UVa fraternities -- guilty until proven innocent? Photo credit: www.andrewkouri.com.
UVa fraternities — guilty until proven innocent? Photo credit: www.andrewkouri.com.

by James A. Bacon

Suspending the social activities of University of Virginia’s sororities and fraternities is a violation of student rights, said the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) earlier this week in a statement to the Washington Post. The suspension, put into place by UVa President Teresa Sullivan in response to now-discredited allegations of a gang rape at Phi Kappa Psi, is scheduled to last until January 9.

While stressing the organization’s commitment to combat sexual assault and improve campus safety for women, NPC protested the indiscriminate nature of the shut-down: “The sanctions imposed on the sorority and fraternity system, particularly at U-Va., have punished all members with no cited wrongdoing and their rights have been violated.”

Admittedly, the ban is largely symbolic. Greek-system organizations hold few social functions during exams and the Christmas holidays. But the symbolism is important. It’s a sign that the UVa administration holds sororities and fraternities collectively accountable for a presumed epidemic of sexual assault. The administration is effectively saying that the Greek system, as opposed to specific fraternities, is responsible in whole or in part for the problem.

The university’s persistence in sanctioning sororities and fraternities is all the more remarkable given the fact that the Rolling Stone gang rape story that ignited the controversy has been thoroughly discredited. While it remains possible that the young woman, “Jackie,” who told the story may have experienced some kind of traumatic event, there is almost no way at this point of knowing what happened, where it took place or who was responsible. The evidence suggests that Phi Kappa Psi, where the gang rape allegedly occurred, was not involved at all.

There is a generalized upwelling of angst and concern at UVa about unhappy sexual encounters, some of which may legitimately be called “rape” but some of which may not. Many women have told stories of being coerced into sex, usually in the context of binge drinking and hook-ups. Undoubtedly there is a very real problem that needs to be addressed — women should not be coerced into having sex under any circumstances, period, end of story — but there is much that we don’t know. We don’t know how many of these incidents occurred while both participants were drunk, and we don’t know whether consent was given or implied, and we don’t know how many episodes constitute “regret sex” — women waking up in the morning and going, ewwww, I did what? or waking up in the morning and being shabbily treated by the man she’d just slept with.

We don’t know how many of these incidents took place in fraternities, as opposed to sororities, dormitories or off-campus housing.  We don’t know how many incidents involved physical coercion by males or how many involved social coercion — women engaging in sexual activity solely to avoid ridicule by their peers. I don’t know the answers to those questions, and neither does anybody else.

But who needs facts? At UVa, anti-rape activists are imposing an ideological template that conflates every form of sexual transgression — from pinching fannies to stalking, raping and murdering someone — as “sexual assault.” We also have a prevalent mindset, that extends into the faculty and administration, that views issues through the prism of gender, race and class and is primed to blame “white male privilege” for every evil under the sun.

Perhaps an unbiased investigation will show that some UVa fraternities are dens of orgiastic depravity. Anything’s possible. Even so, we must hew to the fundamental American principle that we don’t punish the collective for the sins of an individual. Insofar as sexual assaults occur at particular fraternity houses and it can be demonstrated that the fraternities knowingly created an atmosphere of permissiveness that allowed the assaults to occur, the University is arguably within its rights to shut them down. But the idea of punishing innocent fraternities for the sins of the guilty ones is reprehensible. The idea of punishing sororities is beyond reprehensible, it’s ludicrous. Has there been a single documented incident of rape at a sorority house?

A century ago, white segregationists dealt with rape — especially if a black man allegedly raped a white woman — by stringing up a rope and hanging the guy on the spot. Who needs facts? Who needs a court of law? Thankfully, no one is being lynched in the literal sense anymore. But we still have mob rule energized by emotion and prejudice. University administrators need to to address the problem of sexual assault within their community, but it should not be part of the mob.

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45 responses to “Presumed Guilty”

  1. Jim, in theory I agree with you, but in practice I think it was right for Pres. Sullivan to order a time-out, based on the facts known at the time the RS article was published. As you noted it’s more symbolic than punitive. And I think including sororities simply underscores that it was a time-out, not an assignment of blame. What would help at this time is an admission by her office that the action was hasty and, in hindsight, a reaction to the unsupported allegations in the article.

  2. white guys lynched for sexual wrongs like black guys used to be!


