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UNC Administration Denies They Pressured Officials To Underreport Sexual Assaults

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University of North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp leaves following a board of trustees meeting Wednesday, July 27, 2011, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Travis Long)
University of North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp leaves following a board of trustees meeting Wednesday, July 27, 2011, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Travis Long)

University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill officials responded Thursday to allegations the administration pressured employees to underreport the number of sexual assaults on campus.

"The allegations with respect to the underreporting of sexual assault are false, they are untrue, and they are just plain wrong," said Leslie Strohm, UNC's vice chancellor and general counsel, at a Board of Trustees meeting.

According to an audio recording of the meeting, Strohm and other officials emphasized they had not seen a copy of the complaint filed last week with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights by current and former students, and former assistant dean of students Melinda Manning. The only information they have to go on are reports in the media, which include the claim Manning was told to keep the number of sex offenses on campus kept to a minimum in the 2010 Clery Act report.

At the meeting, Strohm read and distributed a Sept. 13, 2011 email from Manning with the total numbers of sex offenses on the Chapel Hill campus for 2010 to be used in the annual Clery report. Manning included a total of 16 sex offenses for the year, however, Strohm said the university pegged the total to be 23 in the final report.

"So the facts are these: the office of university counsel reported every single sex offense that Melinda Manning sent to us plus seven additional sex offenses that we gathered through our outreach through other offices like campus police and Chapel Hill police," Strohm said.

"Some false allegations are the result of false understandings, some are not," Strohm said. "I fervently hope that this was a case of misunderstanding."

UNC chancellor Holden Thorp revealed at the meeting he spoke with Amherst College president Biddy Martin, who has dealt with allegations her school mishandled reported rapes on campus. Thorp said the administration was working to bring in Gina M. Smith, who Amherst hired to help reform sexual violence policies.

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