Students who were dubiously accused of sexual assault through the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s kangaroo court system – even more than a decade ago – will soon have their names made public, along with the offense of which they were accused, and the punishment they received if found responsible.
Noticeably absent from the information will be the details of the allegation, which would help to explain whether the student was wrongly found responsible and to what extent UNC-CH went to find them responsible anyway.
The information release was ordered by the North Carolina Supreme Court last week in response to a lawsuit filed by four news organizations: The Daily Tar Heel campus newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, the Herald-Sun and Capitol Broadcasting, according to the News & Observer. UNC-CH, had previously denied the papers access to the information, saying it would violate the federal student privacy law known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). UNC-CH continued to oppose the lawsuit up to the NC Supreme Court, but it now must release the information to the news outlets, who will no doubt make it public. The information request dates back more than a decade, meaning students who managed to graduate after being accused and have gone on to build productive lives without any additional issues will soon have their lives and careers upended by news outlets trying to prove their alma mater doesn’t take allegations of sexual assault seriously.
UNC-CH has been one of the top targeted schools for this claim, despite numerous stories and lawsuits from accused students who were denied basic due process rights and punished over dubious claims.
One such allegation – which I detailed extensively for Real Clear Investigations back in 2017 – involved a he said/she said situation in which friends of the female accuser said she did not appear drunk yet she still reported to police and campus authorities that she had been raped. She and her feminist attorney would eventually hold a press conference to display what appears to be a digitally altered photograph of the accuser’s neck that made obvious hickeys appear as bruises from choking. UNC-CH eventually found the accused student not responsible based on a preponderance of the evidence, under the new NC Supreme Court ruling, the entire incident could be reported as: [Accused student’s name], the allegation of rape, and the finding of not responsible. Without the details of the allegation, this information will surely be used to claim UNC-CH doesn’t take sexual assault seriously.
The school is also being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights over allegations of anti-male bias in its policies. An allegation that their Title IX processes were biased against male students would not be investigated.
Accused students typically struggle to clear their name in court due to the overwhelming costs of fighting their schools. Lawsuits against universities for denying constitutional due process rights can cost more than 100,000, meaning low-income students are the most vulnerable to an unfairly ruined reputation. Further, schools refuse to release evidence and documents relating to an accused student’s case, citing FERPA. The schools say that releasing the information violates the accuser’s FERPA rights.
But the NC Supreme Court ruled that FERPA make an exception for such disciplinary records.
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