Category Archives: Education (higher ed)

Even More Mob Rule in Charlottesville

protest

This protest was peaceful. Not all protests are.

by James A. Bacon

Forgotten in the firestorm over the gang-rape hoax and the “rape epidemic” at the University of Virginia, there is a very real crime that has, to date, gone unpunished. On Nov. 20, a group of eight masked men and women attacked the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, the location of the alleged gang rape, by throwing bricks and bottles through nearly every first-floor window. Messages such as “F*** Boys,” “Suspend us,” and “UVA Center for Rape Studies” were spray-painted on the walls.

A month later, no arrests have been made and no charges have been filed. It’s not even clear if the Charlottesville police have any intention of pursuing the vandalism case. Yet Washington Times reporter Jeffrey Scott Shapiro managed to track down a student who claimed to have participated in the attack. He spoke to the reporter on the condition that his name would not be used because he did not want the police to find him.

Shapiro described the young man as “the progeny of a privileged family” and quoted him as follows:

“Victims at the university have no legitimate channels to take action, and I think vandalism is a completely legitimate form of action when like, legitimate authority is corrupt. I think it was justified,” he said in an interview with The Times.

Asked whether he believed the ends generally justified the means, he casually replied, “Sure.” He also said he is not opposed to “armed revolution” as a means to end what he termed “systemic oppression.”

The student said his group of friends sent an anonymous letter to various news organizations several hours after the attack warning that it was “just the beginning.” The letter threatened to “escalate and provoke until certain demands were met,” including “an immediate revision of university policy mandating expulsion as the only sanction for rape and sexual assault.” …

The student … said he had no regrets despite the fact that the accuracy of Jackie’s story in Rolling Stone has come under significant doubt, including the name of the fraternity where the alleged attack occurred. Asked whether he felt at all bad about attacking the wrong fraternity, he showed no remorse and justified the attack on the broader woes of “social injustice.”

“I’ve done some thinking about that, but the answer is no. Everyone knows this is a house that does not respect women. They are part of the problem, and I do not feel bad. We have an objective set of laws that empowers the police to kill black men with impunity and protects white rapists at U.Va. from prosecution. The laws are only legitimate when they work. This is not a particularly radical campus, but we’re mad.

“As a college student, I know a lot of people who have been the result of direct oppression. We have tried peaceful political change, and I think a huge percentage of people in this country are fed up with that because we’re not getting anywhere.” …

“The police force does nothing but harass the black community and protect white students from being uncomfortable,” he said.

Maybe there is a problem with white male privilege. If this pampered little snot and his Che Gueverra wannabe friends get away with a significant act of vandalism, maybe Charlottesville police do have two standards, one for whites and one for blacks.

On the other hand, considering how the radical protesters who disrupted the Charlottesville City Council meeting last week went unchastised (see previous post), maybe the problem isn’t white male privilege — it’s left-wing privilege in the People’s Republic of Charlottesville. Some crimes and misdemeanors are worth prosecuting and others aren’t.

Let’s take a look:

  • Jackie. The UVa student identified as “Jackie” in the infamous Rolling Stone article slandered the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house and an acquaintance identified as “Drew.” It is increasingly likely that the entire story was a fabrication from start to finish. Punishment: None.
  • The vandals. Eight vandals of the Phi Kappa Psi house caused damage that could total more than $1,000. Punishment: None (so far).
  • Social justice activists. Social justice activists hooted down a speaker with whom they disagreed and plunged a City Council meeting into a half hour of anarchy. Punishment: None.
  • Dude exercising his first amendment rights. A politically incorrect guy got hooted down by a hostile crowd. Punishment: When he ran briefly over his allotted three-minute limit to make up for time he couldn’t be heard, the mayor asked a police officer to escort him from the council chamber.
  • Sororities and fraternities. Amidst the wave of undocumented and unproven allegations of an “epidemic of rape,” UVa President Teresa Sullivan shut down the social activities of all sororities and fraternities through early January – collective punishment for the alleged sins of a few.

