University of Virginia

A growing chorus of observers is casting doubt on the campus disciplinary process mandated by Title IX for dealing with sexual-assault claims, in the wake of the University of Virginia gang-rape scandal.

Slate‘s legal analyst ripped the system earlier this week, feminist lawyer Judith Shulevitz wrote in a prominent liberal magazine that the system encourages students to see rape as a “campus infraction,” and a trustees group is saying the scandal shows that “colleges are unable to handle the outrageous crime of sexual assault on their own.”

Writing in The New Republic, Shulevitz says of the rape victim:

Should she have gone to the police? Of course! Did her friends give new meaning to the word selfish? Absolutely. Should the university have called the police the minute they heard her story? Definitely. Is UVA a school that failed to respond to the nasty sexual consequences of its Greek party scene? Apparently. But there’s one more party to hold accountable: the federal government [by way of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights]. …

In those orientation sessions, [colleges] should be teaching students to see sexual felonies as feloniesnot as violations of campus policy, but as crimes to be reported as soon as possible to police officers trained to investigate them so that prosecutors can prosecute them.

Not all these reforms are hard:

A body of research on regular female police officers shows that not only to women prefer to report rape to them, they’re better at eliciting painful details from victims, which leads to higher rates of conviction. There is no reason that university officials couldn’t be working to help their local police departments make reforms like these.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni says:


The fact that Charlottesville Chief of Police Timothy Longo said he hadn’t previously spoken in front of the Board of Visitors shows that an essential element has been left out of the conversation.  If UVA is to move forward, it has to remedy the communications breakdown among students, administrators, and law enforcement. The Board of Visitors now has an opportunity to show leadership and to prove that the safety and security of the students—not reputation or image—is paramount at UVA. The alcohol-fueled party culture in Charlottesville and around the country that provides a matrix for sexual assault must also end.  It’s time for trustees to exercise their duty as fiduciaries and insist that their schools maintain the safe, academically-focused environment that students and taxpayers deserve.

Read The New Republic article and ACTA statement.

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This past week has seen the University of Virginia endure a hard, jarring fall from grace.

The venerable campus has been rocked and tarnished by a lengthy investigative piece in Rolling Stone that details an alleged gang rape of a freshman while she attended a frat party in 2012:

Jackie had taken three hours getting ready, straightening her long, dark, wavy hair. She’d congratulated herself on her choice of a tasteful red dress with a high neckline. Now, climbing the frat-house stairs with Drew, Jackie felt excited. Drew ushered Jackie into a bedroom, shutting the door behind them. The room was pitch-black inside. Jackie blindly turned toward Drew, uttering his name. At that same moment, she says, she detected movement in the room – and felt someone bump into her. Jackie began to scream.

“Shut up,” she heard a man’s voice say as a body barreled into her, tripping her backward and sending them both crashing through a low glass table. There was a heavy person on top of her, spreading open her thighs, and another person kneeling on her hair, hands pinning down her arms, sharp shards digging into her back, and excited male voices rising all around her. When yet another hand clamped over her mouth, Jackie bit it, and the hand became a fist that punched her in the face. The men surrounding her began to laugh. For a hopeful moment Jackie wondered if this wasn’t some collegiate prank. Perhaps at any second someone would flick on the lights and they’d return to the party.

“Grab its motherfucking leg,” she heard a voice say. And that’s when Jackie knew she was going to be raped.

She remembers every moment of the next three hours of agony, during which, she says, seven men took turns raping her, while two more – her date, Drew, and another man – gave instruction and encouragement. She remembers how the spectators swigged beers, and how they called each other nicknames like Armpit and Blanket. She remembers the men’s heft and their sour reek of alcohol mixed with the pungency of marijuana. Most of all, Jackie remembers the pain and the pounding that went on and on.

