University of Virginia

Can’t confirm the Rolling Stone account ‘to any substantive degree’

The Charlottesville Police Department is suspending its investigation into an alleged gruesome sexual assault in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia, as detailed in an article published in Rolling Stone last December, officials said Monday.

The article shocked readers as it graphically depicted the physical assault and violent gang rape of “Jackie,” a first-year student, by seven members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity during a party at the beginning of the fall semester in 2012.

But soon after the story was published, holes began to appear in the details surrounding the assault.

Rolling Stone issued a retraction to the story a month later, citing “discrepancies in Jackie’s account,” exacerbated by a series of decisions not to fact check or verify Jackie’s claims about her alleged assailant.

The police department has confirmed the existence of those discrepancies from its investigation.

“Unfortunately, we’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident that is consistent with the facts contained in that article occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any fraternity house for that matter,” Police Chief Timothy Longo said at a press conference.

Jackie stonewalled a detective seeking to investigate her allegations for seven months before coming to the police station in December and, again, refusing to answer questions or give a statement, the investigation said.

“Since that time, despite numerous attempts to gain her cooperation, ‘Jackie’ has provided no information whatsoever to investigators,” the investigation said.

Get the cops involved right away

Although law enforcement officials could not find any evidence to corroborate Jackie’s account of the alleged assault in Rolling Stone, Longo said the investigation is “not closed by any stretch of the imagination.

“It is suspended until we are able to gather more information or such time where someone comes forward and provides us with more information.”

Longo said that the findings of the investigation do not rule out the possibility that Jackie was still assaulted that night.

“Now I want to be clear about something, that doesn’t mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie on the evening of September 28, 2012, we’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to conclude what that something is,” Longo said.

Longo stressed the importance of involving law enforcement officials as soon as possible after a sexual assault occurs to prevent a similar situation from occurring again.

“Having police involvement at the very early stages of these investigations is extremely, extremely important and as I said months ago, and I will repeat now – every second of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of week, of every month, of every year – we lose evidence,” Longo said.

“We lose testimonial evidence, we lose physical evidence, we lose forensic evidence. We lose the evidence that is important to get to the truth behind these cases so that justice can prevail.”

School that took 11 months to tell police helped ‘a student in need’

teresasullivan.AmericanCouncilonEducation.flickrUniversity President Teresa Sullivan ignored the ostensible purpose of the police announcement and instead claimed vindication for the school’s handling of Jackie’s allegations.

“The investigation confirms what federal privacy law prohibited the University from sharing last fall: that the University provided support and care to a student in need, including assistance in reporting potential criminal conduct to law enforcement,” Sullivan said in a statement after the police announcement.

It took 11 months after Jackie reported her allegations to the school before the police “became aware” of them, the investigation found.

Sullivan said that the university will continue working with the police department to combat on-campus sexual assault.

“There is important work ahead as the University continues to implement substantive reforms to improve its culture, prevent violence and respond to incidents of violence when they occur,” Sullivan said.

Future victims who report: ‘The boy who cried wolf’

The findings may prove to be an obstacle to sexual assault prevention and adjudication in the future, according to John Banzhaf, a public interest law professor at George Washington University.

“This Rolling Stone debacle, coupled with the recent memory of phony allegations of rape [by lacrosse players] at Duke University, and a Justice Department study showing that widely cited estimates of the rate of rapes and other sexual assaults on college campuses has been grossly exaggerated, may blunt so-far successful efforts by the federal government and anti-rape groups to force colleges to not only crack down but to also convict more male students,” Banzhaf said in a statement given to The College Fix.

Banzhaf said “almost two dozen courts” have found in favor of accused males who sued their universities to obtain justice.

The Charlottesville police findings could prove detrimental to victims of sexual assault who are seeking justice, if they come to be seen as “the boy who cried wolf,” Banzhaf added.

Director Rebecca Weybright of the Sexual Assault Resource Agency of Charlottesville echoed Banzhaf’s worry over the effect the investigation’s conclusion could have on assault victims.

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“Why would somebody want to put themselves to be potentially subjected to what, the amount of questioning and I’m sure the criticism?” Weybright said in an interview with NBC 29.

