UVa won't reinstate fraternity activities

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2014 7:08 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The University of Virginia refused to reinstate Greek activities that were suspended after a Rolling Stone article alleged a woman was gang raped at a fraternity house, despite the magazine acknowledging mistakes in its reporting, but officials said Monday that the story and debate has led it to create a group to explore its policies and campus culture.

Last month's article and revelations late last week about Rolling Stone missteps that casted doubt on the story prompted an "intense, ongoing period of introspection," the university said in a news release. It led to the creation of a group of faculty and students that will review policies, practices, organization structure and resources to "support the ultimate goal of providing an outstanding education while ensuring the safety and well-being of students," the release said.

A separate administrative task force will implement the group's recommendations.

The group's work will focus on: culture, including student behavior, Greek life, alcohol and other drug use and student self-governance; prevention, including bystander training, peer education and physical safety such as lighting, camera systems and policing; and response, including survivor support, training for students and faculty, and its policies for handling incidents.

"I remain committed to a fearless examination of our culture and practices," university President Teresa A. Sullivan said in a statement. "This review needs to be thorough, systematic and intelligent. ... Our most important work is ahead of us."

In a separate statement, the university declined a request by three national Greek organizations to lift its suspension of activities until Jan. 9. The Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee, the National Panhellenic Conference and the North-American Interfraternity Conference on Sunday said that decision was made before an investigation into the story's allegations was completed. The groups also said the university should apologize for a "rush to judgment" that damaged the reputation of Greek organizations and students.

While Sullivan remains sensitive to concerns about broadly indicting the entire Greek system, the school said the purpose of the suspension was to give officials and fraternity and sorority leaders time to "pause to identify solutions that would best ensure the well-being and safety of students."

The Greek organizations did not immediately provide comment to the university's actions Monday.

The groups' statement came the same day Rolling Stone modified its earlier apology to emphasize that the mistakes were the magazine's fault, not the woman who was the main source of the story. Friday's original note to readers said of Jackie, "Our trust in her was misplaced." The updated note removes that line, which some critics viewed as blaming the victim.

The magazine said it shouldn't have agreed to Jackie's request not to contact the people she said attacked her to get their side of the story. "These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie," wrote the magazine's managing editor, Will Dana. "We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening."

The article rocked a campus still reeling from the disappearance and death of 18-year-old sophomore Hannah Graham. It portrayed a culture of sexual violence at U.Va., one of the nation's leading public universities, and an administration response that put protecting the school's image ahead of seeking justice for sex crimes.

Phi Kappa Psi has denied the assault and said it didn't host an event on the night Jackie alleged she was raped. Dana said in his updated note that Jackie is now unsure that the man who allegedly lured her into a room to be raped by seven men was a member of Phi Kappa Psi, and that other discrepancies in her account have emerged. Jackie told The Washington Post she stood by her story.

Brian Head, president of the U.Va. chapter of the rape prevention group One in Four, said he believes the momentum to change the culture on campus will be sustained. He said in a telephone interview that the story "shocked our university into taking a hard look at ourselves and recognizing our shortcomings. We looked at the article first, then ourselves, and we were angry with both."

Kate McCord, spokeswoman for the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, said the magazine's admission of errors "doesn't change the facts of the larger story — the prevalence of campus sexual violence itself."

She also said trauma often affects rape survivors' memories, so discrepancies in the details do not mean the rape didn't happen.

"Inconsistencies do not equal lying," McCord said.