Is McAuliffe Crying Wolf on the Economy?

naval shipyard By Peter Galuszka

Just how bad is the Virginia economy, really?

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who released a rather modest state budget proposal just a few days ago, has said that the state’s economic picture is bleak because of government spending cuts, most of them at the U.S. Department of Defense, the state’s largest employer, and at other agencies.

“We’re looking down the barrel of a gun,” he told reporters, noting that automatic cuts in federal spending due to sequestration and the run-down of military spending after more than a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan are badly hurting the state.

There are two curious points. The Washington Post notes that McAuliffe had based some of his gloomy thinking after revenues dipped by $439 million earlier this year. This relates to the $2.4 billion shortfall in the biannual budget. Now, says Finance Secertary Ric Brown, revenues have picked up as the governor and lawmakers have worked to close the shortfall.

There is also a story in this morning’s The Virginian-Pilot that the Norfolk Naval Shipyard (located in Portsmouth, actually) plans to hire some 1,500 workers by this coming September. This will be a net gain of 800 workers making about $21 an hour. The other 700 workers will be to replace retiring ones.

The shipyard, which can handle work on large nuclear ships like aircraft carriers, has a total workforce of 9,500 and the extra hires will take it past 10,000, the highest number since the early 1990s. Most of the new jobs are in skilled trades such as welding and ship fitting.

The Pilot reports that Hampton Roads will lose a total of 18,000 skilled workers by the end of the decade as older employees retire. Replacing them should help mitigate the cuts in federal spending and McAuliffe is doing the right thing by focusing on jobs training and credentialing that will boost high-paying blue collar jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree.

The state’s 23 community colleges are working to come up with a plan required by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, passed this year, to streamline training and make sure that trained workers pass certain requirements.

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission recently issued a scathing report on just how disjointed job training is in the state. It said that there was no system to track how $341 million was spent in state workforce training programs and that only 16 percent of the companies in the state use it. The new federal law may help change that by requiring states to come up with four-year plans on coordinating training.

It could be that McAuliffe is crying wolf to shake up the General Assembly before it convenes Jan. 14. He’s doing just that by including funding Medicaid in his budget again and by calling for restrictions on gun sales (needed). But it may be important to keep in mind that things may not be all that bad, economically.

End Student Subsidies for College Athletics

Hey, Wahoo soccer team, congratulations on winning the national championship this year! We're proud of you. Now, figure out how to make your team financially self-supporting and stop dunning the general student population.

Hey, Wahoo soccer team, congratulations on winning the national championship this year! We’re proud of you. Now, figure out how to make your team financially self-supporting and stop dunning the general student population for your most excellent college experience.

by James A. Bacon

House Majority Leader Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, is intimately acquainted with the high and rising cost of higher education in Virginia. His two oldest have graduated from Longwood University and James Madison University, and he has two high-schoolers on the way. Not surprisingly, he describes himself as “stressed and anxious” about the increasing cost of higher education.

Unlike most of us, Cox is in a position to do something about it. In a Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed, he said that he plans introduce legislation this year that will place caps on mandatory non-educational student fees at Virginia universities.

Student fees are only one factor driving up the rising cost of higher education, but they are the fastest-growing factor. Mandatory fees unrelated to education now represent one-third of total tuition and fees, or about $3,500 per year on average, Cox says. That’s up 99% since 2003. Writes Cox:

These fees are used to pay for a number of functions, but a significant portion is used to fund intercollegiate athletics. Only 3 percent of Virginia students play intercollegiate sports, but student fees fund approximately 69 percent of expenditures in athletic programs at Virginia’s four-year schools. In other words, non-athletes and their parents are paying about two-thirds of the cost of intercollegiate athletics. …

Athletic programs are an important part of the college experience. Virginia is fortunate to have competitive college athletic programs that make students and alumni proud. But we simply cannot ask students who will never play a minute of college sports to bear such a disproportionate share of the costs associated with these programs.

