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The University of Virginia’s governing body on Tuesday adopted a zero-tolerance approach toward sexual assault.
The resolution came during a special Board of Visitors meeting called in the wake of a Rolling Stone article that depicts the horrific rape of a student named Jackie at a fraternity party in 2012.
“To Jackie and her parents, I say I am sorry,” Rector George Keith Martin said at the meeting. “To the survivors of sexual assault and their families, I am also sorry.
“This type of conduct will not be tolerated at the University of Virginia. The status quo is no longer acceptable.”
During the meeting, the university’s leadership pledged to fight sexual assault on Grounds, change cultural conditions that foster it, and improve the University’s response in support of survivors.
“I want to make it perfectly clear to you, and to the watching world that nothing is more important to me than the safety of our students,” President Teresa A. Sullivan said at the meeting. “Not our reputation, not our success, and not our history or tradition.”
Sullivan has referred the case from 2012 to the Charlottesville Police Department, and Chief Timothy J. Longo – one of several guest panelists asked to speak at the meeting – asked that anyone with information about the incident come forward.
“There were bystanders,” Longo said. “There were people in that room who saw and heard what has been called shocking and horrifying and gut-wrenching and every other descriptor in between. And I hope those bystanders have the moral courage to come forward and help us with that investigation.”
During the meeting Martin also announced that the state Office of the Attorney General has named a three-person team from the firm of O’Melveny & Meyers to conduct a full investigation and review of issues surrounding sexual assault at the University of Virginia, including the University’s administrative response to reported cases.
The outside investigators will focus particular attention on how the University should respond in cases in which the survivor chooses not to make a formal complaint, Martin said.
The board unanimously adopted a spoken resolution affirming a zero-tolerance approach toward sexual assault. The details of the approach and how it is articulated and implemented will be refined in the near term in collaboration with the University administration.
During the meeting, Sullivan said the administration would continue to work on the issue, including refining the policies governing the Greek system to provide better oversight of alcohol and more safety for guests. She has suspended fraternal organizations and associated social activities until Jan. 9.
The meeting included a panel discussion featuring Longo, student leaders and a representative of the Faculty Senate. Several of the students said that the article – though painful for the entire community – has galvanized the University community and represents an opportunity for needed change.
“We in the advocacy community spend so much time entrenched in this issue, and we understand this issue,” said fourth-year student Ashley Brown, the president of One Less. “What we have now, unlike ever before, is the backing, and that makes me incredibly hopeful.”
Student Council President Jalen Ross noted that it’s been a difficult semester for students, but said there is a genuine desire to change student culture.
“It includes the ambivalent middle, which is what I call the quiet majority of students who are not yet engaged in this, but who represent a fertile ground for the creation of new advocates,” he said.
Tommy Reid, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council, said sexual assault is a problem in the fraternities and in the fraternity system.
“We don’t want to hide that. But we need to change it; we need to confront it,” he said.
Reid said the article served as a jolt to the entire University, and that he’s already working with other student leaders on a series of recommendations that include changes to the Greek system and beyond.
“Rolling Stone has delivered this university a wake-up call,” he said. “It feels wrong to rest or to sit when there is so much to be done and so much to be changed, and so much attention and individual energy around rape at U.Va.”
Both the student leaders and several board members pointed out that current energy and desire for change must last longer than the next news cycle, and that any resulting actions must be part of a long-term commitment.
“We are all on the same side,” said board member Allison Cryor DiNardo. “We need change, and we need good change, and we need it soon.”
The publication of a Rolling Stone article that depicts a horrific sexual assault of a student at a fraternity house in 2012 has ignited deep concern, outrage and sadness in the University community and beyond. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and others have united in support of survivors of sexual assault and to demand immediate attention on the issue and action.
Below are communications distributed to the University community in recent days in connection with this continuing issue:
Nov. 25, 2014
Nov. 22, 2014
Nov. 21, 2014
Nov. 20, 2014
Nov. 19, 2014
Nov. 25, 2014
Good afternoon. Thank you for assembling on such short notice.
This afternoon I want to address you from the heart.
The story in Rolling Stone is shocking. My initial reaction was numbness. That numbness quickly turned to anger. I want to make it perfectly clear to you, and to the watching world: Nothing is more important to me than the safety of our students. Not our reputation, not our success, and not our history or traditions.
We must create and maintain a safe and healthy environment in which all of our students can follow their academic pursuits free from sexual violence. If we can’t deliver on this fundamental duty than we – all of us – will have failed.
We need to support any survivor of violence with caring and sensitivity. It is equally urgent that we prevent any further violence. If there are systemic problems, they must be rooted out.
Foremost in my mind is fully investigating these allegations as well as thoroughly reviewing our current practices. That is why I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the gang rape as described in Rolling Stone. That is why I fully endorse the forthcoming investigation by an independent counsel who will advise us on how we can better respond to sexual assault on Grounds, as well as propose necessary changes to state law. And that is why we are here today to address these issues head on. We will spend the coming days, weeks, months – however long it takes – to ensure that the honor we preach about is lived every single day and every single night.
We have made significant progress in implementing new programs and policies, and you have heard me talk about that. But the article in Rolling Stone points to an entrenched cultural problem in student life. Alumni have written to me to say that the problem is an old one. And now is the time, and this is the generation of students, when it must stop.
