University of Virginia

The Alliance Defending Freedom is fighting back against a campaign by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to get public universities to drop their basketball chaplains, who also serve as “character coaches,” calling them unconstitutional.

In a letter to the University of Kansas, one of the targeted schools, the alliance says the Establishment Clause gives universities “great leeway in accommodating the religious needs of their students.”

The group said federal courts “allow universities much greater latitude in accommodating religion” than elementary and high schools.

It noted that many other public entities – the military, prisons, hospitals, police, airports and even legislatures – have been approved for hiring chaplains or providing chapels by court rulings.

Because of their busy public schedules, student athletes don’t have time to attend regular religious services unless a chaplain travels with the team, the letter said.

The letters also went to the University of Louisville, University of Maryland, University of Virginia, University of Oklahoma and Wichita State University, all targeted by the foundation, the alliance said in a press release.

Read the Kansas letter.

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Today’s Penn State Daily Collegian editorial amazingly wonders “what would legal action give the organization [UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi] that they don’t already have?”

That’s right, despite the fact that Rolling Stone’s story about how members of that fraternity gang-raped a student has been thoroughly discredited, not to mention officially retracted by the magazine, suing the publication for its misdeeds would be … “harmful,” says the DC editorial board.

While we understand the fraternity may have a right to legal action, we don’t support its decision to pursue a case.

What would legal action give the organization that they don’t already have? With all of the media covering of this case, it has become general knowledge the fraternity’s name has been cleared and the article has been retracted.

Legal action to clear Phi Kappa Psi’s name is unnecessary. The question must be asked: if the name has been cleared, what is it that the organization wants?

“Clearly our fraternity and its members have been defamed, but more importantly we fear this entire episode may prompt some victims to remain in the shadows, fearful to confront their attackers,” the Virginia Phi Kappa Psi chapter’s president, Stephen Scipione, said in the statement. “If Rolling Stone wants to play a real role in addressing this problem, it’s time to get serious.”

But this statement is contradictory.

If the fraternity is truly concerned about those who have been sexually assaulted remaining in the shadows, afraid to come forward, it wouldn’t continue to drag out this process.

The most important thing to come out of this failed journalism is the concept that sexual assault is a huge problem on college campuses, and false accusations are extremely unlikely. We cannot let this situation hurt and set back sexual assault reporting and investigating.

Let that last paragraph sink in for a moment. A long moment.

This whole preposterous exposition not only believes that Rolling Stone should pay no price for its actions and the fact the frat has been cleared is good enough for its members … but that  the most important result of this entire episode is that “sexual assault is a huge problem on college campuses, and false accusations are extremely unlikely.”

If you can get past that, perhaps even more astonishing is this line: “It [a lawsuit] will show anyone who may have something to say against a fraternity that they have the power, they can sue and they will essentially always win.”

Did the members of this editorial board actually follow this whole sordid tale? How the “victim’s” story was believed, reported on sans numerous journalistic standards, and then whose narrative was blasted across the media landscape virtually uncontested?

Where was the frat’s supposed omnipotence then?

Read the whole editorial.

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You could certainly get away with such satire on The Daily Show, but apparently not a college newspaper.

The University of Virginia’s Cavalier Daily wrote “an apology to our readers” for two stories that ran in its April Fool’s Day edition. These were the headlines:

“ABC officers tackle Native American student outside Bodo’s Bagels”

“Zeta Psi hosts ‘Rosa Parks’ party”

These refer, respectively, to the violent arrest of a black student at UVA by alcohol enforcement officers and more general stories about Greek life parties with themes like “Taco Tuesday” that are accused of cultural appropriation.

By Wednesday afternoon, the managing board was offering a “sincere apology” for its timely satire (since removed), promising to run a print apology, and even reaching out to “affected communities”:

The April Fools edition is meant to start a conversation and provide satirical commentary on important issues. The April Fools edition is not meant to come at the expense of our peers. We neglected to foresee that these pieces would come across as the latter, and for that, we regret their publication. …

We are embarrassed that our empathy for these immensely serious issues [in the black student’s arrest] was undermined by this piece. We had no intentions of victimizing another underrepresented community in the process.

We also apologize for the article satirizing themed fraternity parties. Our intention was not to perpetuate stereotypes, but to highlight the offensive nature of these themed parties in the past. Again, our readers were hurt by this piece, and that makes its publication inexcusable.

Since these pieces have been removed from the Cavalier website, who knows how offensive they might have been, but the use of current events in satire isn’t exactly new and controversial – it’s what The Onion does every day, and for the most part, very well.

While perhaps not gut busters, I have a hard time believing these stories were really that offensive – there’s no indication from the managing board how many people complained or who they were. Some people simply believe that some subjects don’t deserve to be satirized, even if the satire has noble intentions.

Or maybe this apology is an elaborate April Fools’ gag. Which would be pretty funny.

Read the apology.

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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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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