On March 1, the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to University Chancellor Holden Thorp stating that it will open an investigation into a complaint made by five women that UNC Chapel Hill administrators have a pattern of failing to handle sexual assault claims properly. The five women, who include current and former students and a former UNC administrator, filed their complaint in January, alleging that their civil rights, and the civil rights of other women on campus, were violated. UNC officials deny the charges, but after the complaint was filed, the University hired Gina Smith, a consultant on sexual misconduct, to “hold a campus conversation” on the manner in which sexual assault cases are handled. The Office of Civil Rights took pains to make clear that the opening of an investigation did not amount to a finding that civil rights violations had in fact occurred.
Meanwhile, one of the student complainants has since been charged with an honor code violation for intimidating the ex-boyfriend whom she has not named publicly but who she said had raped her. This charge has led to campus protests and condemnation by outside groups, who call it retaliation.