My role as President is to find answers to difficult questions and to develop solutions. In the past few days, I have opened conversations with the Honor Committee, and with students, faculty, and staff. The conversations are uniform in their content and tone: “Let’s be a catalyst for change, and let’s do it here and now.” These conversations will continue, because the students understand the parts of the culture that foster violence.
The most important change is a fundamental mind shift, which can only come after deep introspection, to preserve what’s outstanding in our classrooms and across Grounds, and to repair and strengthen what isn’t.
First, we must deal with the complexity of sexual assault, which is often emotionally too difficult for some survivors – mostly women – to come forward and report. We must work to ensure that our students know that if they have experienced a sexual assault, they will have a caring advocate to go with them to the police or hospital – and be with them to help secure justice and healing. There is also an important role for students themselves in creating a culture of reporting, and of equipping students to better assist and support their friends in times of need. To that end, beginning in January, Green Dot, a nationally respected violence prevention organization, will begin offering bystander training for our students and our faculty.
As you are aware, we have suspended all fraternal organizations and their social activities until January 9, just prior to the beginning of the spring semester. This suspension is not an indication of wrongdoing for every part of the Greek system, or for every individual who chooses to participate in it.
But the actions of even a single individual within a larger community do reflect on the community as a whole. I am going to work with our staff and the Greek community to make their environment safer for residents and visitors. This is a defining moment for us to improve our oversight of the Greek system.
We must do more to deal with the problems of alcohol, underage drinking, and binge drinking, because they are harmful in themselves and because they are often at play in sexual assaults. We need to wipe out the notion that the college experience is incomplete without heavy drinking.
U.Va. has a good alcohol education program, but it’s not enough. We have to do more to inform and guide the decisions that students make outside of the classroom. Law enforcement, state government officials, local businesses, and everyone in our community needs to be a part of that mind shift.
My concern for the safety of our students and visitors must extend beyond the technical boundaries of our Grounds. For a number of weeks, and at my direction, our COO Pat Hogan and his team have been upgrading lighting and expanding the capacity of our 24/7 surveillance cameras across Grounds. With the cooperation of the Charlottesville Police Department, we are moving forward quickly with the opening of a police substation on The Corner, staffed jointly by the Charlottesville and UVa Police Departments.
We are also working cooperatively with the City, County and local apartment owners to improve lighting and security measures in neighborhoods near our Grounds where many of our students live.
By the beginning of the Spring semester, we will have the police substation opened, and will have significantly increased security personnel in the vicinity of the Corner and surrounding neighborhoods, including Rugby Road.
In the past week, I have seen dismay, anger, and sadness. But I’ve also seen energy and a passion to make things better. We are not as good as we should be. Our job now is to channel the energy and passion into action.
Changing a culture takes the whole community working together, but in particular we need leadership from our students; faculty; staff; and alumni.
Our UVa community strongly rejects a culture of sexual violence. Together we need to work to isolate, and to exclude, any sub-culture of deviance.
You can expect regular reports on our progress. I look forward to our discussion today.
Teresa A. Sullivan
Nov. 25, 2014
To Jackie, and her parents, I say I am sorry. To the survivors of sexual assault and their families, I am also sorry.
As we said last week, this type of conduct will not be tolerated at the University of Virginia. The status quo is no longer acceptable. Like you I am appalled by the information that has come forward. Again, we will not tolerate this type of behavior.
As rector, I assure you that to address this crisis, change this environment will be my top priority. And I know I speak for this entire Board when I say we will find solutions.
I want to thank the Board for gathering on such short notice but given the severity of the issues we deemed it appropriate to meet. As you know, I initiated the suggestion with the Attorney General that he appoint independent legal counsel to assist us with several issues: to advise and assist the Board of Visitors and University administration in determining how the University can better deal with the issue of campus sexual assaults, including how best to maximize opportunities for successful criminal prosecution of sexual misconduct cases; and to examine the relevant legal issues as well as the University's policies and processes, giving particular attention to the question of how to respond in situations where there is serious and credible information about sexual misconduct even where for whatever reason the survivor chooses not to make a complaint.
Further we will ask our independent counsel to advise us on potential changes to state and federal law to maximize the opportunities for criminal prosecution.
I thank the Attorney General for his support and he has appointed a team from O'Melveny & Myers as independent counsel.
Today we, as a Board, will begin a process designed to help the administration tackle the complex issues presented. We start with our independent counsel, but we will also hire other consultants. We have identified some experts and we will explore other options as well. Just to give you a sampling, we will address, with assistance of outside experts along with internal experts, how we go about changing the environment, how to better train the Greek organizations about sexual misconduct and I might add mandatory training. And how to deal with alcohol issues including under-age drinking.
But also let’s be careful not to judge all fraternities or their members. We have a problem with some fraternities and hopefully it is limited to a few, but let’s not prejudge people just because they are affiliated with a fraternity because that is not right and further the overwhelming majority are law abiding.
Like most of you, I have felt a full range of emotions over the past several days. Anger, sorrow, deep care and concern for the survivors being the predominant feelings. But we all need to turn that negative energy into positive energy that will help us move forward and prove that we can affect change.
The Board and the Administration can’t do it alone. This has to be a top down and bottom up effort. We need all members of the University community to support our efforts to solve the problem.
