News is breaking today that Landen Gambill, a UNC sophomore involved in the outstanding complaint against the University, could potentially face expulsion by the UNC Honor Court because she has allegedly "intimidated" her rapist and "adversely" affected his life. This development has already attracted (more) bad national press coverage for UNC.
This headline comes on the heels of news from the Daily Tar Heel that UNC junior Stedman Gage was found dead late Friday night at his off-campus residence. The cause of death has not yet been released by police. Gage is the fourth UNC student to unexpectedly die this academic year.
Though different in nature, both of these issues negatively affect the image of UNC and, by extension, our town and community at large. Perhaps the issue of how the Honor Court conducts its affairs is an internal matter to students and University administrators -- but I'm not so sure. If the University community decides that a victim of sexual assault is not welcome -- and is, in fact, in violation of its community standard -- does that not also reflect that the Chapel Hill community at large is also unwelcoming and unconcerned with issues of this nature?
Students, whether they live on campus or off, are a part of our community. They drive our downtown economy, live in our neighborhoods, and face many of the same problems that longtime community members continue to see as issues confronting our town. (Full disclosure: I am a current UNC undergraduate.)
So, my question is this: What is the role of the Chapel Hill community in these issues of safety and image that are emerging (primarily) from UNC and UNC students? From what I've seen thus far, the broader Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County communities have been absent in the discussions of safety and image that are currently happening on campus and among students, faculty, and University administrators. Is there an appropriate role for community members to have here?
Furthermore, safety and image concerns aren't just a UNC-related concern, but rather, safety and image concerns frequently overlap with the Chapel Hill community at large. For example, barely two weeks ago, a sexual assault of a non-UNC student was reported at West End Wine Bar. And in the fall, an assault on Franklin Street involving both a UNC student and a non-UNC student resulted in gunfire in downtown.
UNC is a fundamental part of Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County. As the University continues to face obstacles and dificulties, I think community members should be welcome as stakeholders in shaping our future. So how should community members contribute to the serious discussions happening about UNC and its future, particularly as it relates to safety for students and the image of the University and our town, if at all?