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Federal Civil Rights Investigation Finds UNC Chapel Hill Mishandled Sexual Assault Claims

The Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Federal authorities have found the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violated Title IX anti-discrimination law because of the way it handled sexual assault and harassment complaints.

The decision by the Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Education came after a five-year investigation into complaints at UNC.

The office sent a letter Monday night to four former students and a former administrator who filed a complaint in 2013. The letter says the office determined the school did not adopt and publish proper grievance procedures for the resolution of sexual discrimination complaints as required by Title IX.

According to the News and Observer of Raleigh, investigators reviewed around 380 sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints at UNC between 2011 and 2016. Investigators wrote that records from 2011 to 2013 showed university staff members were not properly trained to respond to some complaints, leading to “improper action or inaction.” Investigators also added that “inadequate recordkeeping” made it difficult to determine the extent of the university’s missteps, according to the newspaper.

Investigators also reviewed 285 complaints under the current university policy, from 2014-2016, and wrote that the resolutions were not reached in a timely matter, per school procedure. The News and Observer wrote that of the 285 cases, only 18 were formally investigated by UNC and only five were done so within the proper timeframe.

UNC did not admit any violation. However, it agreed to several changes, including to review and possibly revise its Title IX policies and grievance procedures.