In September we devoted a substantial part of our full board meeting to the topic of sexual misconduct. We heard Dean Groves say that over 90 percent of the sexual misconduct issues involved alcohol. The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial in yesterday’s paper likewise highlights the issues of alcohol. And as Bobbie Kilberg pointed out in our September meeting 3/4ths of our students are not old enough to drink. Ladies and gentlemen, we also have to address alcohol consumption at the University of Virginia. There is a correlation between alcohol consumption, and at times the abuse of alcohol, and sexual conduct. We cannot ignore that.
Further we must examine our Greek culture and possibly overhaul that system. Clearly the Greek organizations will be a part of the conversation and so far the Greek organizations have been very supportive and I know that that will continue.
To be successful this effort will require a team effort. We intend to work with the faculty, student alumni, Greek organizations and parents.
And to that end, I have reached out to:
Faculty – Senate leadership and you will hear from some of them shortly.
Students – Several are here this afternoon and likewise you will hear from them.
Alumni – I have also reached out to the Alumni Association leadership and they will be a part of the solution.
Parents – Further I have contacted the Parents Council leadership and they will be a part of the solution as well.
We also have members of the Charlottesville community and you will hear from one very important individual this afternoon.
Again I want to stress the importance of working together to not only address this problem but to turn it around.
We will hear from President Sullivan and several students, faculty-senate leaders, a key individual from the Charlottesville community and individual Board members who have comments as well.
At a later date when we have concrete recommendations from some of our consultants we will hold a Town Hall meeting to have an open conversation and allow for public input.
Further, we have received many thoughtful letters with suggestions and recommendations. On the recommendation of Kevin Fay I will ask the chairs of the Student Affairs Committee to review those and solicit other suggestions. Once our independent counsel is fully engaged, I anticipate another special meeting of the Board.
This clearly is a tragedy, but we want to turn this tragedy into opportunity and lead the country in finding solutions to this awful challenge.
Nov. 22, 2014
Dear 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 Grounds. I want you to know that I have heard you, and that your words have enkindled this message.
At UVa we speak in idealistic terms: honor and tradition inform our thinking, and balance our daily actions. And it is easy here, where success is demanded as much as it is sought, to let our idealism outweigh our reality.
Jefferson, as he always does, provides a compelling backdrop:
It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.
The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community. Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place in the world, let alone on the campuses and grounds of our nation’s 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 tradition 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.
In the words of one student who wrote to me this week, “Policy is needed, but people make change.” We need the collective strength of the members of our community to ensure that we have the best policies. So as you prepare for what I hope is a restful Thanksgiving holiday, I hope that you will take time to review and respond to the recently posted Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, which is currently open for public comment. You may find that policy at this link. Providing candid feedback to this policy is a practical step that you can take to help and I hope that you will.
To our fourth-year students: as you prepare to celebrate your last home football game today, I hope that you will embrace your role as leaders and demonstrate a renewed sense of responsibility to our community, and a renewed commitment to make that community better. It starts today.
Finally, I want to express my grief at hearing the news of the death of second-year student Peter D'Agostino, whose passing adds overwhelming emotion to what has been a difficult semester for all of us.
We are united in our compassion, resolve, and determination: Compassion for survivors of assault; resolve to make our community better; determination to begin to solve this problem here and now.
I hope that you will join me.
Teresa A. Sullivan
Nov. 22, 2014
Dear Members of the College Community,
Like all of you, I have been appalled by the rape allegations reported in the recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine. It has been a grievous time. Above all, our thoughts, prayers, compassion and commitments are focused on the young women whose precious and unique lives this story has brought before us.
They are part of our family. We must be part of theirs. As in the days, weeks and years ahead we must also be committed, ever more fully, to the lives of all the students on Grounds—women and men—who are outraged by the behaviors the article describes and who are resolute in their promise to build a university where those actions are intolerable, to everyone.
As we commit ourselves to supporting all those students, we are also all reminded of the need and urgency of saying fundamental things: rape is evil, and it is a crime. All sexual violence is so, and it is unacceptable at the University of Virginia or in any arena of society. We cannot tolerate it. We are, and must continue to be, committed to ensuring student safety, a culture devoted to preventing the exposure of all people to violation, complete support of victims of sexual violence, and the dignity of personhood in every area of life.
All victims of sexual violence must be supported in being comfortable in coming forward and all institutions—most crucially, our university—must be willing to change wherever or whenever it becomes clear that vulnerability to sexual violence becomes endemic. These students—these astonishing, singular, beloved young women and men—are entrusted to our care, and we must care fully for them. That is our bond. We must honor it.
Over the past four months, as I have had the honor of beginning to serve as your Dean, one thing more than any other has become clear: U.Va.—in its history, in its inspiration, in its highest aspiration for itself—is a community of trust. To be so, and to become more fully so, particularly at this time, we cannot simply take that promise of trust on faith. We must learn from what is good and confront what is broken in our community; what is good and what is broken in our history; what is good and what is broken in our present.
Our future and the life, flourishing and well-being of our students and of this great university depend on it. To that end, I am writing you today to seek your counsel and wisdom as I act with the President and other university leaders and with the faculty and staff of the College to recommit ourselves to the values of human dignity, honor, and respect that are fundamental to U.Va., to our mission of education and to our common life. I’ve asked that a site be set up specifically on this matter to invite members of our College community to share their thoughts and concerns. The address is: http://as.virginia.edu/contact-arts-sciences.