  3. OUTRAGE! We should form Virginia’s OWN innocence project to rescue all those pilloried frat boys.. and once we get that under control – rush over to extricate McDonnell and honey from cast into a dungeon to experience Virginia’s own version of “enhanced ethics re-training”!

    where else? I’m sure there are some others that need special help…

    Do-gooders – mount your engines !!! (or whatever we mount when we ride for “justice” for the “presumed guilty” these days).

    1. They’re white, they’re male, they’re privileged. That’s all Larry G needs to know. Guilty as charged! Hang ’em high!

      1. “rough justice”, “tough love” – you bet your bottom…

        make it dangerous for a guy to sneak a look at a gals derriere if he’s been drinking!

        you want political correctness on steroids, you got it!


      2. my take on this …

        there are few REAL clear, hand-down, no doubt-about-it, guilty-as-sin

        acts on campus – but there are some and they are real – and yet

        the colleges treat ALL of them the SAME way – they try to hide them…

        and so because of the way that the Universities treat any hint of it – from the most silly to the most egregious – all acts are condemned by the other side in the same way the Universities defend their “see-no-evil” approach to reporting them.

        that’s why I advocate documenting every single one – AND referring it to police and let the accuser have to deal with critical eye of the police and their equally harsh view of false reporting.. get the Universities out of the business of trying to figure out he-said-she-said.. because they have proven they are compromised and conflicted in ascertaining any kind of true justice.

      3. When I went to UVA there were quite a few all black fraternities. There were quite a few all white fraternities. There were two integrated fraternities. Meanwhile, the sororities were 100% women. Some fraternities seemed to have a lot of wealthy men. Many had a mixture of brothers who came from wealthy backgrounds and blue collar backgrounds.

        The Greek system was not all white, not all male and not all privileged. Other than that – you and Larry are spot on.

  4. Let me be clear about something (in response to a comment I got on Facebook): Being drunk does not absolve a man from raping a woman. Men should be held responsible for their actions, drunk or sober. Being drunk doesn’t absolve you from killing someone while driving a car, and it doesn’t absolve you from shooting someone when you get into an argument.

    The problem with drinking is that it makes it exceedingly difficult to sort out what happened. Peoples’ memories, which can be flawed under the best of circumstances, are even more flawed when under the influence of alcohol.

    1. re: why not presume they’re guilty if they drink like we do for DWI?

    2. If a sober woman has sex with a drunk man did she rape hime since he couldn’t give consent even if he seemed quite interested?

      1. Don – how many women are in prison for rape compared to guys?

        do you think this indicates a horrendous miscarriage of justice since there ought to be equal numbers?

        1. Your inability to handle logic or simple set theory is scary. There is nothing in my question that would imply that there should be an equal number of men and women in jail for rape. At the recent Naval Academy rape fiasco there was never an allegation of forcible rape. There was only a question of whether the woman might have been too impaired to give consent. My bet is that the vast number of allegations of sexual misconduct on campus involve issues of consent rather than forcible rape. So, I am not sure why you find my question so difficult to answer (or even to understand for that matter).

          1. here’s what you said: ” If a sober woman has sex with a drunk man did she rape hime since he couldn’t give consent even if he seemed quite interested?”

            I ask you how many times would you think this might be the case?

            why did you make the statement? you’re right. I’m not following your logic. explain it please.

            what in the do da does your premise have to do with ANYTHING Don?

            consider me logic-impaired and humor me, lay it out guy

  5. Cville Resident Avatar
    Cville Resident

    Are you crazy? TIC, but barely.

    We’re talking about not having parties for a few weeks. And you’re comparing it to lynchings.

    Imagine if Sullivan hadn’t done this and there was a reported sexual assault at a frat house immediately after the story? Can you imagine the absolute frenzy????

    I can’t fault Sullivan for this. I don’t like it, but I could not imagine the hellstorm that would have arisen had a sexual assault been reported at a frat house right after this story.

    BTW, Clemson did the same thing this semester:


    1. it don’t matter – JB is on a tear.. on this.. he’s inconsolable…

      1. How many sexual assaults have ever been reported to have occurred at sororities?

    2. C’mon Cville, you know better than that. I made it clear: “Thankfully, no one is being lynched in the literal sense anymore.” My comparison was with mob rule.

      1. Cville Resident Avatar
        Cville Resident

        Just jerking your chain on that.

        But I am serious about Sullivan and anything happening at a house right after the article. I get what you’re saying, but I think she had to do it just like Clemson did. And WVU:


        I also thought you’d find this Cville article interesting about why sororities don’t have parties:


        1. whoa! ” Thanks to rules on alcohol in residences set by national organizations, fraternities host house parties, and sororities do not.”

          is this true?

