Sexual assault gained attention on the campus when a female student went public with allegations that her ex-boyfriend sexually abused her, and that the university treated her unfairly throughout the investigation of her claims. The subsequent publicity and developments in the case of Landen Gambill put the university at the center of growing national awareness to the problem of campus rape.
In January 2013, Ms. Gambill and four other people — three other students or former students and a former administrator — filed a Title IX complaint against the university. The two former students — Annie Clark and Andrea Pino — went on to become the leaders of a movement to encourage similar complaints at universities across the country.
The complaint was unusual in that it also claimed that the university pressured the former administrator who joined the complainants to underreport the number of sexual assaults to the federal government, the university's student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, reported. It also alleged that the former assistant dean of students was subject to a threatening and hostile work environment. The university flatly denied the allegations.
In February 2013, Ms. Gambill said the university's Honor Court had charged her with harassing the man she had accused of rape because she had provided enough information in her public statements about him to effectively reveal his identity. That prompted Ms. Gambill to file a federal retaliation complaint against the university. Months later, the university's then-chancellor, Holden Thorp, informed the campus that he was dismissing the charge.
Soon after Ms. Gambill went public with her accusations, her ex-boyfriend went public with accusations of his own, disputing her account of their relationship and claiming the university trampled on his due-process rights in its investigation of Ms. Gambill's claims.
In August 2014, a then-UNC student filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming that its handling of her allegation that she was raped in 2013 violated state law. Among other things, the student alleged that the associate dean of students told her that he had not responded promptly to an email seeking help because it "got lost in [his] inbox." In March 2016, a three-judge panel of the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the suit could proceed.
Chapel Hill was one of the initial 55 colleges under investigation in this wave of federal enforcement as announced by the Education Department in May 2014.
Students have protested the institution’s handling of sexual assault.
When the ex-boyfriend of sophomore Landen Gambill was called into the University's Dean of Students Office in February 2012, he said he never expected to be faced with accusations of repeated sexual and verbal violence.