UVA Reacts to Rolling Stone Campus Rape Investigation, Promises Change

Campus erupts as administration promises to revise its student sexual misconduct policy

UVA's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, the frat at the center of Rolling Stone's rape investigation.

An explosive Rolling Stone investigation into the campus-rape epidemic at the University of Virginia has left the student body and administration reeling. UVA president Teresa A. Sullivan has quickly responded to "A Rape on Campus," which reported on a student named Jackie who was brutally assaulted by seven men at a frat party — and how faculty and her friends discouraged her from sharing her story. The article also chronicled the culture of sexual assault at the school, which some UVA women have taken to calling "UVrApe," and how students and the administration work to keep this reputation quiet.

"The University takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct, a significant problem that colleges and universities are grappling with across the nation," Sullivan wrote in a statement. She added that she had asked Charlottesville police to formally investigate the sexual assault on Jackie and that the university would cooperate with the authorities. Many of the details revealed in the article had not been disclosed to University officials, Sullivan claimed. She also said that the school had adopted new policies and initiatives to encourage people to report sexual assault and raise awareness around the issue. 

"I want to underscore our commitment to marshaling all available resources to assist our students who confront issues related to sexual misconduct," the president said.

Accordingly, UVA has planned a number of initiatives regarding sexual violence for its spring semester, including the implementation of a new student sexual misconduct policy and a related training program. It will also hold a "campus climate survey" and a bystander intervention program for staff, students and faculty.

"We want our students to feel comfortable coming forward with information when there are problems in the community and cooperating with local law enforcement and the student disciplinary process," Sullivan said. "We also want them to feel empowered to take action and to lead efforts to make our Grounds and our community a better place to live and learn."

In the wake of the article, NBC29 reports that someone spray-painted the words "suspend us" and "UVA Center for Rape Studies" on the fraternity house belonging to Phi Kappa Psi, the frat at the center of Rolling Stone's investigation. Windows in the building have also been broken. Fraternity members have reportedly been cleaning up the house.

In the article, Sullivan told Rolling Stone that the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was under investigation. The fraternity's national executive director also told the magazine that it had dispatched a rep to meet with the chapter. 

Here is President Sullivan's statement in full:

To the University community:

I am writing in response to a Rolling Stone magazine article that negatively depicts the University of Virginia and its handling of sexual misconduct cases. Because of federal and state privacy laws, and out of respect for sexual assault survivors, we are very limited in what we can say about any of the cases mentioned in this article.

The article describes an alleged sexual assault of a female student at a fraternity house in September 2012, including many details that were 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.

The University takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct, a significant problem that colleges and universities are grappling with across the nation. Our goal is to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for our students and the entire University community.

We have recently adopted several new initiatives and policies aimed at fostering a culture of reporting and raising awareness of the issues.

We want our students to feel comfortable coming forward with information when there are problems in the community and cooperating with local law enforcement and the student disciplinary process. We also want them to feel empowered to take action and to lead efforts to make our Grounds and our community a better place to live and learn.

We have been taking a leadership role on issues regarding sexual misconduct and violence. U.Va. hosted a national conference on this topic in February 2014. "Dialogue at U.Va.: Sexual Misconduct Among College Students" brought together national experts and professionals from approximately 60 colleges and universities to discuss best practices and strategies for prevention and response.

The HoosGotYourBack initiative, part of the Not On Our Grounds awareness campaign, was developed and launched in collaboration with students and with local Corner merchants to increase active bystander behavior.

A number of other initiatives are also planned for the spring. Among them are the implementation of a new student sexual misconduct policy and a related training program, a campus climate survey and an in-depth bystander intervention program that will include students, faculty and staff.

More information about sexual violence education and resources is available on the University's website at http://www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence.

Finally, I want to underscore our commitment to marshaling all available resources to assist our students who confront issues related to sexual misconduct. Our dedicated Student Affairs staff devote countless hours to educating and counseling our students on issues regarding their health and safety, and they stand ready to assist whenever students need help.

Teresa A. Sullivan
President