I totally agree, but I’d go farther. Male football and basketball programs pay their own way. No other sports program does. If students want to participate in volleyball, soccer, tennis and the like as part of their college experience, let them pay for it themselves. I studied Korean martial arts at the University of Virginia many moons ago. Everybody kicked in to pay an instructor to drive down from Northern Virginia to teach us. We didn’t think anything about it. Obviously, traveling sports teams with full-time coaches would cost a lot more. Perhaps they should emulate the non-profit soccer and Little League programs here in Henrico County (and many other places) that raise money from parents, bequests, fund-raisers ticket sales and the like.

Once upon a time, it may have been appropriate for colleges and universities to pass on the cost of college athletics to the general student population. But Boards of Trustees simply have to re-think priorities when the cost of education becomes unaffordable to most. Why should one student be compelled to rack up additional student debt to subsidize the amateur athletic experience of another? And not to go all Al Sharpton on the issue, but let’s consider the social justice ramifications. How many  poor and minority students participate in lacrosse, golf, rowing, swimming & diving and field hockey? Is it fair to ask poor and minority students to subsidize the college experience of preppy white students?

Runaway student fees deserve a much closer look. Personally, I’d give public universities ten years to put their athletic programs on a self-funding basis and phase out subsidies from student fees entirely. But Kirk Cox’s proposal, though modest, is a good start.

Facing the Problems at UVa: a Wake-up Call

uvaby Gerald L. Cooper

President Terry Sullivan is the lead person in facing the problems at the University of Virginia, which include sexual misconduct and assault on innocent persons. Sadly, some of these behaviors have lurked around the Grounds of the University for 60 or more years.

President Sullivan is not, however, the only leader who must step up and see that justice is done and that new solutions and attitudes are achieved, both on the Grounds and around the university community.

Dr. Sullivan’s suspension of fraternity and sorority social events is, at this point, a step toward dealing with the problem. It is not some sort of mass punishment. Those who are experienced in college administration — and, hopefully, many level-headed students, alumni and parents as well — will recognize President Sullivan’s actions as unprecedented steps toward collecting as many facts and viewpoints as possible, and then moving toward solutions that will also be previously untried but in a new era both effective and productive for all.

We who love the University expect the Board of Visitors to demonstrate high levels of good judgment and selfless leadership in taking their part of the responsibility for student behavior and safety at UVa. That will be demonstrated if the BOV stands firmly behind the president and her administration, making the appropriate inquiries of the president in official meetings, being assured of appropriate steps as proposed by the president’s operating team, and supporting the president’s proposals to move the University of Virginia forward in the areas of student behavior and safety — especially where violations may have occurred in the past.

I for one will be grateful if all parties — board, administration, faculty, students and alumni — are able to show remarkable restraint in what they/we say in the midst of this time of crisis. Specifically, one or two members of the Board of Visitors in the past, dating back to the repugnant attempt to oust President Terry Sullivan, have shown bad judgment in assuming and promoting self-serving public positions. This activity is contrary to the best practices of university governance nationally and to successful precedents at the University of Virginia specifically.

If those individuals continue to function unilaterally and to stir up questions about the University’s president and her colleagues, then the University is diminished and subject to ridicule in the broader public view. (Note: To be avoided are organizations that are notorious for their right-wing agenda and efforts to destroy many of the traditions, practices and opportunities in America’s leading universities.)

When I was working on a book, “On Scholarship,” especially a chapter titled, “Leading to Diversity at the University of Virginia,” back in 2001-08, I was most favorably impressed by how much information was available on the Web and Internet about the University of Virginia. (And it still is.) As I see it, virtually no aspect of UVa is left out of public access, including Board of Visitors’ meetings, which are live-streamed and watchable online in real time.