The story – which at this point has been shared on social media nearly 200,000 times – proceeds to interweave nationwide campus sexual assault statistics with details on how UVA leaders have allegedly swept such allegations under the rug for years, even decades, to maintain its distinguished reputation. The narrative paints a picture of a university that is numb and unsympathetic to students’ allegations of rape and a fraternity culture that celebrates getting girls drunk and taking advantage of all their orifices.

The article’s compelling tone has swept the university into the glare of the national spotlight. Stories linked on the Drudge Report reference the controversy, and the New York Times reported on it. The pressure has been so great that UVA suspended all fraternities and related activities for the next couple months, and on Tuesday campus officials apologized.

Administrators have also asked police to investigate the reported gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi house, suggesting new details have emerged as a result of the article that they where unaware of, The Associated Press reports, adding campus officials also plan to target underage drinking in their quest to quell the problem, and have pledged to enforce a zero-tolerance sexual assault policy.

“I’d like to say to [the victim] and her parents I am sorry, and to all survivors of sexual assault, I am sorry,” stated George Martin, the board’s rector. “As we said last week, this type of conduct will not be tolerated at the University of Virginia. The status quo is not acceptable. Like all of you gathered here today, I am appalled.”

After reading the story, it’s easy to be appalled. Although many comments under it are furious at the author, suggesting the piece includes unbelievable details and unfairly paints the university as an elitist institution with a well-hidden rape culture.

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The list of prominent liberals questioning the campus disciplinary system for investigating and punishing sexual assault continues to grow.

In an article about the University of Virginia rape scandal subtitled “The confidential sexual assault investigation system has failed,” Slate legal writer Dahlia Lithwick goes over the school’s peculiar historic response to rape allegations.

That includes its sexual misconduct board’s chief, who “seems to suggest” in a video interview that a student who admits guilt has done “enough to avoid expulsion or serious sanctions,” as Lithwick says:

The interview perfectly reflects the problem UVA has constructed: [Nicole] Eramo was tasked with handling sexual assault in a non-criminal, survivor-centered, confidential, internal setting, and she is now on the hook for not having run a crack Special Victims Unit.

The question I have been asked a hundred times since the Rolling Stone piece appeared [which created the scandal] is: How is it possible that a crime as serious as an aggravated, premeditated gang rape can be funneled into an internal disciplinary process? How can a felony offense be kept out of the police’s hands, and how can victims be presented with a menu of choices that includes, and even encourages, doing nothing?

Lithwick then faults Title IX itself for making schools use “administrative conduct processes”:

At UVA, that system appears to have resulted in a systematic process of deflecting cases out of the criminal justice system, leaving perpetrators undisciplined and the campus unaware of what looks to be a repeated pattern of vicious rapes. Victims were given so many options, and even a violent gang rape went unreported to the police. …

The real question is whether, having crafted an internal system that either masks or exacerbates many of the worst features of the systems it seeks to replace, do we want to stand by it?

Read the Slate piece.

h/t Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

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It was only a matter of time.

The University of Virginia offered a “Game of Thrones” English course this summer, a four-week seminar that divided its focus between the novels and popular HBO television series.

“One of the greatest lessons of ‘Game of Thrones,’ the class argues, is how life goes on after death,” according to a university press release describing the 24-student class.

Thankfully students have Game of Thrones to teach them such concepts!

“One of the goals behind this class was to teach students how the skills that we use to study literature are very useful skills for reading literature and TV in conjunction,” stated Lisa Woolfork, the associate professor of English who taught the class. “ ‘Game of Thrones’ is popular, it’s interesting, but it’s also very serious. There are a lot of things in the series that are very weighty, and very meaningful, and can be illuminated through the skills of literary analysis.”

For those who have not read the books, they are filled with sex, violence, death, murder, witchcraft, necromancy, depression, evil, manipulation, incest, betrayal, deep sadness, and much more. Good story lines, great writing. But very dark. Very disturbing.

