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University leaders seek to keep focus after rape account becomes issue

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Many people in the University of Virginia community remain outraged about the Rolling Stone account of a gang rape at a campus fraternity house that unraveled into a journalistic debacle Friday.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Many people in the University of Virginia community remain outraged about the Rolling Stone account of a gang rape at a campus fraternity house that unraveled into a journalistic debacle Friday.

But Tommy Reid, the president of the University of Virginia's Inter-Fraternity Council, said Saturday that he had other concerns. Reid said he wants to keep attention locked onto efforts to reform the Greek system and the university as a whole to stop sexual violence.

"My biggest fear is that students and the rest of the community will struggle over the minutiae of the specific Rolling Stone article and discontinue the momentum toward addressing the issue of rape on college campuses," said Reid, 21, a senior.


A chorus of student activists, politicians, faculty, and administrators were mobilizing Friday and Saturday to sustain that momentum despite the emergence of doubts about key elements of the shocking narrative of an alleged gang rape of a freshman in 2012. As the Washington Post reported finding significant flaws in the story and the fraternity released a rebuttal of key facts contained in the allegations, Rolling Stone apologized Friday for discrepancies in the Nov. 19 article and said its trust in the student had been "misplaced."

"Virginians are now left grasping for the truth, but we must not let that undermine our support for survivors of sexual assault or the momentum for solutions," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement. "Months before the Rolling Stone article, the commonwealth, the nation, and the university itself had begun addressing sexual violence on campus as a crisis. Nothing should or will distract from that critical work."

Herring has named an independent counsel to review sexual violence issues at the university raised by the Rolling Stone article. The lawyers include Walter Dellinger, a former acting U.S. solicitor general.

On Nov. 22, as furor grew over the allegations that seven fraternity men had raped a student and that the school's response to such attacks was lackluster, university president Teresa Sullivan announced a suspension of Greek activities until the beginning of January. There was no sign Saturday that her decision will be revisited.


Reid said the suspension is not a concern for him. "Practical implications of the ban are negligible," he said. "We are heading into exams and will not return to school until after Jan. 9. The suspension itself is not something the IFC is particularly focused on."

University spokesman McGregor McCance declined to say whether the suspension would be lifted.

Edward Miller, a member of the university's governing board of visitors, said doubts raised about the Rolling Stone article did not change his view of what needs to be done.

"Right from the get-go, I have said we need an outside group to come in and find out what the real facts are," Miller said Saturday. He said he was motivated by accounts of other victims of sexual assault that have emerged in recent days. Miller said he wants to know "what is the culture, what is really going on - and get to the heart of it."

Ashley Brown, 23, a senior who heads a sexual violence prevention group called One Less, said the University of Virginia must remain resolved to address the problem. Brown said she and others met with Sullivan on Friday morning to discuss ideas about how to set reforms in motion. "Change is on the horizon," Brown said, "with or without the details of the story that are being contested."

Brown also said she was appalled at Rolling Stone's handling of the story, especially the student named Jackie who was at the heart of it. "The onus is on Rolling Stone to get the facts," she said.

Doubts about the accuracy of the Rolling Stone account continued to mount Saturday. A second University of Virginia student who was among a group of three friends who came to Jackie's aid after her alleged sexual assault during the fall semester of 2012 told the Washington Post that details in the story were flawed.

Jackie, in several recent interviews with The Washington Post, stood by her account that she was gang raped at Phi Kappa Psi on Sept. 28, 2012, after she attended a party there with a date.