U.Va. chair decries “drive by” journalism
Rector George K. Martin gave his most expansive comments since doubt was cast on a Rolling Stone article that described a culture of sexual violence hiding in plain sight at the prestigious university. The article, published last month, set off an intense debate about sexual violence, alcohol, fraternities, and--after Rolling Stone acknowledged faults-- journalism ethics.
"Like a neighborhood thrown into chaos by drive-by violence, our tight knit community has experienced the full fury of drive-by journalism in the 21st century," Martin said in his opening remarks. "Our great university's reputation has been unfairly tarnished."
The article described in graphic detail an alleged gang rape at a fraternity house on campus. Its publication set off a frenzy of recriminations at the school, one of the top public universities in the country. U.Va. suspended fraternity activities until January, the Board of Visitors appointed an independent investigator to look into the allegations and the university handed the case over to the local police.
But problems with the story became apparent after publication. Many of the students described in the article have since said the magazine's account is misleading and wrong. The magazine has apologized for what it calls discrepancies.
Martin pledged that the campus would not respond in anger, but would continue to work on sex assault prevention efforts and try to learn from the experience. He said Rolling Stone's "catastrophic failure of professionalism" should "teach us to be less quick to judge."
University President Teresa Sullivan said the Rolling Stone article provided the school with an opportunity to encourage students to report incidents of sexual violence and help eliminate the stigma victims may feel.
"We are in the spotlight, so we have the opportunity to lead," she said.
U.Va is known, among other reasons, for having been founded by Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of America's Declaration of Independence and the country's third president.