          I think this calls for a retraction from Bacon… when he compares the two sexes…

    3. I have two sons at Clemson. Both are in fraternities. Clemson did the right thing. However, Clemson also promptly conducted an investigation (working with police) and ended the shutdown as soon as it became clear that the student’s death was a tragic accident and nothing more. Somehow Sullivan picked a random timeframe for the shutdown. It’s apparently not tied to any investigation or determination of the facts. Yet another example of UVA window dressing instead of problem solving.

    4. Clemson University is also much, much better run than the University of Virginia.

    5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Cville Resident –

      I hope you can find a way to enlighten us on to your other views and information per our earlier discussions on other articles.

      1. Cville Resident Avatar
        Cville Resident

        Mr. Fawell and larryg,

        Well, a lot’s come out since my last post. Obviously the Post and Daily Caller (with the devastating emails) have pretty much debunked all of “Jackie’s” tale.

        A few points:

        A. Make no mistake, the article and author were making an ideological attack. As Chicago has made an enormous turn to the left in the past twenty years, U.Va. is the only elite school left that has any claim to being “moderate.” Some might argue Vandy and Duke shouldn’t be tagged as leftist, but the faculties at both institutions are overwhelmingly to the left. Harvard has a few vocal conservative faculty members, but Cambridge is a leftist playground.

        The national conservative media quickly caught on (Fox News, National Review, etc.) and started to deconstruct the story. Meanwhile the local Virginia “conservative” media was the epitome of mediocrity…..lapping up the Rolling Stone story like dogs in heat, even linking to the story without an ounce of critical thinking. It amuses me that the allegedly “conservative” blogosphere were handmaidens of Rolling Stone while the Washington Post actually practiced real journalism and debunked the story.

        B. As to U.Va. , I appreciated Martin’s statement yesterday. That was a refreshing moment that may start to salve some wounds. I have heard that Sullivan realizes she won’t get a 2nd term. Her contract ends 6/16. The rumor is she will announce her retirement this Spring allowing a yearlong search for her successor. The other rumor going around is that McAuliffe wants a “home run” hire. I would not be surprised to see him try to get involved. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is debatable. McDonnell stayed out of Sullivan’s hiring, and I don’t think anyone would call her a good hire. Of course, I also remember the days of 1999 when there were rumors of Casteen leaving and George Allen becoming President of U.Va. (A former BOV member told me about that rumor floating around) McAuliffe obviously has a lot of connections across the political spectrum…..maybe that could be helpful in landing a “home run.”

        People forget that Woodrow Wilson almost became President of U.Va. He was offered the job and seriously considered it, but Princeton offered more money for him to stay on…..how history might have changed.

        C. As to a lot of points made by you about the hookup culture….one thing to consider is just how insane college admissions have become. We all know kids with better than 4.0 and 1400 SATs (on the 1600 scale) that can’t get admission to U.Va. or William and Mary. If you look at admissions stats, they’ll tell you that most of their classes of 2004 wouldn’t have even got admitted to this year’s first year class.

        These kids are super driven. And super competitive.

        I have often wondered if the hook up culture is really a byproduct of this college admissions arms race. The more and more one concentrates on studies, the less time they have for authentic social interaction. Thus, a “social life” becomes a party on Friday or Saturday night in which one drinks oneself into oblivion and probably has some sort of sexual encounter to “de stress.”

        A lot of factors contribute to the hook up culture including looking at sex as a “destressor.” But I imagine that some of it can be traced to the lack of social lives due to the intense academic competition.

        1. I have to say -when I was college-aged – not only were my parents not able to send me but I was worried about being able to afford my rent and pay for heat and the car.

          The world being talked about here – was not the world I was living in – and I have to tell folks – only a very few out of the total population were lucky enough to go to college and not worry about money but instead the “hook-up culture”, so yes… I fine the whole conversation a little different…shall we say.

  6. While it may seem unfair to some I think it was a good thing for Sullivan to call a time out on all activities. After all those social activities are secondary to getting a strong education at any university including UVA. Colleges need to back away from all the social activities and go back to a boot camp mindset. A lot of the $1, 3 trillion student debt is because of heavy expenditures on coffee shops, recreational facilities, posh dorms and athletic fees to spend on semi-professional sports activities.
    The nation is poised to enter a national higher education crisis in the next few years and all institutions need to pause and ask themselves what is their mission?
    Also, around the nation the frat house rape is well known but other events have focused on U. Va. including counts of 27 sexual assaults last year and then we learned that Jesse Mathews was ousted at two other Virginia universities then hired at U.VA. And we know where that one is going. So combined with murder, numerous sexual issues and the frat house stuff Sullivan is absolutely right to hit the pause button for a few days.

