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UVa. student: ‘Greek life is a big institution here, and it has a lot of power’

Posted at 12:16 AM, Nov 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-21 07:34:05-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The University of Virginia fraternity at the center of a Rolling Stone article that alleges a first year student was gang raped there looms large among the school's fraternities and sororities.

"They see themselves as being above the law, better than a lot of the other fraternities," Philip Grudier, a fourth-year student, said.

According to the article, a girl was allegedly raped by seven members of Phi Kappa Psi when she was a first-year student.

The school is now investigating the alleged assault.

Two UVa. first-year students told CBS 6 investigative reporter Melissa Hipolit the fraternity likes to see first-year students like them at their parties

"They came into our building and like ran down the halls and knocked on every door and invited people to go," to a party at the Phi Kappa Psi house, said Caitlin Peterson, while recalling the first couple months she was on campus.

"Just the girls though," her friend, Maria Dehart, added.

As of Wednesday, there won't be much going on at the fraternity, which was vandalized after the Rolling Stone story was published.

In a statement sent to The Cavalier Daily, the fraternity announced it is suspending operations at UVA and cooperating with all investigations.

"Greek life is a big institution here, and it has a lot of power," Deharr said when asked about the Rolling Stone article.

According to that article, when the student told her friends about the alleged assault, they encouraged her not to report it, fearing their social lives might be ruined.

"There is a lot of pressure on first years especially to conform and if that means not speaking out about sexual assault, just so you can join a sorority and getting into parties.  I think that's definitely possible," Allison Lank, a fourth-year student said.

Lank is in a sorority and said UVA students currently do not feel comfortable reporting sexual assaults.

"I think the [UVA] sexual misconduct board isn't doing a great job of that, and I think the fraternity system isn't doing a great job of empowering the women they work alongside," Lank said.

Still, some students said the article unfairly paints their school in a bad light.

"I feel like it was a very biased article that looked at one side of it and just a few stories," Maddie Pence, a first-year student said.

The article inspired Dehart and Peterson to organize a "slut walk" demonstration outside the UVA administration building for Thursday.

The aim is to raise awareness about victim blaming in sexual assault cases.

On Wednesday, UVa. president Teresa Sullivan issued a statement about the article.  Sullivan’s statement indicated the Rolling Stone article included many details previously not disclosed to University officials.

“I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to formally investigate this incident, and the University will cooperate fully with the investigation,” Sullivan said.

Read President Sullivan’s statement in full, here. The Rolling Stone article chronicling “administrative cover-up and apathy” towards rape at UVa. can be  read here.