The collapse of the Rolling Stone article on a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity has everyone involved backpedaling — except the university itself. UVa suspended all fraternity activity after the publication of the Sabrina Rubin Erdely story about “Jackie,” even though the allegations involved only one fraternity — and significant details of that allegation have been challenged by other witnesses and data from the fraternity itself. This morning, despite an effort by the Greek organizations on campus to lift the suspension, UVa insists that it will not reverse its decision until after a task force finishes a look at policies and “culture” of fraternity/sorority life:
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.
Over the weekend, fraternities and sororities on campus and their national offices called on UVa to reinstate the groups after Rolling Stone acknowledged serious issues in their reporting. They slammed UVa for a lack of “due process” and for overreacting to a single allegation by punishing everyone involved in Greek life:
“We believe universities must demonstrate more respect for the fundamental rights to due process and freedom of association for students and student organizations when allegations of misconduct are lodged,” the statement said. “A rush to judgment on campus all too often turns out to be wrong, especially when applied at the organizational level.”
Fraternities and sororities, whose image was marred by the Rolling Stone account, are planning a sweeping offensive for the coming weeks. Sunday’s statement was just the first step: The groups are considering a Freedom of Information Act request to uncover the university’s basis for suspending the Greek system and could take legal action should the University of Virginia not reinstate the chapters, according to a source familiar with the thinking of the national fraternities and sororities. Individual fraternities and sororities will be reaching out to the university to ask it to take action and reinstate the Greek system as well, the source said. The chapters have been suspended until Jan. 9, though the suspensions could last longer.
They are also organizing in Washington to force changes in how universities handle these cases in the future:
They’re also looking to Washington for help. A group of fraternities has hired former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Squire Patton Boggs to lobby Congress for changes in how campuses address sexual assault incidents.
“Congress needs to take a comprehensive approach to fixing these problems so that every case is handled in a manner that is fair, balanced and provides the full measure of constitutional protections to all parties,” Lott said in a statement.
That could be one of the more ironic outcomes of this fiasco for Erdely and Rolling Stone. They obviously intended to keep pressure growing on universities to act on complaints of sexual harassment and assault through kangaroo-court Title IX proceedings. The collapse of this narrative exposed just how inadequate universities and activist-journalists are in properly vetting allegations to get to actual and factual truth, though, and the scandal may force Congress to take action to rein in abuses of due process on college campuses.
Why is UVa refusing to back down? The collapse of the narrative is not complete, for one thing, and it came in such a way that it might have made it harder to retreat from a blanket policy. “Jackie” and her friends now say that she can’t be sure which fraternity hosted the party at which some sort of assault occurred in 2012, so now it’s more ambiguous for UVa to resolve. Still, the absurdity of suspending all activities of a Greek culture that has been around for decades or more over one factually-challenged assertion that arose more than two years after the fact (which makes it nearly impossible to prove or refute now) speaks for itself and the lack of intestinal fortitude in the UVa administration. Why can’t fraternities and sororities continue their normal activities while the university conducts its overview?
Nor is that the only place where pressure is being exerted. Lena Dunham’s publisher announced that future editions of her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, would be edited to change the tale related of an alleged rape to stop libeling a man who had nothing to do with Dunham:
The publisher of Lena Dunham‘s book, Not That Kind of Girl, will tweak a passage where the star and creator of the Girls TV show describes how she was raped in college by a Republican named “Barry,” an attorney for the man told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday.
Attorney Aaron Minc said he has been in contact with Dunham’s lawyers at Ziffren Brittenham in Los Angeles who assure him that future printings of the book, subtitled “A young woman tells you what she’s ‘learned,’ ” will come with a disclaimer that “Barry” is not the real name of the man who raped Dunham when the two were students at Oberlin College a decade ago. …
Random House, for example, told Minc and some reporters Monday that the person many in the press have presumed was Barry the rapist is, in fact, not the person Dunham describes.
“We are offering to pay the fees Mr. Minc has billed his client to date,” Random House said, in part, according to Minc.
“I don’t know if that will be good enough for my client. Ideally, we were looking for something from Miss Dunham,” Minc said. “We were also looking for an edit to be made to the book, and it’s my understanding that they are going to comply with that — to note that the name ‘Barry’ is a pseudonym. They have given me an indication that that is happening imminently.”
The collapse of that narrative came from Breitbart’s John Nolte, who investigated the allegations and found that one Oberlin graduate had been presumed to be the suspect, and had to hire a lawyer to fight back:
On top of the name Barry, which Dunham does not identify as a pseudonym (more on the importance of this below), Dunham drops close to a dozen specific clues about the identity of the man she alleges raped her as a 19-year-old student. Some of the details are personality traits like his being a “poor loser” at poker. Other details are quite specific. For instance, Dunham informs us her rapist sported a flamboyant mustache, worked at the campus library, and even names the radio talk show he hosted.
To be sure we get the point, on three occasions Dunham tells her readers that her attacker is a Republican or a conservative, and a prominent one at that — no less than the “campus’s resident conservative.”
For weeks, and to no avail, using phone and email and online searches, Breitbart News was able to verify just one of these details. Like everyone else interested, we immediately found that there indeed was a prominent Republican named Barry who attended Oberlin at the time in question.
Whatever her motives, Dunham is pointing her powerful finger at this man. But as you will read in the details below, the facts do not point back at him. Not even close. This man is by all accounts (including his own) innocent.
Nonetheless, even though she is aware of the suspicion under which she placed this man, to our knowledge, Dunham has yet to clear his name.
Minc wants a public statement from Dunham on behalf of his client that clears him from any insinuation of rape or sexual assault. If he doesn’t get it, Minc might end up with a pretty good case of libel, and Random House may want to steer clear of any more Dunham narratives in the future.
Update: I missed this from Glenn Reynolds, but it’s worth reading in full — and perhaps especially for J-school students:
Meanwhile, two other recent rape cases, despite far more factual foundation, have gotten almost no traction in the national press. In Oregon, a top Obama fund-raiser, Terry Bean, was arrested on child rape charges. Bean, a longtime gay rights activist and bundler, who raised over half a million dollars for President Obama’s 2012 campaign, would seem to be a newsworthy figure. An alleged child rapist who has traveled on Air Force One isn’t something that happens every day. But the story got almost no national attention.
Likewise, Donny Ray Williams pled guilty to sexually assaulting two women while serving as a staff director for the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee. In one case, Williams is charged with drugging a woman and raping her while she was unconscious. In a rather generous plea bargain deal, he somehow avoided any jail time. Yet The Washington Post treated this as a local crime story, and it, too, got almost no national attention.
What’s the difference? A cynic — and I’ve become pretty cynical lately as I observe these things — might conclude that the U.Va. rape story was hyped because it fit a preferred narrative: Evil white patriarchal privilege and the war on women. (It even fit in with a White House campaign on campus sexual assault that had U.Va. connections, extending directly to “Jackie,” the Rolling Stone’s victim/subject.)
The Bean and Williams rape cases, on the other hand, merely reflected badly on Democrats. The press isn’t all that interested in stories that reflect badly on Democrats, it seems. And so these stories got buried in the “local crime” spot.
The problem now is that a lot of people are noticing this, even in the media. It’s making the media bias that conservatives have lamented for decades very clear to everyone.