Police clear U-Va. fraternity, say rape did not happen there By T. Rees Shapiro
A police investigation has cleared a University of Virginia fraternity of any involvement in an alleged gang rape that was detailed in a Rolling Stone magazine story last year, with authorities saying there was “no basis to believe that an incident occurred” at the Phi Kappa Psi house.
U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan approved the full reinstatement of the fraternity chapter Monday after police detectives did not find “any substantive basis to confirm that the allegations raised in the article occurred at Phi Kappa Psi,” university officials said. The announcement came as classes here resumed for the spring semester and three days after Sullivan lifted a months-long freeze on campus Greek life.
The reinstatement also allows Phi Psi to join the ranks of fraternities and sororities now beginning recruitment activities, known as Rush, this week.
“We welcome Phi Kappa Psi, and we look forward to working with all fraternities and sororities in enhancing and promoting a safe environment for all,” Sullivan said in a statement.
Phi Psi was at the center of campus uproar in November after Rolling Stone published a 9,000-word article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, that included a harrowing account of an alleged gang rape at the fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012. A U-Va. junior named Jackie told Rolling Stone, and later The Washington Post, that she was ambushed at a “date function” at Phi Psi a few weeks into her freshman year, with seven fraternity members holding her down and raping her in an upstairs bedroom while two others — including her date — watched and encouraged the attack.
After the Rolling Stone article’s publication, the Phi Psi house was vandalized, students protested outside the historic property, and the fraternity voluntarily suspended its charter at the university as police investigated the allegations.
“We are pleased that the University and the Charlottesville Police Department have cleared our fraternity of any involvement in this case,” Phi Psi President Stephen Scipione, a junior, said Monday. “In today’s 24-hour news cycle, we all have a tendency to rush to judgment without having all of the facts in front of us. As a result, our fraternity was vandalized, our members ostracized based on false information.”
A Post investigation found that the fraternity did not host a date function on the September weekend named in the article and that no Phi Psi brothers resembled the man Jackie described to Rolling Stone as her main attacker. A number of Jackie’s friends and advocates for campus sexual assault awareness also have disputed facts presented in the magazine. In addition, information that Jackie provided to friends about her alleged attacker led to a student who said he had never met her and also to a high school classmate who attends college in a different state, The Post found. In interviews, Jackie told The Post that she stood by the account published in Rolling Stone.
In December, the fraternity issued a statement denying the claims described in Rolling Stone and noted that its own inquiry into the allegations revealed factual errors. Rolling Stone has since apologized for inaccuracies in the article and has asked for an independent review from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Charlottesville police Capt. Gary Pleasants said that although Phi Psi has been cleared, the investigation into the allegations is ongoing.
“We’re still investigating,” Pleasants said. “We found no basis to believe that an incident occurred at that fraternity, so there’s no reason to keep them suspended.”
Last week, Sullivan announced a new contract between the university and fraternities that includes enhanced safety measures for social activities designed to discourage binge drinking.
The university said that Phi Psi was the first fraternity to sign the updated agreement, and fraternity officials said that Phi Psi members have participated in a sexual assault awareness program.
“We believe that in the midst of this ordeal, there is an opportunity for good,” Scipione said. “This has prompted us to take a closer look at ourselves and what role organizations like ours may play in ensuring student safety.”