When Andrea Pino was accepted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010, it was the culmination of years of hope and hard work for the Miami native.
Pino is the first in her family to go to college and was among some 30,000 prospective students who applied in 2010. The nationally ranked university enrolls only about 4,000 new students each year.
“It was my dream school,’’ said Pino, a graduate of Miami’s International Studies Charter School.
But two years into her studies, Pino, 21, finds herself on the front lines in a national effort among students and parents to hold colleges and universities accountable for their treatment of rape victims.
In March 2012, Pino was at an off-campus party when a fellow student, whom she did not know, dragged her into a bathroom, pounded her head against the tile floor and raped her.
She filed a report with the university, but she told almost no one, except a handful of friends who dismissed her story and warned that no one would believe her. It’s not clear whether the university investigated her rape or reported it to local police.
The junior political science major is among five individuals, including a longtime assistant dean, who in January filed a federal civil rights complaint against the university. Among other things, they allege: that high-level administrators falsified rape statistics; that administrators created a hostile work and educational environment; and that rape victims often found themselves accused of lying or exaggerating.
Another complainant, Landen Gambill, drew national headlines last week when the sophomore said she was threatened by UNC administrators with expulsion after she spoke publicly about how she was treated under the school’s sexual misconduct policies.
Her situation has become a cause célèbre on blogs and websites devoted to women’s issues.
The university denies that it had anything to do with the charges, which are being investigated by the school’s student Honors Court.
UNC spokeswoman Karen Moon said the college’s outgoing chancellor, Holden Thorp, was not available for comment. Thorp announced his retirement in September, following several high-profile scandals involving school athletes accused of receiving improper benefits and academic advantages. He leaves in June.
Thorp did write an open letter to the students on the school’s website recently, vowing that the college is taking the issue of sexual abuse and violence seriously. A nationally recognized consultant has been hired by the university to evaluate its sexual misconduct policies.
“To perform their best academically,’’ Thorp wrote, “students need to feel secure and to know that resources are available to address their concerns. It’s a daunting responsibility to get right.’’
Gambill filed a complaint with UNC’s student-run Honors Court last spring, charging that her ex-boyfriend had attacked and raped her. The court, composed of undergraduates, is responsible for hearing misconduct complaints and sanctioning students who violate UNC policy.
Gambill’s former boyfriend was found not guilty during a trial that Gambill says forced her to relive her attack in graphic detail. Afterward, she spoke out against the university’s handling of the matter, prompting her boyfriend, who has not been identified, to file a complaint against her with the student court.