At a UVa web site, one can watch President Terry Sullivan give her Address to Students, on Dec. 1, 2014, and also read her words of care and concern about students and the UVa community. This web site also provides links to other useful info, including the Rector of the Board’s statement on these troublesome revelations, and a formal board commitment not to tolerate such behavior in the future. The Board (BOV) meeting was live-streamed for Web reception, and perhaps one may retrieve it for delayed viewing.

The steps UVa’s administration is taking appear to be solid, workmanlike responses to problems that have lurked around the Grounds of the University — and clearly at other universities — for generations. Such situations demand unusual treatment; with full commitment and thorough application, let’s hope that a more productive lifestyle will soon be achieved.

Similar to mass murders on other campuses, this is a wake-up call at the University of Virginia which must be answered.

Gerald L. Cooper (BA, MEd, UVa) spent his 43-year career in education as an administrator, counselor and teacher.

Collective Punishment at UVa

sororityhouse2

Collateral damage

University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan’s suspension of fraternity and sorority social events was a case of collective punishment for the alleged rape of a first year student at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house — and arguably unconstitutional. So contends Hans Bader at Liberty Unyielding. Writes Bader:

The University’s action was totally arbitrary in its scope and application.  U.Va. sororities are generally quite law-abiding (for example, they don’t even serve alcohol), and no one says sorority members committed sexual assault. Yet U.Va. shut down their social activities along with all Greek organizations until January. That seems like a flagrant violation of constitutional norms.

I never did understand why sororities were included in the ban. No one’s arguing that sororities are hot-beds of the “culture of rape” at UVa. How can anyone justify this? Where are the women’s rights advocates?

– JAB

UVa: Can We All Calm Down Now?

What would T.J. say?

What would T.J. say?

So, the credibility of the Rolling Stone article about the gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity has been demolished. I’ll let others sort through the wreckage to determine how much, if any, of the rape story can be believed. The more interesting question now is, where does that leave the University of Virginia leadership? What’s the next move?

The first thing President Teresa Sullivan should do is reverse the shut-down of fraternity and sorority social functions until the spring semester. The crackdown on the Greek social organizations was a panicked reaction to horrifying allegations that the university administration and Board of Trustees appeared all too willing to accept at face value. The shut-down also was indiscriminate, punishing all fraternities and sororities, even though the rape was alleged to have occurred at only one. First the UVa leadership acted before the facts were known; then it punished the innocent.

The next thing Sullivan needs to do is get a handle on whether there is, in fact, an “epidemic of rape” at UVa and, if so, what the nature of that epidemic is. Is it a matter of predatory frat boys drugging or coercing young women into unwanted sex on a massive scale? Is a matter of rampant and promiscuous drunken couplings which the women later regret? Is it a jumble of the two or something else altogether?

It also would be worthwhile to know whether the epidemic of rape/regret sex is confined to the alcohol-soaked fraternity scene, or whether it also takes place in university dormitories or off-grounds housing. Is it fair to blame the fraternities or is the problem wider in scope?

A highly vocal feminist movement has been largely successful in imposing its epidemic-of-rape narrative upon the ongoing controversy. Perhaps predator males are unleashing an epidemic of rape — clearly there is a problem of some sort — but I’m not going to believe it just on the say-so of ideologically motivated activists. As an alumnus, I want to see a dispassionate presentation of the facts.

– JAB

Transience and Fresh Blood, Two Sides of the Same Coin

fresh_blood

Every community needs fresh blood — newcomers who bring  different perspectives and creative ideas. But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. If everyone is a newcomer, communities lose social cohesion. Transients don’t have the same stake in a community that the old-timers do and they’re less likely, all other things being equal, to participate in the political process, engage civically and contribute to local causes.

I thought it would be interesting to see which localities in Virginia are most dominated by newcomers. Working with Internal Revenue Service migration data, which tracks the movement of tax filers between 2010 and 2011, I calculated the percentage of in-migrant tax filers for that year as a percentage of all tax filers, and then ranked Virginia’s localities. (Click here to view a spreadsheet of all Virginia localities.)