Further, Weybright was concerned Jackie’s discredited account could set a dangerous precedent.

“My first thought was ‘oh my gosh this is just going to make more people not believe survivors,’ and that’s pretty devastating,” Weybright said.

The findings seem unlikely to slow the national narrative of widespread sexual assault on campus.

The Huffington Post reported earlier this month that the distributor for The Hunting Ground, a new documentary that purports to show a rape-culture crisis in higher education, has received more than 1,000 invitations to screen the film on college campuses.

College Fix reporter Julianne Stanford is a student at the University of Arizona.

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IMAGES: Cavalier Daily/YouTube, American Council on Education/Flickr

National sorority leaders sent a letter to all sixteen University of Virginia sorority chapters back on January 20, urging them “not to participate in activities related to ‘men’s bid night’ [this] Saturday and to instead plan alternative ‘sisterhood events …'”

This did not sit well with many on campus, however.

Two days ago, the university’s student council passed a resolution saying the letter “perpetuates the fundamental power dynamics underlying the issue by forbidding sorority women to exercise their agency.” (University-speak translation: “It perpetuates the oppressive patriarchy!” Normal translation: “Hey! We’re legal adults! We can make our own decisions!”)

NBC News reports:

The council’s chairman, Abraham Axler, who provided a copy of the letter to NBC News, said the response “is not about people fighting for the right to party. It is a response to what we feel is an infringement on the values of the students of UVA, particularly the value of self-governance.”

… the National Panhellenic Conference had a standing policy saying members would not participate in men’s recruitment events. That point was also made by Linda Kahangi, the national executive director of the Alpha Phi sorority, in an emailed statement to NBC News. “This has everything to do with reminding UVA chapters of existing policy and nothing to do with a lack of confidence in smart, strong, women who are members of the Alpha Phi chapter at UVA,” she said.

UVA spokesman Anthony P. de Bruyn said the university was not involved in the sororities’ request. “With regard to activities scheduled for this weekend, we have confidence in our students’ ability to use good judgment, be mindful of one another’s safety, and adhere to the new safety practices developed by them and outlined in the recently revised Fraternal Organization Agreements,” he said.

Lest ye despair that the oft-cited “one in five women are sexually assaulted in college” figure will be forgotten along with the idea behind the UVA Rolling Stone “rape” story, here’s Daillen Culver, a UVA senior who signed a petition against the national sororities’ letter:

“I would just like to turn the focus back to people and to the rape culture and how that is perpetuated on college campuses,” she added. “And not only just on college campuses, but in society as a whole … I think we need to address that before we try and forbid women from going out to a party on a Saturday night. It’s just not a sustainable solution.”

Some members of UVA sororities told the Washington Post that they were visited by representatives from their respective national chapters and threatened with suspensions or fines if they attended any frat “bid night” parties.

Read the full article.

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Fight for your right to party? Not required in sororities and minority frats

Spurred by the discredited Rolling Stone story about gang rape at a single University of Virginia fraternity, administrators and Greek life leaders have come up with strict new rules for most fraternities – and weaker ones for sororities and minority Greeks.

The changes come on the heels of a voluntary suspension of fraternity activities, and a larger blanket prohibition on social activities by President Teresa Sullivan.

Phi Kappa Psi, the venue for the discredited gang rape, was reinstated by the school this week, though the local police are still investigating the claims of “Jackie,” the student at the center of the Rolling Stone article, the New York Times reported.

alcohol190.AlexMestas.flickrA new addendum to the Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) agreement heavily regulates frat functions, defined as events that run past 9 p.m. and have more than half the chapter’s members present.

The new rules make frat parties look more like nightclubs than campus soirees.

At least three brothers must be “sober and lucid,” meaning “without influence of any substance,” at each function. At least one each “must be present at each point of alcohol distribution and another at the stairs leading to residential rooms.”

Whoever is monitoring the stairs “must have immediate key access to each room in the fraternity house during the social function.”

Party monitors must “wear a designated identifier” that will be standardized across all frats, and at least three of the sober brothers must be “non-first year” members. All fraternity functions have to be registered by 11:59 P.M. “the preceding Tuesday.”