As for the TV series, has there ever been a movie that’s better than the book? Yet the professor argues the popular series enhanced the books “in a world where the major sources of storytelling are increasingly visual.” Sigh.

Let’s add this GOT class to the growing pile of pop culture-worship glamorized as serious academic scholarly pursuit.

Similar university classes in the recent past include ones on: 50 Shades of Grey, Harry Potter, Mad Men, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Jay Z.

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h/t: Huffington Post

A study by the University of Virginia has concluded that “cool” kids in school ultimately are less successful than their “geekier” peers. It found that those in the former group “were more likely to suffer drug abuse problems and social isolation as adults.” The Daily Mail (UK) reports:

The findings of the study – published in the journal Child Development – will be familiar to fans of the Lindsay Lohan film Mean Girls, which charts the fall from grace of high school pupils who are obsessed with their image and popularity.

Professor Joseph Allen, lead author of the study, reiterated that the most socially successful teenagers were often heading for a fall.

‘The group of young people who seemed to be on the fast track in adolescence … ended up more like a dead end,’ he said.

He added that he hoped the findings would be a comfort to parents who worried about how popular their children were at school.

‘Young people who get a lot of reinforcement and praise and attention for superficial kinds of qualities are at risk,’ he told the Sunday Times.

‘They come to depend on these, which don’t have much appeal in the wider, adult world.

I think those who have worked in schools for some amount of time would tend to agree with these conclusions. Often, “cool” kids are those who are disruptive, bully other students, and thumb their noses at school work. Many of them see the light, so to speak, come high school, but productive habits begin early.

Read the full article here.

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There’s a lot of heat on universities over claims they fail to take sexual assault seriously, but then you read something like this and it’s shocking this can happen to a student in America.

Why do universities use kangaroo courts for sexual assault claims? It’s a criminal – not civil – matter.

This male University of Virginia student, who did not use his name, has a compelling story to share (via the Cavalier Daily):

On October 3, 2013 at around 3:30 p.m., I was picked up during my class at Wilson Hall by two police officers. I found out that I had been charged with felony rape and abduction by an ex-girlfriend who claimed this event happened sometime between March 1 to June 1 of 2012 in a different part of Virginia without specifying an exact day or month. I was promptly arrested, put into the cruiser, and transported to the Charlottesville Regional Jail where I would spend four nights awaiting my bond hearing.

During my second day in jail at 12:40 p.m., I received a letter from Dean Groves.

I had been suspended from the University because, in his words, he was abiding to their responsibility to “maintain a safe and secure environment for all members of the community.” It said that I could not be allowed on Grounds without special permission and that I would be held on trial by the University Judiciary Committee even though the University had not even conducted a proper investigation of the matter themselves.

Upon being bailed out, I worked closely with my lawyer to prepare my defense. There was no telling how long the case could drag on for. The trial could be scheduled sometime in the spring of 2014 and I did not want to be gone from the University for that long.

I appealed to the University to reinstate me during the duration of my legal case on Tuesday, November 12th, 2013. I prepared a case that included documents that supported my innocence, about a dozen character letters, and six witnesses. I was brought forth before the University’s triumvirate of Vice-President Patricia M. Lampkin, Dean of Students Allen Groves, and Susan Davis, who is the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs.

I presented my documents, witnesses, and arguments before them. I answered their questions and after an hour of arguing for my reinstatement, Dean Groves asked whether there was any information I was not revealing, since it would be unusual for charges to be filed if there was not some kind of evidence against me.

There was the suspicion that I must be hiding something or perhaps that the prosecution had a stronger case than I expected. There was the idea that the police acted on good faith and would not go forward on an unsubstantiated accusation. There was the question of why would someone make a false accusation? Who would be stupid enough to put themselves in a situation where they would perjure themselves?

The charges were subsequently dropped three days later because the complainant’s statements at the preliminary hearing were inconsistent with facts of the case previously established during the investigation.

Read more.

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