Please write me, advising me on what is best in our tradition and our current life that we must reconfirm as we turn ourselves to the challenge and the difficulty of this moment—and advising me, also and crucially, on what is most broken that we must identify and refuse. I will learn from what you convey and will do everything in my power to respond. There is no more important thing I can ask of you at this moment, nothing more vital as I commit to building with you, our faculty, staff and my fellow University leaders the College and the community that each one of our students deserves and that we hold in trust for them.
Buckner W. Clay Dean of Arts & Sciences
University of Virginia
Nov. 21, 2014
It has been a very difficult week at the University as our community reacts both to the article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine earlier this week and news of the death of a second-year student yesterday. We wrote to your daughters and sons earlier today with a message that responded to the challenges with which we are all grappling. You can find the full text of the earlier note online, but we do want to reiterate one critical message: We do not tolerate sexual violence in any form. Sexual assault is a crime that can destroy lives and create profound suffering. It has no place in our society, much less in an academic community characterized by freedom and civility.
As always, our first priority in this immediate situation is to keep our students safe. We are in close communication with our students, both via email and through individual outreach. As is customary, all messages to students are also posted on the Parents website. A message about safety went out late this afternoon from Chief of University Police Mike Gibson that mentioned threats the University has received in response to the article. We have reached out to the FBI, Albemarle and Charlottesville Police Departments and will continue to collaborate and call upon the resources of those agencies as appropriate. We have taken specific measures to ensure student safety this weekend, including increasing police patrols on the Grounds and in areas where students congregate and increasing staffing levels for our standing safety resources summarized in our Staying Safe Tip Sheet. For students who may need counseling support, we are making additional CAPS counselors available all weekend via our on-call system (434-972-7004). Please encourage your daughter or son to call CAPS if they need assistance.
Longer term, we pledge to work with you and the entire community to make this University as safe as possible. We care deeply about our students and their well-being, and about creating a culture in which students not only feel safe but are safe. Both of us are horrified by the story depicted in the article, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to get to the bottom of the incidents reported and then effect change.
When your daughters and sons return home for Thanksgiving break, they will likely need to talk about the Rolling Stone article and the loss of three of their fellow students this semester. We hope you will encourage them to share their reactions with you. It has been an intense semester, and they will need a supportive space at home to decompress. As parents ourselves, we know we would appreciate guidance on how to support our children during such a difficult time, so we reached out to Dr. Tim Davis, the director of the University’s counseling center, for some advice. Here are some thoughts that you may find helpful as you prepare for your daughters and sons to return home.
Your daughters and sons may be dealing with a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, fear, and disappointment. (You may be experiencing many of these feelings yourself.) Do your best to listen and to validate. Each of your daughters and sons has a right to her or his own particular thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the article and the complex surrounding circumstances. It will be most helpful if you can provide an objective framework for them to talk about their reactions. It is fine for you to share your responses with them, too. However, agreeing too much may intensify the emotion they are already feeling. Disagreeing too much will shut down the communication. Focus on your primary objective, which should be to help your daughter or son work through her or his own response.
Keep in mind that Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) will remain a resource for your daughters and sons when they return to Grounds. CAPS is located in Student Health at the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Brandon Avenue, and we will remind students of hours and services upon their return to Grounds. Lastly, CAPS is here for you as well. If you would like to consult with one of the CAPS counselors about how to support your daughter or son, call 434-243-5150 to speak with one of our counselors. We hope that this Thanksgiving break will offer our students and our community a time to rest and reflect before returning for the end of the semester. As always, thank you for your support and guidance.
Teresa A. Sullivan, President
Patricia M. Lampkin, Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer
Nov. 21, 2014
This week, the core of who we are has been challenged. We are now questioning if we truly stand for honor and mutual trust. We wonder if we are truly the caring, supportive community that we purport to be. And we are hurting.
This week threatens to drive us apart. But this is not the time to splinter. Amid the shaking reality of a trying semester, made all the more tragic as we lost another classmate yesterday, this is the time to redouble our commitment to our principles. We must not only speak them - we must live them. And we've already begun. The outpouring of support from family and friends - even strangers - proves this community is strong. The swift, passionate calls for action prove that we care about our community of trust and that we're more dedicated than ever to shaping our own University.
But strong, honorable, loving, engaged communities recognize that even they have problems. This week, we've been startlingly reminded that sexual assault is a problem of ours. It's our moral obligation as friends, classmates, and people to end it. Now.
Today, we call on one another to make this University the safe haven it ought to be. Take a minute to learn more, to become an advocate, or to voice your opinions. Take a moment to tell your story, or to support a survivor with loving strength. Take a second to step in when something looks wrong, to start a discussion, or to attend a prevention event. Doing nothing is to be part of the problem. And we need to be part of the solution.
So we've put everything you need to learn, speak, or get involved in one place.
We can fix this with action rooted in our principles. It is easy to hate, to cast whole communities in doubt, to deny, or to hide. But if we respond to hard times with hard work, if we respond to division with unity, if we respond to efforts to tear us down by building each other up, then we'll look back on this moment as the time we stood up to answer the call.