    1. I think jwgilley’s commentary is dead-on accurate…

      perhaps if Dragan had focused more on issues than personalities – progress might have been made – and don’t get me wrong – I’m no fan of the way Dragan went about “change” but I think it’s an honest question as to how much of the UVA leadership is invested in the status-quo and how many see the challenges that are likely to overwhelm it if they just try to sit tight.

      Jim seems concerned about the substance of the sex issues. I’m more concerned about how the University actually deals with this issues and issues of similar challenge.. like sports, cost, MOOG, etc.. they appear to be unable to change… only react.

      at any point in this affair, UVA could have gotten out ahead of it – early on by being courageous enough to call out Rolling Stone on it’s obvious flaws but they were so terrified they just pulled back hunkered down.

      That’s not how a TRULY great university acts… the prevarication is deadly.

    2. I never heard that Jesse Mathews was in a fraternity at either school he attended.

      When George Hueguely killed the girlfriend he had been abusing nobody suggested shutting down the lacrosse team.

      The US Naval Academy has no fraternities. Yet that school just went through a major “too drunk to give consent” rape issue.

      At the University of Mississippi, 32 percent of undergraduate men are fraternity members and 34 percent of women are in sororities. Is it tautologically true that the incidence of on campus sexual assault is higher at Ole Miss than at universities with a lower level of participation in Greek life (Hint: you might want to research that before blurting out an answer)?

      If there were no fraternities at UVA students would live in large houses and farms well off campus and throw wild parties at those venues (just like the Naval Academy students did). Teresa Sullivan would have no control over those private residences and would have no way of regulating the activities in those places at all.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Your comments throughout these various articles posted on this subject have been very enlightening. Thank you.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    WHo wrote this post? Atticus Finch?

    Yes, I agree with Jim about the problems of mob-rule but I am not so sure that they truly came to fore “on grounds.” There’s been so much bad stuff happening at U.Va. they needed a time out. Not so sure that shutting down Greek stuff over the holidays and during exams is all that bad an idea.

    The larger problem is that U.Va. administrators might have been more concerned with protecting the school’s rep rather than dealing with the possibility of a gang rape even it apparently didn’t happen. If there is a complaint, they have to do all they can to see what happened with the victim’s safety and integrity first in mind.

    1. yup, I don’t see that mob, neither… Jim is apparently bedeviled with some demons of some sort.

  8. LarryG:

    I think it happens pretty often. My college girlfriend used to study a lot. I used to party a lot. She’d come by the party and pick me up in her car and we’d drive back to her place. I guess what happened was an unreported sexual assault.

    Of course, the case where both participants are well into their cups is even more frequent.

    Liberals have entered into another one of their mindless Gregorian chants of “campus rape culture”, “campus rape culture”. They make unsubstantiated claims of one in four college women being raped during their time at college. Then, the Holder Justice Department publishes a study that completely refutes that statistic.

    So, what gives?

    You have to look at the definition of sexual assault and compare it to the definition of rape.

    I’ll buy that there is a lot of boorish behavior on campus. I’ll buy that there is a lot of ill-conceived drunken consensual behavior on campus. I’ll buy there is a lot of regrettable behavior. But a “campus rape culture”? I don’t see the statistics.

    Definitions matter in this debate. How many of UVA’s reported cases of sexual assault are rape in the criminal sense? What are the results of the investigation of the Rolling Stone story (fairy tale)? Will “Jackie” be charged with a false claim of rape (a crime in Virginia)?

    The problem with Dean Sullivan isn’t that she shut down the Greek system for a few weeks. The problem is her apparent inability to follow up on the matter with any sensible statements or actions. You would have thought she could have at least published the facts and figures applicable to UVA’s supposed “rape culture” by now.

    More and more it seems Dragas was right.

    1. well for all our chewing on each other – we seem to largely agree on this except I don’t think it has that much to do with a particular POTUS/AG.

      I don’t even think it comes down to a personality like Sullivan – I think UVA is a giant administrative blob that is incapable of anything much more than prevarication – on issues ranging from sexual assault to sports to tuition costs to MOOC.

      some of it may be do to Sullivan herself being someone who seeks consensus but does not know when it’s time to get off the pot or cut bait..