Though not especially surprising, the findings are interesting. The most transient localities in Virginia, as seen in the chart above, are cities and the state’s most urbanized county, Arlington. Prince George County, southeast of the Richmond-Petersburg region, is the only anomaly.

fresh_blood_low

The localities with the least fresh blood tend to be rural, poor and geographically isolated, predominantly in the mountain regions of Virginia, but some from the red clay country of the Southern Piedmont.

There is an extraordinary difference in the degree of transience. Fredericksburg had almost nine times the number of newcomers expressed as a percentage of all tax filers in 2011 that Dickenson County did.

By itself, this data is little more than a curiosity. It becomes useful when correlated with transience/fresh blood with economic indicators such as job growth, income growth, housing prices and other cost of living indicators, education, voting participation and various indices of social engagement.

-- JAB

Before Panicking, Can We Get the Facts, Please?

Animal House

Animal House

by James A. Bacon

Let me make this clear up front. I have zero interest in defending the behavior that goes on at University of Virginia fraternities. I never joined a fraternity when I attended UVa back in the early 1970s. Indeed, it only took two frat parties before I reached the conclusion that getting wasted and puking in the gutter was not my idea of entertainment. I never set foot back in a frat house after that. As time passed, my contempt for the frat house culture only grew stronger. I still have vivid memories of moronic frat boys who intermittently attended a class on West Indian history, did none of the reading and contributed nothing to the discussion. They’d heard that the class was a “gut,” and they successfully persuaded the soft-hearted professor not to flunk them on the grounds that they wouldn’t graduate if he did. My contempt for them was boundless. How dare they occupy slots at UVa when so many others with a genuine desire to learn were denied admittance?

So, when it comes to dissecting events at UVa in the wake of Rolling Stone‘s gang-rape story, I feel akin to a Jewish member of the American Civil Liberties Union defending the right of Nazis to march in public parades. Just as the Jewish ACLU lawyer isn’t defending Nazis, he’s defending free speech, I’m not defending fraternities, I’m defending student associations against the indiscriminate over-reaction of the UVa administration.

Not only has UVa President Teresa Sullivan canceled all fraternity and sorority events until the Spring semester, she has amped up her rhetoric. “U.Va. is too good a place to allow this evil to reside,” she said Monday, outlining steps she is taking to overhaul the way the university deals with sexual assault. So, now we’re pitching this as a battle of good versus evil — no shades of gray allowed. Meanwhile, state legislators are stumbling over themselves to introduce legislation to require university authorities across the state to report alleged sexual assaults to police and prosecutors.

One thing we all can agree upon is that the Rolling Stone allegations of a gang rape of a first-year University woman at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity were absolutely horrifying and, if true, that the alleged rapists deserve to spend a long time in jail. The horror of the crime, compounded by the failure of the victim, her friends or university authorities to report the crime, have fueled the furor. What few here in Virginia have yet done, however, is to ask if the allegations are true.

If there is one thing we should have learned from recent news frenzies, it’s that the initial reports are horrifying… and almost always incomplete. The Duke lacrosse team rape. The Trayvon Martin shooting. The Michael Brown shooting. We have fallen into a depressing pattern. An event occurs. First reports confirm a prevailing narrative (usually revolving around racism or sexism, or both). Passions flare, views harden. Facts leak out contradicting the narrative, either in whole or in part. But people dig into their positions and no one changes their mind. It turns out that the Duke lacrosse team did not rape the stripper, and the circumstances surrounding the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were far more complicated than first billed and fraught with uncertainties lending themselves to multiple interpretations.

Could that be the case with the UVa gang rape? Hopefully, now that the case has been turned over to the Charlottesville police for investigation, we’ll get a more authoritative account of what happened at the Phi Kappa Psi frat house than what we’ve read in Rolling Stone. That account may turn out in the end to be 100% accurate. But it’s far from authoritative, and university authorities should not assume that it reflects the full unvarnished truth without at least checking it out first.