Let's stand together.
Jalen Ross, Student Council
Ashley Brown, One Less
Brian Head, One in Four
Nov. 21, 2014
Over the past two days, our community has been deeply affected by the article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine earlier this week. I know that many of you are feeling shocked, dismayed, saddened and, perhaps, betrayed. Our community is hurting. We are concerned about Jackie and we are worried about other survivors who have lived through the horror of sexual assault. Many of us are confused by the contradictions between the U.Va. portrayed in the article and the U.Va. that we know. Many of you are questioning your trust in our University.
President Sullivan and I want to be absolutely clear: we do not tolerate sexual violence in any form. Sexual assault is a crime that can destroy lives and create profound suffering. It has no place in our society, much less in an academic community characterized by freedom and civility.
To add to these overwhelming emotions, we learned late yesterday of the death of a second-year student, the details of which we will share according to his family's wishes as soon as we are able.
This painful set of circumstances comes on the heels of other recent tragedies on Grounds. The constellation of these events would be enough to put the strongest of communities into crisis. But know that we will cope, and together we will heal.
We acknowledge how difficult it is for survivors of sexual assault to talk about their experiences and to feel confident in reporting them, whether to the police or to the University. We will continue, as we always have, to encourage survivors to go to the police, to pursue the University's disciplinary process, and most of all, to take advantage of the many support services available at UVA and in the community. (Please see the end of this message for a list of resources.)
This is a time for us to come together, not to be pulled apart. I hope that we as a community can address this issue in a spirit of deep compassion, concern, trust and resolution.
Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer
How to Report Instances of Sexual Assault or if You Need Personal Support
Sexual Misconduct Reporting Website: http://www.virginia.edu/justreportit/sexualmisconduct/
Counseling and Psychological Services: http://www.virginia.edu/studenthealth/caps.html Daytime Phone: 434.243.5150; After Hours Phone: 434.972.7004
Office of Dean of Students: 434.924.7133
Nov. 21, 2014
Dear Fellow Alumni,
By now, most of you have been made aware of an article in the Rolling Stone titled, "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA." The article tells the story of a current student and her horrendous experiences at a fraternity party.
We are, as are all alumni, extremely concerned and distressed about the information presented in this article. The behavior described in this article is abhorrent and not to be tolerated anywhere, and particularly not on the Grounds.
We have heard from many of you through direct email, posts, phone calls and tweets. You have expressed shock, anger, extreme disappointment and disbelief. While the article was sickening to read, it has highlighted this issue and has ignited a critical and much-needed conversation about the dangerous behavior occurring here and elsewhere in the country.
President Sullivan has asked the Charlottesville Police to fully investigate the allegations in the article. Last night, the Rector of the Board of Visitors George Martin, issued a statement announcing that the University, in coordination with Virginia's Attorney General, will appoint an independent counsel to review all aspects of the University's policies with regard to sexual misconduct. Both the President's and the Rector's statements can be found here, along with other related information.
The Alumni Association would like to provide you a means to express your concerns, thoughts and recommendations. We have set up an online portal for you to communicate with the University. We will take your comments and ensure that they are delivered to the right people here at the University. You may register your comments here. You may also participate in an online conversation using the Alumni Forum.
We realize that this is a difficult and painful subject, but we also know that through your ideas and debate, a stronger University will emerge.
Tom Faulders, College '71
President & CEO
University of Virginia Alumni Association
To the Members of the University Community:
From the moment the Rolling Stone article appeared, faculty members from across the Grounds have been expressing shock and outrage. The Executive Council of the Faculty Senate strongly condemns the violent criminal behavior depicted. We urge everyone to approach this situation with sensitivity and sound judgment as the law enforcement investigation process is carried out.
Sexual violence is a national epidemic. Faculty members everywhere must play a role in changing the culture that allows violence to occur. We call on our faculty to learn more and to actively participate with the ongoing prevention efforts. We pledge to engage with the administration, staff, students, and alumni to foster a safe community, grounded in dignity and integrity, free of violence.
On behalf of the Faculty Senate Executive Council,
Joe Garofalo, Chair
Nina Solenski, Chair-Elect
Chris Holstege, Immediate Past Chair
This statement has also been endorsed by the General Faculty Council.
Chair, General Faculty Council
Nov. 21, 2014
The Rolling Stone magazine article released earlier this week has sparked an emotional response within the University community and beyond. A number of University offices have received threats. These threats have not been specific or directed at any particular person or organization. We have reached out to the FBI, Albemarle and Charlottesville Police Departments and will continue to collaborate and call upon the resources of those agencies as appropriate. Anyone who receives a threat is encouraged to preserve it and report it immediately to police by calling 911.
There are a number of events occurring within the community over the next several days. While Charlottesville remains a relatively safe environment, crimes do occur in our community. The best defense is to be prepared and to take responsibility for your own safety and that of your fellow students.
We encourage members of the public to promptly report any criminal and suspicious activity immediately by calling 911. Remain alert and aware of potential dangers. As you are out and about, take notice of your surroundings. Avoid cell phone conversations, listening to music or engaging in other activities that distract your attention from your surroundings.
In the event of an incident, the information you provide and the timeliness of the information you provide to police will potentially help them identify suspect(s).