  9. To those who would say that ‘all are punish’d’ I would agree with JAB only in that it was a symbolic gesture, but heartily disagree that this is fundamentally important. Unfortunately I think Sullivan has been no better or worse than most university presidents in dealing with the seemingly intractable problem of continuing bad behavior on US campuses, and frats in particular. To a certain degree the universities have an interdependent relationship with the greeks, and therein lies the problem. We can debate the actual causes of these assaults and to a certain degree have already, but what remains is how to stem the tide. No one seems to have a clear answer in spite of the university putting more $$ into safety infrastructure.

    On the other hand, the fraternities themselves I think protest too much. Although they rightly state that the majority of their members are innocent of deviant or otherwise criminal behavior, the larger picture nationwide reveals a real and continuing problem. On an earlier thread I referenced the following http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/02/the-dark-power-of-fraternities/357580/. Interestingly, the author has 2 degrees from UVA. Bloomberg also did a a series worth taking a look at: http://topics.bloomberg.com/broken-pledges/

    The bottom line is that the greeks have to stop being in the business of providing a ‘safe haven’ for a whole variety of bad behavior. Likewise, universities have to stop their laissez-faire approach to assaults and other bad behavior by working with ALL student groups to bring about a consensus. If anything, perhaps the only good thing the RS debacle did was indeed a very loud wake up call…………..

    1. I don’t have a problem with the “behavior” per se no more than I do with DUI or other law-breaking behaviors…

      what I have a problem with is the way that UVA deals with it… and ends up with no justice for the folks that are victims…

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      In my opinion the biggest difference between the Rolling Stone article on Jackie and The Dark Power of Fraternities published by Atlantic was that the Atlantic article was superbly, indeed beautifully, written. As a result those inexperienced enough to believe that the movie Animal House represented the typical fraternity would have their ignorance and resulting prejudges confirmed in spades by the Atlantic article. In short I consider the article a highly sophisticated hit piece. One that was without nuance or perspective, even though its stories likely contained more than a grain of truth.

      Anyone can collect legends about the wild times over the years at fraternities. I could entertain you for several nights running with such stories, ones that I was personally involved in or heard first hand from those involved as its story played out the night before I first heard it told. In so doing I and they would exaggerate. That’s what Frat boys do, and later memories enhance each tale to fabulous proportions.

      But that is not what a good and responsible journalist writing hard investigating reporting is supposed to do. They are not writing satire. If they want to get at the real and balanced truth, they don’t distill the craziest legends that kids themselves love to tell and exaggerate (building them with each telling to ever more monstrous portions), and then string those legends into a Magazine article without break or qualification, because then your final product of reporting distorts the living hell out of reality.

      Pull back a little and try to think clearly. If Frat boys are such idiots as Atlantic suggests, how is it that in later life Frat boys give so much back (in terms of time and money) to their colleges and universities. Try to answer that question. Doing so you’ll have to asked yourself whether or not their fraternity experience may have played a roll in their later disproportionate productivity and generosity, allowing them to give back so much in time and money to higher education, generally, and their schools in particular. This is certainly the case in alums giving to the University of Virginia.

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    This is another fine article by Jim Bacon. I and others believe that much of the emotion, blindness, and rush to judgment at UVA based on the Rolling Stone’s likely fictional account of a story attributed to Jackie can be laid directly at the doorstep of UVA’s administration, including Teresa Sullivan, its president.

    UVA professor James W. Creaser’s recent article provides useful background for my assertion:

    “The story, which Rolling Stone no longer supports, begged to be treated with skepticism,” said Professor Creaser who goes on to say “…Yet opinion leaders and campus activists across the nation quickly embraced the story as gospel truth, with some looking to convert it into a national movement to stem sexual violence. At the epicenter of this event is the University of Virginia, where I have taught for over three decades. Jefferson’s campus became the site of rallies, demonstrations, constant social network exchanges, and endless meetings at all levels. A discourse or rhetoric began to develop that alternated expressions of rage with pleas for compassion. Apologies were issued all the way from the university’s Board of Visitors down to informal groups gathered on the campus grounds. To be in the midst of an occurrence of this kind is to appreciate just how powerful is the force of the crowd.”

