December 3, 2014
Late in a day of unrest Thursday on Grounds, University of Virginia officials announced the appointment of former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip to lead a review of the school’s policy and procedures for dealing with sexual assaults.
A statement from Rector George Keith Martin released just after 8 p.m. broke a nearly daylong silence from university leaders, including President Teresa A. Sullivan, in the wake of allegations of a September 2012 gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi house at UVa. An account of the attack detailed in a nearly 9,000-word story in Rolling Stone ignited a storm of scrutiny Wednesday.
Earlier in a day when hundreds of students rallied and vandals shattered windows and spray-painted messages of protest on the walls of the house on Madison Lane, Phi Kappa Psi voluntarily surrendered its fraternal agreement with UVa and suspended all chapter activities. Charlottesville police are investigating the rape allegations at Sullivan’s request.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe spoke by phone Thursday with Sullivan and Martin about the case.
“We are in agreement that a full and fair investigation must be pursued,” the governor said in a statement, “and I have called for a zero tolerance strategy to combat campus sexual assault.”
Jointly named to lead the review by Martin and state Attorney General Mark Herring, Filip belonged to a Phi Kappa Psi chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and served as acting attorney general for two weeks in 2009 before being replaced by Eric Holder. He was deputy attorney general for nine months before that under President George W. Bush.
Now a senior partner at the firm Kirkland and Ellis, Filip will be tasked with examining the university’s processes and policies, with particular attention to how school leaders respond in situations where an assault victim does not wish to pursue criminal action, according to Martin’s release. The unidentified woman in the Rolling Stone story did not report the incident to police, the magazine says.
“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,” Martin stated. “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.”
Martin did not respond to an interview request.
During a talk Thursday at The Lodge at Old Trail in Crozet, Leonard Sandridge Jr. — the university’s former executive vice president and chief operating officer — said the school needs to create a culture that will encourage victims to come forward.
That will not be an easy task, he said. “I can tell you that every other college in the country is dealing with it as well, and it is tragic,” he said.
Rolling Stone’s story describes a first-year student in September 2012 being raped by seven men in an upstairs room at Phi Kappa Psi. The woman is currently a third-year student at the university, the magazine says.
Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday that the university was unaware of many of the details in the story.
The national chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said in a statement late Wednesday that it had no knowledge of any criminal investigation or charges of sexual assault brought against any member of the UVa chapter. The statement said information regarding the story was not shared with the national fraternity before the article was released. The fraternity pledged to fully cooperate with investigators.
“We take this matter — and these allegations — very seriously,” the statement said. “First and foremost, we do not condone violence under any circumstances; gender-based and sexual violence is particularly heinous. It is antithetical to the morals and founding principles of our Fraternity, and we condemn it unequivocally. We remain actively and aggressively committed to ending these inexcusable forms of violence not only in the Greek community, but across all campus communities at large.”
The fraternity has faced sexual assault allegations before.
After an Oct. 17 event at the Brown University chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, a student tested positive for the date-rape drug, gamma hydroxybutyrate, also known as GHB. Two students reported rapid intoxication followed by memory loss after drinking punch at a fraternity party. One student reported being sexually assaulted.
University officials suspended the fraternity. In a letter to The Brown Daily Herald, fraternity members said they were confident no member engaged in such behavior and no members were charged.
In 2011, a woman said she was sexually assaulted at a Phi Kappa Psi party at Butler University in Indianapolis. The fraternity was ordered to cease operations. In 2012, a woman claimed she was drugged at a party there.
UVa’s Alpha chapter of Phi Kappa Psi was founded in 1853, making it one of the oldest on Grounds. According to its website, it has initiated 1,400 brothers, including President Woodrow Wilson. UVa’s chapter was the second Phi Kappa Psi in the country.
City and UVa police began extra patrols in the area of the Phi Kappa Psi house Wednesday, Pleasants said.
Overnight, vandals threw bottles and chunks of cinderblock through windows at Phi Kappa Psi. Spray-painted on the house were the phrases “Stop Raping People,” “Suspend Us!” and “UVa Center for Rape Studies.” City police said they’re investigating. An anonymous group of UVa students released a letter to media claiming responsibility. The group demanded the fraternity’s expulsion.
The Governing Board of the Inter-Fraternity Council at UVa released a statement saying members were “horrified, disgusted, and viscerally saddened” by the story.
“That some fraternity men commit sexual assault is irreconcilable with everything we hope our community to be, and we are mortified that any fraternity member is responsible for perpetrating such a heinous crime,” they said in the statement.
A council officer was interviewed at length for the Rolling Stone story about the culture of sexual violence at UVa, but wasn’t quoted, according to the statement. In October, Phi Kappa Psi told the council the story was about the local chapter.
The board said it lacks the authority to investigate the claims but will assist and cooperate with the Office of the Dean of Students and city police. In the statement, the board also said it has instituted bystander intervention programs and sexual misconduct education initiatives which are mandatory for every member of an IFC fraternity.
A change.org petition has been created to abolish the Greek system at UVa, with 70 supports as of Thursday night.
“As alumni of UVA — and of the Greek system — we can attest to the insidious culture bred therein,” Saira Rao and Carey Albertine say in the petition. “The only logical response must be to end this culture entirely.”