Why do I say the Rolling Stone article is less than authoritative? Because the narrative of the rape itself relies upon the account of one person, the victim.  The reporter was unable to confirm her version of the story with the three friends whom she told about the rape later that evening. Needless to say, the reporter didn’t talk to any of the alleged rapists or even the instigator, a student identified as “Drew.” And, of course, UVa authorities refused to discuss the case on the grounds of protecting privacy.

Meanwhile, there are details within the story that call out for explanation or clarification. The room where the rape allegedly occurred was described as “pitch black.” The victim, identified as Jackie, “detected movement” in the room and “felt someone bump into her.” Yet toward the end of her three-hour ordeal,  she was able to “recognize” one of her assailants as a classmate in an anthropology class. Maybe there’s a logical explanation for the seeming contradiction — maybe her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Or maybe it’s a flawed narrative. We don’t know. It would help to find out.

Similarly Jackie described falling backward onto a low glass table and shattering the glass as the first rapist assaulted her. “Sharp shards” dug into her back. Multiple rapes ensued. Her body was bleeding, her dress “splattered with blood.” After she fled the fraternity house, one of the three friends thought the injuries looked severe enough to take her to the hospital. Yet she never went — her friends talked her out of it.  These, at least, are details of the narrative can be factually checked. Police can interview the friends for corroborating testimony. They can interview her roommate to see if she noticed the injuries or the bloody dress. They can check Jackie’s body for scars from untreated cuts.

The bottom line here is to gather some facts before jumping to conclusions. If the facts support the rape allegations, then let’s proceed full steam ahead to indict the rapists and send them to jail for a very long time. If they don’t, let’s everybody calm down, please.

Ascertaining the facts on the gang rape won’t settle the broader issue of the “culture of rape” at UVa. Clearly, something bad is going on. As W. Bradford Wilcox, a UVa sociologist and self-described conservative writes in National Review, seven of the 103 female students in his classes reported in an anonymous survey that they had been “forced into a sexual act against [their] will,” and an additional 33 reported that a “UVA friend” has experienced such a violation. Seven of 103, less than 7%, is  a far cry from the commonly touted figure of 20%, but it’s still way too high.

As I have noted before, however, most of these incidents occur in the context of the drunken college hook-up culture in which students drink themselves silly and engage in high-risk behavior. Sometimes, men cross the line of consent. Such behavior needs to stop. While clearly there is a problem that needs to be fixed, the UVa administration is going overboard by shutting down all fraternity and sorority events until someone figures out what needs to be done. Is it justified to punish the innocent along with the guilty? Or do we just suppose that all Greek organizations are guilty, even the sororities? Writes Wilcox:

On most college campuses, some fraternities have a reputation for misogyny and bad behavior. Plugged-in students and administrators usually know which fraternities treat women badly. These fraternities should be identified and reformed or shut down.

I agree. There well may be fraternity houses where the sins are so egregious that they deserve to be shut down entirely. But we don’t know that right now. All we have are vague charges leveled against fraternities generally and one single horrifying charge leveled against Phi Kappa Psi. Shutting down all Greek social events strikes me as one of blind, unthinking panic. The UVa administration and board are reacting on the basis of emotion, not facts. And that can lead to no good.

Clueless in C-ville

Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at UVa.

Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at UVa.

by James A. Bacon

I feel so much safer  now! Well, I would if I were a 20-year-old female student at the University of Virginia. Acting under a national media spotlight in wake of allegations of gang rape at a university fraternity, the University of Virginia Board of Trustees unanimously passed a resolution yesterday declaring itself to be unalterably opposed to rape. More specifically, the board approved “a zero-tolerance stance on sexual assault,” according to media reports.

Wow, what a profile in courage!