Michael A. Gibson
Chief of University Police
Nov. 20, 2014
Attorney General Mark Herring on Nov. 21 announced the University had requested him to appoint an independent counsel to review U.Va.’s policies and processes regarding sexual assault and to assist the University’s review of how it addresses sexual misconduct.
Former federal Judge Mark Filip was named Nov. 20 to serve in that capacity, but the University and the Attorney General agreed to select another candidate, as Filip has a prior affiliation – though not at U.Va. – with the fraternity described in a Rolling Stone article regarding sexual assault at the University.
In a statement, Attorney General Herring said the selection of a new independent counsel was a necessary step “and the independence and objectivity of the review must be unimpeachable.”
“This situation is too serious to allow anything to undermine confidence in the objectivity and independence of this review,” Herring said.
Dear Members of the University Community:
We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the events reported in the recent Rolling Stone magazine article. Conduct of the sort described in the article is utterly unacceptable and will not be condoned at the University of Virginia.
Our focus continues to be, first and foremost, the safety and well-being of our students and of the University community as a whole. Sexual assault is an abhorrent violent crime, and it should be punished as a crime under applicable law.
On Wednesday, the President referred the specific allegations of criminal conduct contained in the Rolling Stone article to the Charlottesville Police Department. Many of the details contained in the article had not previously been disclosed to University officials. Fairness to all potentially affected persons, as well as privacy obligations and the rights of sexual assault survivors, necessitates that we refrain from comment on those specific allegations while law enforcement authorities carry out their work. We need not wait, however, to seek independent advice on some of the difficult issues raised by this case, and by sexual assault cases nationwide, in order to better protect our students and the University community.
As President Sullivan described yesterday, the University and University community have taken the initiative to address sexual misconduct in various ways. Earlier this year, before much of the current media attention was focused on the issue, President Sullivan convened a national conference that brought together experts and professionals from approximately 60 colleges and universities to discuss best practices and strategies for prevention and response. A number of other initiatives, including the HoosGotYourBack program and Not On Our Grounds awareness campaign, are underway or soon will commence.
In addition to these measures, we must do everything possible to ensure that the opportunity for a timely and appropriate law enforcement response is maximized, and that the University community is fully protected from future violence, even in situations where a sexual assault survivor chooses not to lodge a criminal or administrative complaint.
The issue of how to respond - lawfully, appropriately, and effectively - to credible information regarding alleged sexual assault in circumstances where the survivor declines to file a criminal or administrative complaint is a pressing and difficult national topic. Even if, as the Rolling Stone article asserts, the problem of sexual misconduct at other colleges and universities is comparable to that at the University of Virginia, the status quo is unacceptable, and the University of Virginia should be a leader in finding solutions.
Accordingly, and with the full support of President Sullivan, I contacted Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and requested that, in addition to receiving the continued able assistance by his Office, the University be authorized to engage independent counsel to advise and assist the Board of Visitors and University administration in determining how the University can better deal with the issue of campus sexual assaults, including how best to maximize opportunities for successful criminal prosecution of sexual misconduct cases. The counsel will examine the relevant legal issues as well as the University's policies and processes, giving particular attention to the question of how to respond in situations where there is serious and credible information about sexual misconduct but no willing complainant. The counsel will share his findings and recommendations with the Board of Visitors, President Sullivan and the Attorney General.
General Herring and I have agreed that Mark Filip, a senior partner with the distinguished firm of Kirkland and Ellis, should lead this review. Mr. Filip is a former prosecutor, federal judge and deputy attorney general of the United States.
Again, this is a critical issue and we are committed to finding solutions.
George Keith Martin
Nov. 20, 2014
The rape allegations in the Rolling Stone article are sickening and abhorrent. Rape is a serious crime as well as a violation of the values and culture of the Law School and our University. We are committed to preventing it and to supporting survivors.
You may have questions about the resources available to students at the Law School and the procedures for bringing a complaint. I encourage each of you to read the information about sexual assault on our web page. I am also grateful to the SBA for arranging a town hall meeting on sexual assault tomorrow afternoon that will be led by Professor Anne Coughlin and Dean Sarah Davies.
To help ensure we provide the very best support to our students, I have requested the advice and assistance of Linda Fairstein ’72, the former head of the Manhattan Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit and one of the foremost experts on sexual assault investigation and adjudication. We look forward to working with her and with our students.
Paul G. Mahoney
Dean, University of Virginia School of Law
Nov. 19, 2014
To the University community:
I am writing in response to a Rolling Stone magazine article that negatively depicts the University of Virginia and its handling of sexual misconduct cases. Because of federal and state privacy laws, and out of respect for sexual assault survivors, we are very limited in what we can say about any of the cases mentioned in this article.
The article describes an alleged sexual assault of a female student at a fraternity house in September 2012, including many details that were previously not disclosed to University officials. I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to formally investigate this incident, and the University will cooperate fully with the investigation.
The University takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct, a significant problem that colleges and universities are grappling with across the nation. Our goal is to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for our students and the entire University community.
We have recently adopted several new initiatives and policies aimed at fostering a culture of reporting and raising awareness of the issues.
We want our students to feel comfortable coming forward with information when there are problems in the community and cooperating with local law enforcement and the student disciplinary process. We also want them to feel empowered to take action and to lead efforts to make our Grounds and our community a better place to live and learn.