    “Like many such crowds, this one sought its own victims to punish. Strangely, retribution against the seven alleged perpetrators was treated as less important than one might have thought, for this result would have placed the onus in the affair on these individuals and their criminal acts. From the moment of the first mass rally, speakers from the faculty and student body left no doubt that they were in search of much bigger game. Moving in a reverse pyramid from the specific to the more abstract, they decried the fraternity system, privilege (the “money-fraternity complex”), and the rape culture of the South, including Thomas Jefferson for his relations with Sally Hemings. The charges went higher and higher up the ladder of generality until the sex crime committed at UVA became a confirmation of the basic theory of privileged Western male oppression that is so widely subscribed to in the disciplines of cultural studies. The theoretical or ideological dimension that began to take hold, which relies on class profiling, accorded with the subtext of the Rolling Stone article that is directed less against sexual violence per se—of which Charlottesville has tragically suffered more than enough in recent years—than against sexual violence perpetrated by males belonging to society’s “upper tier.” The abandonment of a critical spirit on our campuses is as much a failure of moral courage as of intellectual blindness. Every adult, if not every student, knows what happened at Duke eight years ago …”

    “Yet, in the climate of the moment, none of the perspective that these teachers could have offered, even if they had wished to do so, was ever brought to bear. A crowd does not listen, particularly when it is convinced it is on the side of the angels. University authorities might have helped to keep open a semblance of a discussion. But faced themselves with the prospect of becoming an early casualty of the crowd, which seemed ready to target the administration for alleged indifference, the leadership sought safety by joining with and trying to get out ahead of their critics. The president of the university, Teresa Sullivan, made clear where the initiative lay: “I want you to know that I have heard you, and that your words have enkindled this message …”

    See: http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/flight-reason-campus_821205.html

    Against this background provided by Professors Creaser, let us now read closely President Sullivan’s letter issued to “members of the University Community” on Nov. 20, a week after the Rolling Stone article alleging that seven Frat boys, under the direction of two more Frat boys, in accordance with an authorized initiation ritual, raped a female UVA student for three hours on a bed of broken glass using among other things a beer bottle late at night in an upstairs room of their UVA fraternity on the Grounds.

    IN DIRECT RESPONSE to the allegations that Rolling Stone asserted against UVA and its fraternities, here is President Sullivan’s message one week later to “members of the University Community:

    “Over the past week many of you have reached out to me directly to offer your opinions, reactions, and suggestions related to combatting sexual violence on the Grounds. I want you to know, I have heard you, and that your words have rekindled your message” … (As Jefferson said) ‘It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.’ The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused us to reexamine our responsibility to this community. Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place … on the campuses and grounds of our nations colleges and universities.”

    “We know, and have felt very powerfully this week that we are better than we have been described, and that we have a responsibility to live our traditions of honor every day, and as importantly every night. As you are aware, I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the 2012 assault that is described in Rolling Stone. There are individuals in our community who know what happened that night, and I am calling on them to come forward to the police to report the facts. Only you can shed light on the truth, and it is your responsibility to do so.”

    “Alongside this investigation, we as a community must also do a systematic evaluation of our culture to ensure that one of our founding principles — the pursuit of truth — remains a pillar on which we can stand. There is no greater threat to honor than secrecy and indifference.”

    “I write you today in solidarity. I write you in great sorrow, great rage, but most importantly, with great determination. Meaningful change is necessary, and we can lead that change for all universities. We can demand that incidents like those described in Rolling Stone never happen and that if they do, the responsible are held accountable to the law. This will require institutional change, cultural change, and legislative change, and it will not be easy. We are making those changes.”

    “This morning the Inter-Fraternity Council announced that all University fraternities have voluntarily suspended social activities this weekend. This is an important first step, but our challenges will extend beyond this weekend. Beginning immediately, I am suspending all fraternal organizations and associated social activities until January 9th, ahead of the beginning of our spring semester. In the intervening period we will assemble groups of students, faculty, alumni, and other concerned parties to discuss our next steps in preventing sexual assault and sexual violence on Grounds. On Tuesday, the Board of Visitors will meet to discuss the University’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault as well as the specific, recent allegations …”

    Teresa A. Sullivan, President

    Given what President Sullivan knew (or should have known) by Nov. 20 about those allegations in Rolling Stone’s article, and what she should know about those allegations now, it seems reasonable that:

    1/ President Sullivan now owes the fraternities and sororities at UVA a full and public apology for her Nov. 20 message to the members of the University of Virginia community.

    2/ And that addition actions are urgently needed to assure the safely of students, particularly women at UVA. The basis for these actions are clearly stated by President Sullivan’s Nov. 20 message, specifically:

    A – Given President Sullivan’s statement in her Nov. 20 message that “I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the 2012 assault that is described in Rolling Stone. There are individuals in our community who know what happened that night, and I am calling on them to come forward to the police to report the facts. Only you can shed light on the truth, and it is your responsibility to do so.”