Say goodbye to kegs and punch bowls

The most sweeping change may be what drinks can be served at frat parties, and how they can be dispensed.

Kegs are out: Beer can only be served from the original, unopened can. Wine can be served “upon request, poured visibly at the bar” by one of the sober monitors, while punches and other “pre-mixed drinks” are banned entirely. So-called jungle juice has been blamed for binge drinking and sexual assault, The College Fix has reported.

To keep booze from acting too quickly, frats must provide bottled water at every beverage station and food at one of those stations.

alcohol-bar.SakshiSharma.flickrFrats must hire licensed bartenders to serve hard liquor at Tier 1 events – those with more guests than brothers present – while people can bring their own hard liquor to a “central bar location, overseen by a sober brother,” at Tier 2 events, where the number of guests “approximately matches” the brothers.

In changes bent on “eliminating discomfort and chaos” at the door, Tier 1 parties now must have a security guard from a vendor approved by the IFC, using a guest list that “exclusively dictate[s]” who gets in. Tier 2 parties need to use a guest list to “manage entry.”

The changes are necessary because of issues with “high-risk drinking, sexual misconduct, and unhealthy power structures,” according to the addendum’s introduction.

University spokesman Anthony de Bruyn did not explain to The Fix what “unhealthy power structures” mean.

It’s unclear what other terms mean in the addendum, which is barely two pages. There’s no definition of “substance” or “influence,” or the exact distinction between the role of guest lists at Tier 1 and 2 parties.

Drastically lighter rules for women and minorities

Greeks who aren’t white males seem to have gotten a pass on strict new rules.

The new addendum for sororities, historically black frats, and Latin, Asian or “multicultural” Greeks, only vaguely requires the development of “risk management strategies and safe social practices.”

drunkasianwomen.TracyWong.flickrThey have to submit recommendations for safety procedures as well as increase alcohol safety and bystander intervention training, but there are no particular requirements for their parties.

Sororities already have “sober sisters” at social events because of “national organization requirements,” Julia Pedrick, Inter-Sorority Council president, told President Sullivan in a Jan. 2 letter, but it’s unclear what their duties are.

Spokesman de Bruyn told The Fix by email that each frat and sorority “must abide by their respective addenda,” but did not explain why certain Greek organizations were placed under harsher rules, or direct The Fix toward someone who could.

Neither members of the IFC nor Sullivan’s office returned requests for comment.

Sexual-assault group based on dubious stats helped craft rules

In addition to current and former Greek leaders and members, “scores of individual alumni” and student groups including One in Four helped develop “these improvements to our system,” IFC President Tommy Reid said in a university press release.

One in Four is an anti-sexual assault advocacy group, which derives its name from the unsubstantiated claim that one in four college women has “survived rape or attempted rape.”

It teaches men “to challenge their own behaviors and influence the behaviors of others,” and women how to identify “characteristics of high-risk perpetrators.”

College Fix reporter Matt Lamb is a student at Loyola University-Chicago.

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IMAGES: Phil Roeder/Flickr, Alex Mestas/Flickr, SakshiSharma/Flickr, Tracy Wong/Flickr

“Taking Action On Sexual Assault — A Student Perspective” is the title of a two-page document containing various recommendations to help combat the “sexual assault storm” at the University of Virginia.

“It is a problem among us, and a problem we must fix at personal and cultural levels,” the introduction says.

Indeed, the document has three sets of recommendations — nine for UVA’s Board of Visitors, and seven each for administration and students.

One of these (for the BOV) is something you might have come to expect: a requirement to take Women and Gender Studies courses.

There is much to learn about our culture’s impact on and interaction with women. Assuring that each student engages with these ideas is an enabler of cultural change. The BOV can: budget increased support for the program, direct schools to create requirement.

Other ideas include the creation of a Gender Violence Institute, an All-Night Women’s Center, and mandatory faculty training “on their responsibilities and how to sensitively interact with survivors.”

