The university contends that no school official threatened Gambill with expulsion.
“No student has ever been disciplined for reporting a sexual assault or any Honor Code violation. Further, no University administrator filed or encouraged the filing of charges in this case; there is no retaliation by the University.”
Gambill, however, said that university officials do have oversight of the student court, which no longer hears sexual assault cases.
On Friday, members of the campus community held a rally in support of Gambill, who is accused of creating an “intimidating environment” for her alleged rapist. A UNC official, in a letter, warned Gambill that she could face serious punishment for her actions, including expulsion.
“We hoped our university would listen and instead we’re faced with retaliation. We’ve been made into perpetrators,’’ said Pino, who attended the rally along with about 200 other students.
“Sexual assault is intolerable — at Carolina or anywhere else,” Thorp said late Friday in a statement to the local newspaper, The Chapel Hill News.
UNC, with approximately 30,000 students, is often referred to as a “Public Ivy.” In 2011, it was ranked by U.S. News & World Report fifth among the nation’s top public colleges and universities. Tuition is about $8,000 per year for residents and $29,000 for out-of-state residents.
Pino and former UNC student Annie Clark researched and wrote the federal complaint, which has been filed with the U.S. Department of Education.
In the complaint, Melinda Manning, the college’s former assistant dean of students, alleges that high-ranking administrators pressured her to doctor sexual assault statistics.
When she refused, she was punished, according to the complaint, which was obtained by UNC’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. The newspaper reported that Manning, who had been at the college for two decades, complained that she was looked over for a promotion and received negative employee evaluations after she became vocal about UNC’s attempt to downgrade it’s rape statistics.
The Miami Herald was unsuccessful in reaching Manning, who resigned in December.
John Foubert, national president and founder of One In Four, a non-profit dedicated to rape prevention among college students, said the scandal at UNC is especially egregious because school administrators are accused of engaging in a systemic pattern of civil rights abuses.
“You don’t charge a woman who has been raped with some trumped up baloney, and that’s what they are doing,’’ Foubert said. “It’s revictimization at its utmost.’’
The news of Gambill’s predicament swept across the internet, prompting world headlines and national outrage. Pino and Clark wrote blog entries on the Huffington Post, detailing the actions of a university that seemed more worried about its image than protecting its students.
“Here you have some strong empowered women who have said we’re not going to be silenced,’’ said Foubert, whose organization’s name comes from the statistic that about 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted by the time they graduate from college.
The issue has led Pino to launch “The Courage Project,” an effort to put a face to a crime that historically has been cloaked in secrecy. The website ( www.courageproject.com) gives students and their loved ones a place to discuss the pain they’ve experienced as a result of sexual assault.
Though she was a resident assistant trained in interpersonal violence prevention, Pino said she was unprepared for the trauma that began to take over her world after she was raped. She transferred in and out of classes and began suffering panic attacks as a result of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
“I was so distraught and so alone I was in more pain worrying about talking about it than just going forward. I feared the shame of telling administrators that I needed help,” Pino said.
She received counseling last fall and during the course of her recovery, she met other students who shared similar bad experiences with the university’s administration.
“These are felonies that are basically being treated as a slap on the wrist,’’ Pino said.
Police Chief Chris Blue said just 10 rapes were reported last year in Chapel Hill, a town of 55,000 that surrounds the university. UNC, which has it’s own campus police force, reported 12 rapes in 2011, down from 19 a year earlier.
“We know that it’s a grossly underreported crime because it’s difficult for victims to go through the investigative process,’’ Blue said.