    B/ Given how closely that statement tracks the statement of Charlottesville Chief of Police Timothy J. Longo, Sr. after his office had collected substantial and reliable objective evidence pointing to potential witnesses and guilty parties in the disappearance of Hannah Graham, and

    C/ Given all the facts that now surround the abduction and death of Hannah Graham, and President Sullivan’s belief that “alongside any (police) investigation we as a community must also do a systematic evaluation of our culture to ensure that one of our founding principles — the pursuit of truth — remains a pillar on which we can stand … (and that) there is no greater threat to honor than secrecy and indifference, … and that Rape is an abhorrent crime …

    IN LIGHT of ALL THIS, President Sullivan must lead a powerful, serious, and through investigation into the impact of the Hook-Up culture on Hannah Graham’s health and safety during the night of her tragic abduction, and on the continuing heath and safety of all young men and women at UVA.

  11. In Bacon’s latest blog, Presumed Guilty, the choice of images causes me to think back to my experiences in a historically black university (HBCU), where we did not talk about “black men raping white women” nor “stringing up on a rope” anyone of any color. For conjuring up those images in whatever context can only bring about pain, misunderstanding and emotionally charged reactions.

    The same applies in one’s talk, thought and treatment of women: it is very easy for males to slip into stereotypes and mis-speak about the opposite sex, especially if they are not present at the conversation. They must be present and we men must give them more than equal time to state their views. The same is true for other minorities.

    Thus the question for writers becomes, “What do I want to activate here, as a result of my writing?” What is my agenda? Deepening the wounds and attendant separations in our society? Or is my goal to bring some degree of healing and justice for all?

    Bacon writes polemically and unverified that “We also have a prevalent mindset, that extends into the faculty and administration, that views issues through the prism of gender, race and class and is primed to blame “white male privilege” for every evil under the sun.” I can only observe from 60 years of being on a number of campuses (including many years around UVa), that we “privileged white males” have earned our notorious identity, based on some of our actual behavior and on a good deal of our braggadocio.

    All of us “privileged white males” who went on to live and work in circles beyond the precincts of “Mad Lane to Grady Avenue” (or “Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill”) know quite well that typical fraternity living is neither academically productive nor socially useful preparation for life — at least not in today’s world.

    Teresa A. Sullivan, as President of the University of Virginia, has inherited a collection of many ills that have collected around the University Grounds, for at least the 60 years that I have had any sort of affiliation there. From Jefferson’s time as the first Rector, circa 1819 officially, the administration has had problems with “privileged white males.” Various biographies of Jefferson and others include accounts of their unruly and sometimes unlawful behavior. It’s written that Jefferson was deeply disillusioned by examples of student misbehavior. True educators must live with a certain amount of disappointment. Sometimes it takes generations for solutions to arise.

    If President Sullivan is able to lead a team that can solve nine-tenths of these historic, deep-seated and on-going problems, she will achieve national recognition and strong recommendations for any position of academic leadership in America. If, on the other hand, she chooses to leave next spring, no fair-minded person could blame her, and many would wish her well and god-speed. I certainly would. No one could have predicted that the lid would come off “Virginia’s Family Secrets,” as is occurring. Having a leader with President Sullivan’s experience and training and gender are great assets at a crucial time.

    I would add that words in cyberspace speak loud: the comments of several people on this blog, along with the words and deeds of a few members of the UVa Board of Visitors, give evidence that our constituency has not raised its practice of civility toward public academic officials such as Dr. Sullivan and her associates. There was no excuse for two members of the BOV to belittle the position and activities of President Sullivan when they summarily (and temporarily) engineered her removal from office. This in fact demonstrated that a woman (Helen Dragas) might be disrespectful to one of her own gender, too. We have a way to go.

    Another BOV member’s comments were disrespectful of the role and persona of women in leadership — as well as to the standards of the University. William Goodwin made public statements that reflected a lack of seriousness and appreciation for the high standards of the UVa Board, of its former members (including Presidents Madison and Monroe), and to its role in the University and the State of Virginia.

    One solution might be for the Darden Graduate School of Business (of which these just mentioned BOV members are graduates) to include in its curriculum a course or case study in how to relate to boards of nonprofit organizations — where members serve with no financial compensation and much influence on the character and leadership of our country.

