UVA Updates: 2 Frats Refuse Sex and Alcohol Demands, Phi Psi Speaks Out, Rolling Stone Still in Denial

It remains to be seen whether UVA will tolerate this defiance.


Wikimedia Commons

There have been a few recent developments in the UVA situation. First, members of the University of Virginia's Phi Kappa Psi chapter went on the record to discuss how their fraternity was affected by the false accusations levelled against it in Sabrina Rubin Erdely's Rolling Stone story.

Current and former Phi Psi brothers told The Washington Post that they were initially horrified to read Jackie's account as reported by Erdely. But after the story's publication, they quickly realized that the given date of the attack—September 28th, 2012—could not have been accurate. Rather than denounce the story publicly, they largely waited for the police to acquit them. Earlier this week, the authorities confirmed that Phi Psi was off the hook.

Still, it's been a difficult couple of weeks for the brothers of Phi Psi. Other students threw bricks through their windows and spray-painted 'RAPISTS' on their front lawn. They even moved into hotel rooms to duck protesters. The brothers told The Post that no one should consider them the victims, however:

[Phi Psi Brothers] Scipione and Fontenot said that the Phi Psi brothers experienced a difficult fall semester but said no one should consider the fraternity members as "victims."

"We don't want to take away from the real victims, which are the victims of sexual assault," Fontenot said. "We think it is incredibly unfair that the Rolling Stone article could in any way take away their credibility and the support they need."

UVA has revoked Phi Psi's suspension and invited all Greek organizations to resume campus activities—as long as they sign a new pact with the administration. This agreement obligates frats to only serve certain kinds of alcohol at parties and guard the stairs leading to the house bedrooms. Phi Psi readily agreed to the terms, but two other frats—Alpha Tau Omega and Kappa Alpha Order—have refused. Representatives for these groups say their own internal party rules are better than UVA's new dictates, and that it's wrong for the university to make demands that stem from a debunked allegation. According to the frats' identical statements:

The University violated the previous [Fraternal Organization Agreement] as well as student individual and organizational rights. The system-wide suspension, which was initiated for reasons that were found to be untrue, unfairly punished all members of fraternities and sororities.

It was maintained and used as leverage to require the changes to the FOA. Because we do not accept the validity of a suspension imposed in contravention of the existing FOA, university policy, Virginia law and the constitutional rights of our members, we are not compelled to sign a revised FOA to continue operations on campus.

It remains to be seen whether UVA will tolerate this defiance. I remain skeptical that the administration's new requirements would improve safety at frat parties, and am troubled that the university believes it should, in effect, police students' sex lives by obligating frats to guard the bedrooms.

Finally, Rolling Stone is still in denial about its role in creating this mess for UVA Greek life. Journalist Richard Bradley—who was the source in my initial report questioning Jackie's story—reports that Rolling Stone's latest issue contains a note from the publisher addressing "A Rape on Campus." Unfortunately, the note fails to admit what everyone already knows to be true—that the story is false and the product of an incomprehensible journalistic failure. Here's the note, according to Bradley:

A Note to Our Readers
In RS 1223, Sabrina Rubin Erdeley wrote about a brutal gang rape of a young woman named Jackie at a party in a University of Virginia frat house ["A Rape on Campus"]. Upon its publication, the article generated worldwide attention and praise for shining a light on the way the University of Virginia and many other colleges and universities across the nation have tried to sweep the issue of sexual assault on campus under the rug. Then, two weeks later, The Washington Post and other news outlets began to question Jackie's account of the evening and the accuracy of Erdely's reporting. Immediately, we posted a note on our website, disclosing the concerns. We have asked the Columbia Journalism School to conduct an independent review—headed by Dean Steve Coll and Dean of Academic Affairs Sheila Coronel—of the editorial process that led to the publication of this story. As soon as they are finished, we will publish their report.

Jann S. Wenner
Editor and Publisher

That's just not nearly good enough. This note acts as if the verdict is still pending merely because Columbia hasn't finished its review yet. But The Post has done much more than "question" Jackie's account; the newspaper has definitively disproved the version of the account printed in Rolling Stone. The note also asserts that Rolling Stone disclosed its concerns "immediately" after skepticism surfaced in other news outlets. That's not exactly true. Bradley raised questions in a post on his blog on November 24th. I first reported some concerns (Bradley's among them) on December 1st. Rolling Stone's people kept defending the story up until December 5th.

Bradley accuses Wenner of dishonesty in his note to readers:

All of this matters, I think, because it helps get to the bottom of how this mess happened in the first place. As Michael Dukakis famously once said, "The fish rots from the head down." If Jann Wenner can't be honest about what happened even now, what does that suggest about the editorial culture he fosters at Rolling Stone? He's the founder, the editor, the publisher. Ultimately, it's on him.

Indeed. More on the UVA debacle here.