But what is most … frightening is the call for closed criminal trials in rape cases:

One hurdle to pursuing criminal resolution may be the painstaking public nature of trials. Introducing privacy could make that path more attractive. The BOV can: advocate publicly to Richmond.

Fortunately, University of Virginia student body, this is the United States, not Stalin’s USSR or Mao’s China. And, American campuses already have a rather sordid history when it comes to holding private proceedings.

If the members of the Board of Visitors have even a smidgen of legal integrity, they will nix this awful idea faster than Rolling Stone had to backtrack on its UVA “gang rape” story.

Read the full document.

h/t to KC Johnson.

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IMAGE: William Murphy/Flickr

Although the Rolling Stone “gang rape” story at the University of Virginia has fallen apart, the apparent ringleader of the attack on the Phi Kappa Psi house — where the “rape” supposedly occurred — remains undaunted.

Reportedly from a family of privilege, the alleged leader “admitted his role and described the attack his friends carried out in details that match police and eyewitness reports.”

The Washington Times reports:

The student agreed to talk to The Times only on the condition that his name wasn’t published, saying he didn’t want police to find him.

“I texted one of my friends and I was like, ‘Let’s throw bottles at the Phi Psi house tonight,’ and she said, ‘Yes!’ I think that the article made it clear that victims at the university have no legitimate channels to take action, and I think vandalism is a completely legitimate form of action when like, legitimate authority is corrupt. I think it was justified,” he said in an interview with The Times.

Asked whether he believed the ends generally justified the means, he casually replied, “Sure.” He also said he is not opposed to “armed revolution” as a means to end what he termed “systemic oppression.”

The student said his group of friends sent an anonymous letter to various news organizations several hours after the attack warning that it was “just the beginning.” The letter threatened to “escalate and provoke until certain demands were met,” including “an immediate revision of university policy mandating expulsion as the only sanction for rape and sexual assault.”

Thus far, there is no definitive word as to whether local law enforcement and the university have undertaken investigations to determine the identities of the vandals, and if there will be charges brought against them.

The purported leader adopted a stance all too typical of college campuses:

The student who claimed to participate in the attack said he had no regrets despite the fact that the accuracy of Jackie’s story in Rolling Stone has come under significant doubt, including the name of the fraternity where the alleged attack occurred. Asked whether he felt at all bad about attacking the wrong fraternity, he showed no remorse and justified the attack on the broader woes of “social injustice.”

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IMAGE: Phil Roeder/Flickr

It seems the University of Virginia is starting to get a bit peeved at all the backlash following the now-discredited Rolling Stone gang-rape story.

This past Friday, George Martin, the university’s rector, tore into the media at the beginning of a Board of Visitors meeting.

“Our tightly knit community has experienced the full fury of drive-by journalism in the 21st century — of callous indifference to the truth and callous indifference to the consequences,” he said.

He added the the university’s reputation had been “unfairly tarnished.”

The New York Times reports:

While saying they remain determined to combat sexual assault, leaders of the University of Virginia on Friday publicly pushed back against the damage done to its reputation by a discredited account of a gang rape at a fraternity house.

A month ago, Rolling Stone published its article about a woman who said seven men had assaulted her at a party here two years ago amid an alcohol-soaked social scene of fraternity brothers misbehaving with impunity. News organizations followed by swarming into this quiet town, many of them giving bruising assessments of one of the nation’s elite public universities.

For weeks, university officials were careful not to strike a defensive tone, emphasizing that whatever doubts there were about the account, they saw a problem that needed addressing.

Before reciting a long list of things the administration is doing to make the campus safer, Teresa A. Sullivan, the university president, said, “Our concern with sexual assault was not something that started with the Rolling Stone article.” And she said she felt compelled to state that “UVA’s climate and culture are generally healthy.”

Of course, Martin and President Sullivan are partly responsible for that media “full fury” that descended upon the campus. When the Rolling Stone story broke, both appeared to accept it at face value.

Martin had stated:

“I’d like to say to [the victim] and her parents I am sorry, and to all survivors of sexual assault, I am sorry. 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.”

President Sullivan reacted by suspending all fraternities and associated activities.

But now they’re miffed at all the media coverage. What a shame.

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