    The Board of Visitors today is well-led by its current Rector, George Keith Martin, a graduate of UVa’s undergraduate college, and of the Howard University Law School. He is well-respected in his profession and recognized across the Commonwealth. In this crisis he has demonstrated that he knows his role in the governance of the University, and that student welfare is his foremost concern.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Well their you have it, the full Monty.

      wesghent (likely aka Gerald L. Cooper) pulls out and hangs high all the canards – race, class, gender, southern bestially, collective white guilt cards.

      And presumably too, wesghent is taking it upon himself to announce Teresa Sullivans’ departure from UVA in the spring of next year as well. Apparently his reasoning is that her innocence is being sullied by too long a stay on UVA grounds.

      Really my good man? Really?

      It’s all a quite performance, wesghent. But as I recall you in your earlier writings put former President Casteen right up their with Jefferson and Washington. So I suspect anything is possible, if its coming from you wesghent.

      1. Here’s a timely article that shows, among other things that the “hook-up culture” is probably no better or worse than this:

        ” Surviving Rape in the Military”

        ” The issue of sexual assault in the military makes the news periodically, usually in articles with mouth-dropping statistics and official outrage.

        Mary F. Calvert read such an article. It estimated that while 26,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place in the armed forces in 2012, only one in seven victims reported the attack and only one in 10 of those cases went to trial.”

        this is in the NYT – if you go to a browser that blocks cookies (like Chrome incognito) and do a search on the title you can get the article.

        but the other thing the military has going for it in sort of a back-handed way – is that it actually does have some level of uniform statistics reporting and collection so that we actually know some real data.

        for comparison – tell me the similar stats for UVA or for all of Virginia’s colleges…

    2. “All of us “privileged white males” who went on to live and work in circles beyond the precincts of “Mad Lane to Grady Avenue” (or “Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill”) know quite well that typical fraternity living is neither academically productive nor socially useful preparation for life — at least not in today’s world.”

      The United States Supreme Court held in NAACP v. Alabama that the freedom of association is an essential part of the Freedom of Speech because, in many cases, people can engage in effective speech only when they join with others.

      Your presumptive speaking for others is embarrassing to read. You speak only for yourself. Your dislike for fraternities and fraternity life is irrelevant. The right to free association has been confirmed by the US Supreme Court whether you like those associations or not.

  12. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Cville Resident –

    In your earlier comment, you linked into an article found at:


    This article to me suggests that the rules that regulate fraternities have not kept pace with the decline of UVA’s culture over the years. If so then solutions must be found to bring those rules and the culture back into balance.

    Perhaps whole variety of solutions might be brought to bear, including those both short and long range. Long range solutions might focus on raising the level of the student culture, and trying long term to leave maximum space for the growth and maintenance of student responsibility and character.

    On the other hand Draconian measures mandating minute regulation of a police state on campus does not build student responsibility or character, it turns students into sullen irresponsible children. And it simply pushes irresponsibility off campus while it also kills the great advantages of a vibrant, healthy and multifaceted social scene on or close by the campus.

    Doing it the right way that builds student character requires strong adult value oriented leadership. So far that has not be evident at UVa for a long time. Indeed what surprises me is the apparent lack of confidence of UVA leaders. These undergraduates are only big kids desperately needing adult leadership that empowers their own good behavior.

    But right now the monkeys are ruling the zoo. That includes some faculty.

    If current leaders can’t lead these kids (and faculty), enforce boundaries, and empower good their character and conduct, then find leaders who can, however difficult the task, given the current state of US higher education.

    Thus we get to your second comment:

    “The other rumor going around is that McAuliffe wants a “home run” hire. I would not be surprised to see him try to get involved.”

    Lets hope McAuliffe’s definition of a “home run” hire matches the problem. If it does then it will be his greatest legacy as governor.

    1. no matter what, let’s also be thankful that McAuliffe is the Gov and not Cucinelli who would have screwed up UVA even worse!

      1. Well, you and I agree on that. This is the kind of situation that Ken Cuccinelli would have found irresistible as a platform for some kind of social agenda.

  13. Came across this in the comments section of an article on the Rolling Stone story. Long and sometimes rambling this article nonetheless dies try to separate fact from fiction with regard to the campus sexual assault statistics:


    1. My lengthy and constantly updated article on “Yellow Journalism and the Meme of Rape Culture – Rolling Stone and U-VA Gang Rape” is hardly “rambling”.

      It is the most complete, cogent and thorough treatise on the subject anywhere on the web. No brag, just fact.

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