Speak Up About Rape? Get Expelled.

UNC rally March 1; Landen Gambill is at center. Photo by Jenny Warburg

University of North Carolina (UNC) sophomore Landen Gambill may be kicked out of school for speaking to the press about her rape.

Gambill was one of five women (including the former assistant dean of students) who filed a complaint against the university in January calling for an investigation into what they described as a hostile environment for students reporting sexual assault.

Including reports from about 60 students who say they are sexual assault victims, the complaint claims that UNC violated the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, the Clery Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Title IX, Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In the complaint, submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, former assistant dean of students Melinda Manning says she was forced to underreport sexual assaults on campus and details many stories of an administration hostile to victims of sexual violence. Alumni Annie Clark (who was told “rape is like a football game” when reporting her 2007 sexual assault to the administration), junior Andrea Pino and one unnamed female student spearheaded the complaint, along with Gambill.

Gambill spoke in December to the Daily Tar Heel, UNC’s student newspaper, about her experience reporting her rape. She expressed her frustration with the administration and said the Honor Court that heard her case “had no idea what sexual assault is [or] what consent is.” In January, Gambill received an email from a “graduate student attorney general” accusing her of violating the school’s honor code. Last week, she received another email about her supposed violation. Specifically, Gambill was said to have conducted herself in a “disruptive or intimidating” manner that “willfully abuse[d], disparage[d], or otherwise interfere[d] with another.” Yes, she was accused of abusing her rapist—despite never naming him publicly.

If the student-run UNC Honor Court (which found Gambill’s accused rapist not guilty) finds that Gambill has violated the honor code, she faces anything from a “loss of privileges” to expulsion.

Protest in support of Landen Gambill

Landen Gambill hugs a supporter at rally. Photo by Jenny Warburg

UNC students rallied today in support of Gambill, who told the crowd, “This isn’t really about me; I’m just one of many.” Social media support for the sophomore is also growing, with the creation of many Facebook pages advocating for safety at UNC, as well as the Twitter hashtag #istandwithLanden.

The university said it could not address Gambill’s case but that the school “works hard to encourage students to come forward and report instances of sexual violence.” UNC has obviously realized it has a problem, as the school created a website called “Campus Conversation on Sexual Assault” to address its sexual assault policies.

But UNC is not the only campus failing in its treatment of sexual assault victims. Within VAWA (which was passed yesterday by the House) is the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which addresses problems found in a recent investigation into campus sexual assault. The findings show that campus proceedings regarding assault allegations were “often confusing, shrouded in secrecy and marked by lengthy delays,” and that victims of sexual assault encountered many barriers that either “assured their silence or left them feeling victimized again.” The Justice Department estimates that fewer than 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials.

This must change—starting with colleges taking sexual assaults more seriously and improving their policies in order to protect students. We applaud Gambill and her fellow students for having the courage to end the silence around rape.


  1. While I feel for Ms Gambill and any other who goes through this I wonder, did they not call the police? I would think that if this went through the city or state court system that the college woud then have to acknowledege the rape. But I may be niave.

    • Yes, you are naive.
      Students survivors have the option of taking their case to the criminal system and/or a student disciplinary system. The federal government mandates all schools to have a way of hearing these cases. The reality is that many DAs will not try acquaintance rape cases because the conviction rates are so low. So for some survivors, the college system is the only option.”

    • I can’t speak to Ms. Landen’s situation, but I do know that universities often discourage women from going to the police, in favor of going through an internal review process. The university prefers to evaluate the situation first, and then, only if THEY agree that it’s likely that a sexual assault took place, do they report it to the police. They are incentivized to do this because they don’t want to become known as a university with high rates of sexual assault.

  2. Miriam Lupfer Reed says:

    This story reinforces my believe that a visit to North Carolina would be time travel to the 18th century, on a college campus no less. That’s all right, a woman was raped in a dorm at an expensive University in the Denver area, and she was economically convinced that by receiving certain monies from the University, she should not press any charges against the suspect, the captain of the school’s super duper hockey team. After all, the hockey team must come first . . . what horsefeathers.

  3. Connie Tolleson says:

    As a parent of a UNC co-ed. I feel I was lied to regarding my student’s safety.

  4. Adriana Pollak says:

    For the love of God, the media coverage on this is aggravating. This headline raises my blood pressure. Any charges filed with the honor court faces a range of sanctions, with expulsion being the worst. It is rarely enacted. RARLEY. And with the notoriety of this case, she WILL NOT get expelled. It’s as if I were to narrate my own life, “Going to the grocery store? Struck by lightning.” Possible, but NOT LIKELY.

    Second of all, her “possible expulsion” is in NO WAY in response to her speaking up about her rape. It is in response to a charge filed against her by her EX-BOYFRIEND, whom she has continuously referred to as her rapist, her attacker, her abuser, etc. And the media seems reluctant to put the word “alleged” in front of any of these qualifiers. Apparently presumption of innocence only applies to accusers, rather than the accused for which it was intended. The university has not filed these charges as a means to silence her. Good grief, I am so sick of this shady media coverage, misinformation, and general bashing of a university which yes, clearly has faults, but not nearly to the extent as the media is portraying.

    Do. Your. Research.

  5. Alan McGhee says:

    <dropped a note on 'Chief of Staff':
    You appear to have an utterly unacceptable record of handling cases of criminal assaults against your students.

    Were I a student, parent, donor or public official – any one associated with, or or paying money to, UNC – this would have a chilling effect on that relationship.

    Academic freedom includes being free of the fear of criminal attacks, and should include support for those attacked, investigation – and not cover up of the crime(s) and openness of the proceedings. Under no circumstances should you have indulged, via the "honor? court" in counterattacks on your own students. You have made me ashamed to be part of the university system; I hold both a BS and MS from other schools

    I trust you will properly deal with assuring the safety of your students and give full and willing assistance in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

    Those employees of UNC unwilling to do so in a competent and compassionate manner, well I suggest that you permanently sever all of their ties to UNC, including termination of employment, termination of pension, and a permanent freeze on their academic transcripts (i.e all their courses and degrees are voided). Thank you.

  6. Young women going off to college are often the target of gang rapes by upperclassmen. These rapes are calculated with the assurance that there will be no price to pay. Men need to lend their voices loud and clear that this is unacceptable. Though reporting a rape to law enforcement is always a choice of the survivor colleges must do more to see that a rape on a college campus is a crime of power and violence and not boys being boys. I find it disgusting that any campus in the country is still clinging to the 1950s view of rape. I applaud this young woman’s exceptional courage.

  7. Time Out says:

    The problem with rape seems to be that men think they are entitled. Society has let the saying that boys will be boys and men will men go on to long. The honest truth is that these men need to start paying for their actions and then they will thank twice about committing acts like this thinking that society will make excuses for them. This type of thing is happening to often and has only gotten worst over time. Enforcing stricter punishment for these acts could possible reduce rape cases by a huge amount. If it seems to be so difficult for the law to prevent rape maybe their victims should be allowed to castrate them in return. I’m sure that will prevent it from happening or anyone even contemplating an attempt. I often wonder why aren’t men doing more to prevent this type of thing from happening. After all they are suppose to protect women and children not take advantage of them. These women can never get back what their rapist have taken from them so they need to understand what it feels like to lose something the can’t get back. Perhaps this should be the end of their manhood since they don’t know how to appropriately use it. I see rape as the equivalent to taking someone’s life so the minimal punishment should be the offenders life as well.

  8. Time Out Is Wonderful says:

    Time Out, I agree wholeheartedly. In my opinion, a person ceases to be human once they rape/abuse one.

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