We have been taking a leadership role on issues regarding sexual misconduct and violence. U.Va. hosted a national conference on this topic in February 2014. "Dialogue at U.Va.: Sexual Misconduct Among College Students" brought together national experts and professionals from approximately 60 colleges and universities to discuss best practices and strategies for prevention and response.
The HoosGotYourBack initiative, part of the Not On Our Grounds awareness campaign, was developed and launched in collaboration with students and with local Corner Merchants to increase active bystander behavior.
A number of other initiatives are also planned for the spring. Among them are the implementation of a new student sexual misconduct policy and a related training program, a campus climate survey, and an in-depth bystander intervention program that will include students, faculty, and staff.
More information about sexual violence education and resources is available on the University's website at http://www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence/
Finally, I want to underscore our commitment to marshaling all available resources to assist our students who confront issues related to sexual misconduct. Our dedicated Student Affairs staff devote countless hours to educating and counseling our students on issues regarding their health and safety, and they stand ready to assist whenever students need help.
Teresa A. Sullivan
Student leaders at the University of Virginia publicly resolved Monday to find a solution to sexual violence in the wake of a magazine article that detailed a horrific sexual assault two years ago at a school fraternity.
Student Council President Jalen Ross said at a press conference with other student leaders that the Rolling Stone magazine article was a “wakeup call.”
“Sexual assault is a problem that needs our undivided attention,” he said. “Thousands of us this week have committed to responding to this hard problem with hard work and I hope that each and every one of you will join us in doing that.”
Ross said there is no easy answer.
“United, we will have the strength for decisive action; divided we will flounder. We must be one community committed to this. One student body. One University,” he said. “This is our problem to solve.”
Ross spoke to journalists in Pavilion VII alongside a group of student leaders that included Brian Head, president of One in Four, Ashley Brown, president of One Less and Tommy Reid, president of the Inter-Fraternity Council and sexual assault survivors and supporters.
Taking the podium, Reid said members of the Inter-Fraternity Council were “horrified and viscerally saddened” by the stories of sexual violence in the Rolling Stone article.
On Saturday, President Teresa A. Sullivan announced the suspension of all fraternal organizations and associated social activities until Jan. 9.
“The temporary suspension of fraternities gives our community a time to breathe and to develop substantive and actionable changes that confront this complicated problem in the long-term,” Reid said.
He said all members of the University community share a common goal.
“Greek, non-Greek; female, male; professor, student; we are all allies in the fight against sexual violence,” he said. “No individual alone can solve this cultural problem — it takes a strong and committed community. Over the next month and beyond, we will stand — together — as that community.”
One Less President Ashley Brown said the situation has given U.Va. the opportunity unite and say “enough.”
“The accounts listed are part of a national epidemic for which U.Va is an example,” she said.
Other events were also scheduled for Monday, including a 6 p.m. roundtable discussion in Newcomb Hall on how to support sexual assault survivors and an 8 p.m. meeting of the Alliance for Social Change at U.Va., also in Newcomb Hall.
There have been several rallies in support of sexual assault survivors and against sexual assault at the University since the Rolling Stone article was published last week. Hundreds of students and professors marched Saturday night to the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, where an unidentified student told Rolling Stone magazine she was raped two years ago. Phi Kappa Psi voluntarily suspended its affiliation with the University ahead of Sullivan’s action Saturday and the house has been vacated.
U.Va.’s Board of Visitors is holding a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the University’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault.
A live stream of the meeting can be found at: www.virginia.edu/bov/live.
Need to get across Grounds in a hurry in the middle of the day? The University of Virginia’s new UBike program will soon provide an option.
The University’s Department of Parking & Transportation soon will offer bicycles for casual users – students, faculty and staff – through a new bike-sharing program called UBike. Members of UBike can use an account number or a coded membership card to unlock a bicycle from a special rack, ride it anywhere on Grounds or in the community, and return it to any UBike rack.
“This is for someone who wants to get from the Observatory Hill Dining Hall to Clark Hall quickly, or from the Architecture School to Medical School fast,” said Rebecca White, director of Parking & Transportation. “We hope this will encourage more bicycle ridership on Grounds and enhance midday mobility.”
White estimates that each bicycle will be used for five to six trips per day, with a maximum of 90 minutes per day of riding time for a single UBike member. She said there will be additional charges if the bicycle is locked off Grounds or kept beyond 90 minutes in a day.
The system is in beta testing right now. Once it goes live at the beginning of the Spring semester, bicycle users can sign up for UBike online or through a smartphone application, with daily, monthly, semester and annual memberships available at rates from $5 to $80.
During the beta test, 30 bicycles are being deployed for use by students from sustainability groups, with another 90 set to be put into the system following the Thanksgiving break. There will be 18 hubs around Grounds, with 240 slots for bicycles.
Riders are responsible for providing their own helmets, White said.
“These bike-share programs are becoming more and more common,” White said. “They have them is places such as Washington, D.C. and New York City. Some college campuses have them in different forms, such as a ‘bike library,’ where you can ‘check out’ a bike. We decided on this system because we want it to complement the existing transit system and enhance midday mobility options.”
How authorities decide whether a threat is criminal has grown murky in a world where many of us communicate electronically, often on social media.
