UVA

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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The Washington Post‘s thorough reporting has already cleaned up much of the mess that Rolling Stone made in its botched expose of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.

But crosstown rival Washington Times adds a few new details on how friends of “Jackie” got conned into thinking she was dating someone right before her alleged rape.

Regarding that cellphone number that Jackie gave her friends to text the man she claimed to be seeing:

Eventually, the friends ended up with three numbers for the man. All are registered to Internet services that enable people to text without cellphone numbers but also can be used to redirect calls to different numbers or engage in spoofing, according to multiple research databases checked by The Washington Times.

“That definitely raises some red flags,” Alex Stock, a University of Virginia junior and friend of Jackie, told The Times. “I think as more details come out I definitely feel a little more skeptical. This is all new territory for me. I’m not too technologically savvy.”

Another friend, Kathryn Hendley, said “It’s news to me” when told Jackie’s numbers were traced to spoofing services:

“I think as the story has moved along it has raised some new doubts. I honestly wish I could just talk to her sometimes and ask her myself or at least tell her that I hope she’s all right,” she said.

Another friend verifies that Jackie panicked and tried to back out when writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely indicated she wanted to write a broad story with UVa at the center of a national crisis of rape.

Read the Times story.

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IMAGE: Phil Roeder/Flickr

Now that the Rolling Stone story alleging a gang rape at a University of Virginia frat house has fallen apart, Greek Life groups are calling on campus leaders to reinstate fraternities and sororities, which were suspended in the wake of the extreme claim.

And they want an apology.

The Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee, the National Panhellenic Conference and the North-American Interfraternity Conference released a joint statement saying “we call on the University of Virginia to immediately reinstate operations for all fraternity and sorority organizations on campus, to issue an apology for its actions of the last two weeks, to publicly explain and release all records for the basis of its decision to suspend our organizations, and outline what steps it will take to restore the reputation of our groups and students at UVA.”

Read the full statement.

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OPINION

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Nov. 19 Rolling Stone “A Rape on Campus” article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely details an account of a female student’s brutal assault at a fraternity house at University of Virginia two years ago.

As a student at the University of Virginia, as well as a sorority member, I can say with certainty that reading it punched a hole through all of our hearts here on campus.

So now – to learn the article is based on unsubstantiated, uncorroborated, and possibly completely falsified allegations – we are concerned, disappointed, even outraged. I personally have experienced a sundry wave of emotions regarding the whole affair: shock, sadness, confusion.

But mostly, I am mad.

I am mad … that nobody seemed to question this story from the start.

This was a gruesome, almost unbelievable story of gang rape, which is a disgustingly brutal and horrifying act.

However, Erdely describes how Jackie was gang raped by seven men in a fraternity house, including two student supervisors who looked on, making nine people involved that night. I struggled to believe these atrocities could have gone on for so long in a fraternity without anyone discovering, and that this many men could lack consciences and morals in committing to this “pledging” ritual.

Not to mention UVa fraternities conduct the pledging process in the spring – not the fall – which doesn’t add up when considering this alleged rape took place on a night in September 2012.

I am mad … that our university was misrepresented.Emily

Erdely describes “throngs of toned, tanned, and overwhelmingly blond students” at UVa, as well as other false exaggerations about the culture here. I’m not exactly sure which campus she visited, but when I walk across mine, I see immense ethnic diversity.

Moreover, it is hard to believe the claim that Jackie’s friends did nothing to help her when she came to them that night. That certainly doesn’t sound like the community I know and love at UVa.

I am mad … that people are afraid to speak their minds for fear of being labeled and attacked.

Although many of us readers, especially those at UVa, questioned certain aspects of the story, everyone seemed afraid to challenge it publicly at first.

In the back of our minds we asked ourselves: Why would this girl just make up this story? If I do speak out publicly asking for more evidence, will people accuse me of being pro-rape? What if people say I am ignoring the real problem at hand of sexual assault and rape and the way universities handle them by questioning the story’s reliability?

None of us wanted to say these questions out loud. But we had every right to.

I am mad … at the unfair light in which this article has painted Greek Life.

As a result of this story, many faculty members at UVa and activists in the Charlottesville community and beyond have banded together in favor of abolishing fraternities and sororities altogether. Already Greek events on campus have been suspended through the end of the year.

As a sorority member at UVa, I can speak to the incredible aspects of being in a sisterhood and the impact we have in our community through service and leadership.

What’s more, this has been an extremely difficult semester, with the disappearance and murder of Hannah Graham and two student deaths. We, the women who live in danger of sexual assault and rape, have come together in these hard times to support, love, and motivate one another toward change. To disband our support system would be antithetical to solving the problem.

I am mad … at the way Rolling Stone put the blame on Jackie last Friday when they admitted to publishing a factually incorrect story.

They stated their “trust in Jackie was misplaced,” until they discreetly edited their apology Saturday to change this accusatory statement. While we still wait for many questions to be answered, it is not and never will be the survivor’s fault.

