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Responses to Rolling Stone's UVA Article

Hawes Spencer

Four people were arrested over the weekend – charged with trespassing during protests at the University of Virginia.  Students and faculty expressed continued outrage following reports of gang rapes at a fraternity on campus some years ago, and UVA President Teresa Sullivan banned activities at about 60 frats and sororities through the end of the year. 

UVA President Teresa Sullivan will convene students, faculty, and alumni to discuss how to halt sexual assaults, suspending all fraternity and sorority functions until the spring semester. The president of the inter-fraternity council approves the decision, saying it will give members time to think of new strategies, and activist Liz Seccuro says it’s about time.??

"The whole world knows now what kind of evil is lurking in those beautiful buildings."??

Seccuro’s 2011 book Crash Into Me recounts a similar bout of violence three decades ago at the same fraternity depicted in Rolling Stone.??

"Did I not yell loud enough? Did I not help enough? Did I not talk about it enough perhaps that Jackie wouldn't have had to live with this?"??

Jackie is the student victim described in the magazine story.  She told journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely that she was raped by seven men on an upper floor of Phi Kappa Psi.??

"I met this young woman named Jackie who had told the administration that she had been brutally gang-raped at a fraternity, and the university did nothing with this information. And they continued to do nothing even when she eventually told them that she'd become aware of two other women who were also gang-raped at the same fraternity."??

Phi Kappa Psi has voluntarily shut down, the Board of Visitors plans to meet Tuesday to discuss the situation, and Sullivan has expressed sorrow and rage. Seccuro, however, has not been impressed with Sullivan's leadership.??

"If I were her, I'd be on the steps of the Rotunda, I would be shaking my fist, and I would be screaming into a microphone that this is not happening on my campus."??

Others, like 1990 graduate Tyler Sewell, feel it’s wrong to blame administrators, since Jackie did not formally report the incident.?

"So how is it Terry Sullivan's fault that there was potentially a rape case in Virginia? What does she have to gain by sweeping this under the table? Absolutely nothing. She can't walk around like sister mommy with a paddle in her hand and police every place at the University."??

Student Alexandria Pinkleton says she was sexually assaulted by a stranger inside an apartment last year. She decided to press her case with an informal trial that resulted in accountability and education for the offending student, rather than punishment.

"I was really happy with the outcome because I'm a firm believer in rehabilitation."??

At a coffeeshop near campus, Pinkleton says peer pressure against reporting sexual assaults has got to stop.??

"A lot of times I think the responses are unintentionally very harmful. Some of the responses are, 'How much did you drink before this happened? What were you wearing? He's such a nice guy.'"??

While victims and advocates point out that UVA is not alone in allowing alleged rapists to remain in school, there is something special about UVA that may be creating an embarrassing dissonance: the Honor Code. Virtually unchanged since its creation in 1842, the Honor Code delivers a single sanction-- expulsion-- for anyone convicted of lying, cheating, or stealing.

"I'm here to say when you rape somebody, that is stealing. That is stealing someone's dignity, that's stealing someone's future, that's stealing someone's soul," says Seccuro.

Rolling Stone found that during a decade-plus span when 183 students were expelled under the Honor Code, not a single one was expelled for sexual assault.


The conversation about sexual assault continues at the University of Virginia, where student leaders hosted a news conference.  Student Council President Jalen Ross told reporters:

"Last Wednesday, Rolling Stone magazine delivered this university a wake-up call. Sexual assault is a problem that needs our undivided attention now.”

And Tommy Reid, who heads the Inter-Fraternity Council, stressed  his agreement with a decision to cancel parties and other activities at frats and sorority houses through year’s end.

"The suspension in itself gives us time to develop the solutions; it is not the solution.”

The UVA Board of Visitors meets Tuesday, 11/25, to discuss new policies that might reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus.

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