The clinic is representing Pennsylvania man Anthony Elonis, who was convicted in 2011 of several charges stemming from statements he made on Facebook about his estranged wife and others. At issue in the case is whether the comments, many of which were styled as rap lyrics, constituted a “true threat.”
“Crimes involving pure speech have always been matters of special concern to the court because the threat of criminal punishment has a terrible chilling effect,” Elwood said.
The test many courts use for determining whether a threat is criminal is whether a “reasonable person” would find the speech threatening.
“Especially in the last half-century, the Supreme Court has consistently said that there needs to be breathing room for free speech, and a criminal statute that is based on a negligence standard – that is, that criminal liability is not based on what you actually intend to communicate, it’s based on what a ‘reasonable person’ would have understood – just does not leave the necessary breathing room for free speech,” he said.
Elonis is the 11th case the clinic has taken to the Supreme Court (No. 12, Henderson v. U.S., will be argued in February). Working in teams, students in the clinic handle actual cases, from the seeking of Supreme Court review to briefing on the merits.
“This case is particularly relevant in an age when we increasingly communicate electronically with people we have never met in person,” Elwood said. “People who know me well may know when I’m kidding, but people who are just reading something on Twitter or Facebook may not know that something I’ve written is something that [is meant] facetiously.”
In preparation for argument, the clinic’s 12 students working on the case each contributed 10 unique questions in one aggregated file to help Elwood prepare.
“There’s a real incentive to be one of the first persons in the document, because it’s hard to think of new questions when there are already 100 questions ahead of yours,” he said.
Third-year law student Genevieve Hoffman said part of the clinic’s thrill is seeing a case play out in real time.
“We’re not just discussing arguments or theories in the abstract or after the fact – we’re working on something that actually has an impact in the real world,” she said.
Former clinic student Gillian Giannetti, who graduated in May, worked on the petition to the court earlier this year. One of the trickiest parts was figuring out how to explain Facebook to the justices, she said.
“It’s highly unlikely that any of the justices are familiar with the mechanisms in Facebook, and yet understanding its multiple forms of communication is key to grasping the issues in Elonis,” Giannetti said. “I had to learn to explain how Facebook works, and breaking down something that is so second nature to my generation was a real challenge.”
Facebook wasn’t the only pop culture reference at play, said fellow May graduate Ben Aiken, another former clinic student who is now clerking for a federal appellate judge.
“Justices Scalia and Ginsburg are notorious opera lovers, and we had to argue, in part, that our clients’ comments were rap lyrics – we even quoted Eminem. And we had to pull all that off in a relatively few number of pages,” Aiken said. (Slate legal reporter Dahlia Lithwick wrote about schooling the court on the rap references in September.)
Before the case was taken, Aiken said he and other students haunted the SCOTUSblog Monday morning chats, when the blog would announce which cases would be granted. When they finally heard the news, the texts and emails flew back and forth among the clinic students.
“It was tremendously satisfying to see that all of our hard work on behalf of Anthony had paid off,” Aiken said. “Now all we need to do is win.”
Meanwhile, at the First Amendment Clinic …
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, which Wheeler co-directs, has long been involved with true threat cases, Wheeler said. In Elonis’ famous 2003 precedent, Virginia v. Black, which involved questions surrounding cross-burning, the center and the clinic filed an amicus brief and worked with the counsel for Klansman Barry Black at every stage of the litigation.
“This was an issue with which we felt we had a certain degree of familiarity,” said Wheeler, who is also a 1992 graduate of the Law School. The First Amendment Clinic typically files at least one Supreme Court amicus brief a year and numerous other cases in federal and state courts around the country.
The First Amendment Clinic wrote the only amicus brief last spring urging the Supreme Court to take Elonis. Wheeler and the clinic’s students hoped to fill in their neighboring clinic’s key arguments.
“We always ask ourselves, ‘What can we bring to the table that’s not already there?’” Wheeler said.
The clinic first discussed the case with Supreme Court Litigation Clinic professor Dan Ortiz.
“We elaborated on some arguments that they were making but couldn’t spend as much time on, given everything else they were having to argue,” Wheeler said.
When arguing why the court needed to revisit the issue of what constitutes a true threat, Wheeler pointed back to Virginia v. Black and the confusion it sowed in the lower courts.
“The court articulated, better than it had before, what constitutes a true threat, but what was apparently unclear from the court’s decision was whether the government has to prove that the person making the threat had the specific intent to threaten somebody, or is it just enough that a reasonable person would perceive the statement as a threat, even if the speaker didn’t intend it to be threatening? And that was the question presented to the Supreme Court in the petition for certiori,” Wheeler said.
Elonis also offers the court a chance to address new questions.
“Does, or should, the definition of true threat vary if that threat is made on the Internet, which has become a much more common means of communication even in the few years since Virginia v. Black was decided?” he asked. “We argued that this case presents an ideal opportunity to decide whether the current true threats document is compatible with new modes of communication.”
When the court agreed in June to hear the case, it also asked for clarification on whether Congress intended for the federal threat statute to have an intent requirement or not, which may signal the case could be decided on statutory grounds.
“That has a lot of people predicting the court’s not going to address the constitutional issue,” he said.
The clinic also filed an amicus brief on the merits in August, and the clinic recently held a substantive conversation and posed questions to Elwood.