The details of the zero-tolerance stance have yet to be worked out, however. And that is the problem. The devil is in the details. The question that I did not see anyone address in the media accounts I read (Daily Progress, Times-Dispatch) is fundamental: In the alcohol-fueled hook-up culture of the contemporary American campus, what constitutes rape? Of course it’s rape when a first-year woman is lured into an upstairs fraternity-house bedroom and is sexually assaulted by seven men. Any imbecile can see that. Of course it’s rape when a young man slips a woman a date-rape drug and proceeds to have sex with her while she’s senseless. It takes no depth of moral conviction to denounce such an act.

The problem is that a large number, if not a majority, of alleged sexual assaults occur in ambiguous circumstances in a cultural environment pervaded by alcohol, drugs and sexual promiscuity. Typically, there is no violence involved. Sometimes the rape victim doesn’t even decide she’s been raped until the day after. Usually, it’s a he-said, she-said situation in which the memories of both parties are clouded by alcohol. Sorting out guilt and innocence in those circumstances can be exceedingly difficult.

Although the board failed to grapple with any of these essential issues, trustees did boldly consent to several anti-rape measures that will have no impact whatsoever upon the problem. “Lighting will be upgraded around the campus, use of surveillance cameras will be expanded, and a new police substation will be established at the Corner, a popular gathering spot for students,” reports the Times-Dispatch.

Those measures might prevent incidents in which UVa women walking down the street are jumped by armed assailants. But the university is not experiencing that kind of rape epidemic. The number of rapes by unknown men at gunpoint is tiny. The rape epidemic is occurring in fraternity houses and college dormitories.

But never fear! President Teresa Sullivan also plans to institute “training for faculty and students to intercede when they see a problem” and to increase oversight of the fraternity system. This, too, is laughable. I feel safe in saying that (a) a negligible number of rapes occur in the presence to university faculty, and (b) when unwanted sexual intimacy occurs in the presence of students, the witnesses are likely too intoxicated or too distracted by their own sexual designs to apply the fine points of sensitivity training to friends groping one another on the sofa across the room.

As for fraternity oversight, the administration’s most notable response at this point consists of shutting down social events by all fraternities and sororities, even though only one institution was implicated in the gang rape. The received wisdom is that the culture of fraternities and sororities is part of the problem — which, in fact, it probably is. Trust me, I am no defender of fraternities. I never joined one when I attended UVa. But I have seen no evidence that all fraternities and sororities are equally debauched in their behavior. An indiscriminate shut-down of all Greek societies in the absence of evidence of wrong-doing at specific houses smacks of hysterical over-reaction that, far from gaining buy-in and cooperation from the institutions involved, will serve only to alienate them.

There was some recognition in the board meeting that binge drinking is part of the problem. “Excessive drinking is the fuel,” said L.D. Britt. “It was the fuel when I was here back in 1968, and it’s the fuel now.” Likewise, Sullivan singled out the culture of drinking. “We need to wipe out the notion that the college experience is incomplete without drinking.”

But there was nothing resembling a consensus on how to address the problem. Should the university and the City of Charlottesville crack down on student drinking, imposing a neo-prohibitionist regime? Should authorities embrace the opposite strategy of making alcohol more readily available students so they don’t have to go to fraternity parties to obtain it? No one has a clue.

One other issue I didn’t see discussed was how the university responds to rape allegations. One of the more horrifying charges in the Rolling Stone article that started this brouhaha was that the rape victim’s friends and the university administration swept the problem under the rug. Another fundamental question: Why wasn’t the case turned over immediately to Charlottesville police for investigation? Rolling Stone asserts that the Sexual Misconduct Board wants to provide less traumatic options for rape victims than pursuing criminal charges. Is that — should that be — the University’s decision to make? Does the Board intend ever to discuss that issue?

 In a university that expels students for violating the honor code — no lying, cheating or stealing — it is a travesty not to expel students for sexual assault. But what standard of proof of guilt — criminal, civil or some other standard — should apply? Is the university set up to administer such judicial proceedings and to handle the inevitable appeals? These questions are not easily answered — and it doesn’t appear that either the UVa administration or the Board of Trustees is even asking them. So far, I have seen little to indicate that the university is willing to tackle fundamental issues. I have a sinking feeling that none of this will end well.

