Events within a Rolling Stone article that sparked nationwide scrutiny of an alleged culture of sexual assault and violence at the University of Virginia campus have been challenged, and the magazine itself has issued a statement to its readers about the writer's reporting.
An alleged gang rape was the focus of the story, said to have occurred at a party at the UVa. fraternity Phi Kappa Psi.
"Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months [Sabrina Rubin] Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie's credibility," the statement reads [Read in full, below].
"In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced."
The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi released a statement on Friday, after the publication issued its statement, and named two specific challenges to the story [Read in full, below].
"First, the 2012 roster of employees at the Aquatic and fitness Center does not list a Phi Kappa Psi as a lifeguard. As far as we have determined, no member of our fraternity worked there in any capacity during this time period," the statement reads.
"Second, the Chapter did not have a date function or social event during the weekend of September 28th, 2012."
The fraternity faced a backlash that began the night the story was published online, with vandals and trespassers targeting the house on campus. According to Charlottesville Police, four protesters were arrested the weekend after the story published, for trespassing after refusing to get off the Phi Psi property.
University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan then suspended “all fraternal organizations and associated social activities” until January 9, 2015.
President Sullivan, in response to the article, stated the university recently adopted several new initiatives and policies aimed at fostering a culture of reporting and raising awareness of the issues.
University spokesman Anthony P. de Bruyn told CNN that Sullivan’s order affected about 3,500 students in 31 fraternities, 16 sororities, seven multicultural Greek Council fraternities and sororities and eight Pan-Hellenic Council fraternities and sororities.
The school has 21,238 students total, about 15,000 of them undergraduates, according to the school website.
The fraternities and sororities are on private property, so the members living in the houses will not have to seek new living arrangements during the suspension, de Bruyn said.
To Our Readers:
Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled "A Rape on Campus" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university's failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school's troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.
Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie's credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie's account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.
University president Teresa Sullivan issued this statement Friday afternoon:
The University of Virginia is aware of today’s reports from the Washington Post and the statement from Rolling Stone magazine.
The University remains first and foremost concerned with the care and support of our students and, especially, any survivor of sexual assault. Our students, their safety, and their wellbeing, remain our top priority.
Over the past two weeks, our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today: sexual violence on college campuses. Today’s news must not alter this focus.
We will continue to take a hard look at our practices, policies and procedures, and continue to dedicate ourselves to becoming a model institution in our educational programming, in the character of our student culture, and in our care for those who are victims.
We are a learning community, and we will continue our community-wide discussions and actions on these important issues in the weeks and months ahead. We remain committed to taking action as necessary to bring about meaningful cultural change in our University community.