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April 5, 2015

A FEW ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON THE ROLLING STONE STORY: One person who shouldn’t get off the hook here is UVA President Teresa Sullivan. She essentially found the fraternity guilty based on a story in a music tabloid. She could have told the University community that “we don’t convict people based on stories in the media,” that she was going to independently investigate the accusations, and that people named in tabloid stories should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty in the American tradition. She did no such thing. She hastily imposed a group punishment on the entire Greek system, and pretty much stood by while angry crowds mobbed and vandalized the fraternity house. (Faculty members didn’t help by staging their own marches; they may want — especially now — to characterize those marches as “anti-rape” or “pro-woman,” but there’s no getting around the fact that they were perceived at the time, and probably meant, as targeting the accused. In this case, the falsely accused.) As I’ve said before, there’s no place in America today where the authorities are more likely to be found siding with (or at least enabling) a lynch mob than on a university campus, and that’s a disgrace.

University presidents, along with the rest of the administration and faculty, talk a lot about a “university community.” But when it comes time to show students who produce bad press the kind of fairness that any member of an academic community should expect as a matter of right, they often drop the ball. At the very least, Sullivan owes these fraternity guys, and the Greek community, an open, public, and contrite apology. If I were on the UVA Board of Visitors, I’d be demanding her resignation.

UPDATE: U.Va. president: Rolling Stone story “damaged serious efforts” to combat sexual assault. “Sullivan, in her statement Sunday, made no apology to those fraternity members she treated as guilty without evidence.”