U.Va.’s Real “Existential Crisis”

Protesting rape on "Grounds"

Protesting rape on “Grounds”

 By Peter Galuszka

One wonders why the University of Virginia, arguably the state’s most prestigious college, seems to be hit with one bit of horrible news after the other.

We’ve gone through the May 2010 murder of student Yeardley Love, 22, by another student, George Wesley Huguely V, a lacrosse player from a privileged suburban Washington suburbs that included study at Bethesda’s elite Landon School.

Just a few weeks ago, the remains of student Hannah Graham, 18, were positively identified after being found in a rural part of Albemarle County. Jesse Matthew, 32, a hospital worker, allegedly met with Graham near Charlottesville’s bar scene before she vanished.

And, we had the bizarre dismissal of U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan in 2012 at the instigation of Board of Visitors member Helen Dragas who complained that there was an “existential” crisis because Mr. Jefferson’s “academical” village had somehow fallen beyond Ivy Leagues schools in setting up online classes. Sullivan was reinstated after a massive outcry “On Grounds” which is Wahoospeak for “on campus.”

Now comes the latest zinger, an explosive Rolling Stone report about a student called “Jackie” who went to a party at Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and ended up being raped and otherwise sexually abused by seven young men. University officials didn’t seem to take the matter seriously – until now.

What is behind this seemingly endless run of bad news? Is the university’s attitude that it is too elite to deal with very serious problems? Are administration officials so out of touch that they don’t know what’s going on and don’t care because it doesn’t fit some kind of mindset? Full disclosure: I am the father of a U.Va. undergraduate, so my interest is personal as well as journalistic.

The school has scrambled with protests and meetings and the (rather pointless) one-month suspension of fraternity and sorority activities. They have come out with a new “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual abuse, but one wonders why it hadn’t been done long before.

One of the most damaging reports available is not the Rolling Stone piece, but a video made by WUVA Online which interviewed Dean Nicole Eramo who is the administration’s point person on sexual abuse case adjudication.

It was conducted on Sept. 16, months before Rolling Stone’s splashy article (but that’s par for the course with the magazine which tends to jump to the head of the parade with news others have covered).

In the 21-minute-long video, Dean Eramo says that in 2013, she received 38 complaints of sexual abuse. After review by the Sexual Misconduct Board, only nine cases actually progressed for further adjudication. Eramo says that cases can be reported to the police which she noted, “have search warrants and the luxury of surprise.” In some cases, the perpetrators are suspended for one or two years or are expelled.

The interview had a big stunner. Eramo seems to say that the university, with its famous honor code, somehow regards cheating on a test as more important than raping someone. The student interviewer kept returning to that point again and again saying she did not understand the distinction. Eramo held firm, saying that she had answered the question.

It is huge point. Rape is usually considered a very serious felony that can bring prison terms from five years to life. Using a crib sheet on a philosophy exam is usually considered not great to do, but not in the same category as rape.

This is the heart of the matter for the University of Virginia community. It prides itself on its Honor Code but in doing so, things have gotten very much out of whack.

Rolling Stone has done the school a favor, albeit in its typically nasty way. Consider this rather snotty scene-setter:

“A chatty, straight-A achiever from a rural Virginia town, she’d initially been intimidated by UVA’s aura of preppy success, where throngs of toned, tanned and overwhelmingly blond students fanned across a landscape of neoclassical brick buildings, hurrying to classes, clubs, sports, internships, part-time jobs, volunteer work and parties; Jackie’s orientation leader had warned her that UVA students’ schedules were so packed that “no one has time to date – people just hook up.”

To be fair to the school, I must say that I have been “On Grounds” many times over many years and I have never noticed hordes of blond Super Students. Is Rolling Stone saying they are an Aryan race? That’s odd because 28.4 percent of the student body is non-white.  In any event, it is high time the University of Virginia got its head right.