sexual assaults.  According to allegations in the complaint, Manning's supervisor, Dean of Students Jonathan Sauls, gave her a negative performance evaluation and threatened her with consequences if she again speak to OCR or the chancellor's office about the issue.  He also intimidated and isolated her in the job, eventually leading to her decision to resign. As evidence that this hostility extended beyond Sauls, the complaint also notes that Sauls was promoted to the Dean of Students position over Manning, after Manning was told by the chancellor that he would "never hire her because she had a young child at home and what that could mean."

OCR will now determine if the complaint warrants an investigation, a process that could ultimately lead to an order requiring the remedial action from the university.