Perhaps Jackie experienced post-traumatic stress disorder from that night, blurring facts and details of the events? Maybe Erdely changed or embellished Jackie’s story? We do not know what happened on that night, but we know that Erdely did not uphold her journalistic responsibility to confirm the existence of the accused and attempt to interview them.

That alone is enough evidence that Rolling Stone should have immediately acknowledged their own blame in the publishing of this story.

Furthermore, everyone seemed to largely ignore the credibility of Rolling Stone as a “news” publication. Let’s remember Rolling Stone has been notorious for publishing controversial, exaggerated stories to seize public attention. Recall its infamous magazine cover from last year, flaunting a photo-shopped, attractive headshot of the Boston marathon bomber. Americans were outraged at that horrible portrayal of the terrorist, by the same news publication that we immediately believed to be reliable in November.

Lastly, but most importantly, I am mad on behalf of sexual assault and rape survivors.

An article by The Verge titled “Rolling Stone just wrecked an incredible year of progress for rape victims” explains how detrimental the destroyed credibility of this article will be for survivors.

They have struggled and could continue to struggle for years to come to convince others to believe their stories of sexual assault and rape, even though statistics show that the percentages of false sexual assault reports are exceptionally low. It takes one article like this to go viral, and then be proven inaccurate, to devastate the monumental progress that I have already seen taking place at UVa, and at other campuses across the nation.

Ultimately, this is a lesson about journalism. Journalism can be used to promote remarkable progress for issues like sexual assault and rape—issues that deserve to be at the forefront of public attention. Yet simultaneously, it can hurt this progress as well. We must question news reports, while recognizing that this does not mean we are questioning the issues at hand.

College Fix contributor Emily Irwin is a student at the University of Virginia.

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In an … incredible Politico piece, The Cavalier Daily (University of Virginia) managing editor Julia Horowitz — in one sentence — demonstrated what is so wrong with contemporary journalism.

Titled “Why We Believed Jackie’s Rape Story,” Horowitz meanders through her feelings about the case, cites the ridiculous “one in five are raped during college” statistic, and then sums it all up with this shocking line:

“Ultimately, though, from where I sit in Charlottesville, to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.”

“These events undoubtedly do occur here,” first-year Maddie Rita told me. “And while this report has clearly had factual flaws as well as rhetorical missteps, there are plenty of other fully corroborated accounts not only at this university, but at every university around the country.”

Only eight to nine percent of sexual assault reports are later determined false. This statistic will not change, even if Jackie does lie with the minority. One of five women will be assaulted while in college. One case, however prolific, does not change how it felt to lie in my friend’s bed and have her tell me through tears what her “first time” was really like.

That same friend, a few days after the article was released, publicly identified herself as a survivor for the first time. People were talking, and the issue — which too often hides in locked dorm rooms, in upstairs bedrooms and the dark corners of a fraternity basement — was finally being thrust out into the open. Survivors felt comfortable sharing their stories, and there was hope that reporting would increase.

With the crux of the story now wholly in doubt, this progress is threatened. Where we had the opportunity to move 20 steps forward, I fear we will be pushed 20 steps back.

“I’m worried that because of the inconsistencies in this story, this will challenge the precedent of believing a survivor,” said fourth-year student Gianfranco Villar, a member of all-male sexual assault peer education group 1 in 4. “This belief is vital to improving reporting rates and maintaining a survivor’s health. It is very disappointing.”

It is no accident that the article came out, and it became apparent almost immediately that there were very tangible things we needed to discuss.

Yes, the story was sensational. But even the most sensational story, it seems, can contain frightening elements of truth.

Well, sure, a lot of stories contain elements of truth. But that doesn’t make the stories true. That this has to be said to a major college newspaper’s assistant managing editor is, well, frightening.

It doesn’t bode very well at all for the future of a profession which is already awash with people who think like Ms. Horowitz.

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People who have worked with Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely vouched for her integrity in a Friday Philadelphia Inquirer article.

Erdely wrote the story about the alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia for which Rolling Stone has since apologized.

“She’s one of the most thorough reporters I’ve ever worked with,” said Eliot Kaplan, who hired Erdely at Philadelphia Magazine in 1994. “She’s not a shortcut-taker – very precise, diligent.”

“She’s hands-down one of the best and smartest journalists I’ve ever worked with,” said [former Self magazine editor Sara] Austin, now a senior deputy editor at Cosmopolitan. “She did incredible work for us on very complicated investigations, dealing with people who had often been through illness or trauma or both.”

Lisa DePaulo, a former colleague of Erdely’s at Philadelphia Magazine and a writer at Bloomberg Politics, was incredulous about the attacks on Erdely’s reporting. “As far as I know, there’s never been a piece of hers that was sloppy,” she said. “She’s an absolute pro.”

DePaulo added that she hopes “the truth would emerge” and that it “would not drown out the voices of other victims.”

Neither Erdely nor Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana responded to the Inquirer’s request for comment.

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