Students respond to Rolling Stone's reported discrepancies

Several express confusion amid allegations, strong desire for continued dialogue

Students responded in force to reports Friday which alleged that some claims in last month’s Rolling Stone article, detailing a gang rape at the University in 2012, may be false. A statement by Phi Kappa Psi fraternity outlined an internal investigation which found a number of the details presented in the article are possibly untrue.

Many University students have expressed anger and frustration with the magazine’s handling of the case, confused about the alleged crime and how to respond to its negative portrayal of the University.

"But now, for it to be that there
are some things that weren’t accurate,
I don’t know what to think.”

Second-year College student Erin O’Reilly said the emotional nature of the article itself should have warranted a more thorough investigation from the beginning.

“This brought up a lot of emotions for a lot of people here," she said. "To think that [Erdely] didn’t do her due diligence, it’s very upsetting. When the article came out it was inflammatory. … I had thought that Rolling Stone was reliable and would back this up. But now, for it to be that there are some things that weren’t accurate, I don’t know what to think.”

Many still said the original article is valuable for the attention it has drawn — both at the University and nationally — to sexual assault on Grounds and other college campuses.

"I think that was Rolling Stone’s
goal all along
and they just needed a dramatic
story to get attention on it.
It’s unfortunate that it had to be U.Va.,
but I think they accomplished their goal."

Second-year College student Grant Schwab said the value of article is not lost by its possible inaccuracies, and the only thing the student body should be focusing on is how the article has brought the issue of sexual assault into the spotlight.

“I think it’s still important, I think we still need to value it for giving life to an issue that not only exists here, at U.Va., but also around the country, and I think that’s all we should think about. Period,” Schwab said. “You can say what you want about the article from Rolling Stone, how it’s bad journalism or it doesn’t do its purpose; it still doesn’t matter as the article is still important.”

Second-year College student Ben Lowery said he thought it was Rolling Stone’s goal all along to bring attention to sexual assault.

“I think it’s good that there’s now national spotlight on this issue of sexual assault," Lowery said. "I think that was Rolling Stone’s goal all along and they just needed a dramatic story to get attention on it. It’s unfortunate that it had to be U.Va., but I think they accomplished their goal.”

Lowery said the article has been beneficial in affording the community the ability to discuss this issue in new and broader settings.

“Most of the professors and TAs were open to talk about it and allowed for conversation if anyone wanted it,” he said. “I think a lot of people were obviously pretty shocked but I think we did a good job of coming together in response to it.”

Others were angry about the manner in which the Rolling Stone approached the story, especially its portrayal of Jackie. Monika Zinn, a second-year in the College, said the magazine was working in their own self-interest and in doing so took advantage of Jackie’s circumstances.

“I think the journalist’s work was done in a very self-serving way,” Zinn said. “She took advantage of Jackie’s trauma, which I believe happened whether or not the details are as written. She wrote an article that claimed to be standing for Jackie and now under the public’s scrutinization has thrown Jackie under the bus.”

Schwab agreed, saying this detracted from the good the magazine had done by publishing the original article.

“They put down Jackie in a way in saying that she was not as reliable as they thought she was. I thought that was wrong,” Schwab said. “To vilify a victim like that, you’re going against the original point of the article, which was to go about sexual assault and recognize how pervasive and evil it is, and here they are not giving a survivor their due respect.”

In Rolling Stone's letter announcing the reported discrepancies in the original article, Managing Editor Will Dana said the magazine's "trust in [Jackie] was misplaced."

"I’ve already heard people saying that Jackie
lied and saying that U.Va. isn't that bad,
but we’re still under investigation
and that doesn’t change that at all."

First-year College student Ava Koenigsberg said Jackie should not be blamed in this situation or treated antagonistically, as such an approach would detract from progress the University can make to address sexual violence.

“We’ve already seen the way it [the article] has affected some people," Koenigsberg said. "I’ve already heard people saying that Jackie lied and saying that U.Va. isn't that bad, but we’re still under investigation and that doesn’t change that at all. We still have to re-examine everything that’s going on. I just feel like this article took the wind out of the sails out of the movement and we’re going to lose the urgency to change.”

Second-year College student Christiana Nguyen shared Koenigsberg's fear, saying recent events may even discourage future survivors from coming forward and reporting the violence against them.

“I’m really angry about the Rolling Stone’s post, even more after their retraction,” Nguyen said. “If Jackie isn’t lying, but just has some discrepancies, now people are further discouraged from reporting rape stories.”

Despite initially intense reactions, many students said they were waiting for more evidence on both sides to come to light before they made conclusive judgments.

“I thought [Phi Psi's] press release was everything it needed to be. It was neither good nor bad, they gave facts,” Schwab said. “For now we have to believe them, and I have no reason not to. Innocent until proven guilty, and it seems like they’re innocent. I’m not going to pass judgment.”

"I think we can all agree that even
if the article is in some ways false —
which would be in many ways tragic —
it wouldn’t take away from the fact that
there is a real problem on this campus
like there are at many colleges."

Jack Brake, a first-year College student, agreed, saying it is too early to draw conclusions. Furthermore, when people do start making conclusions about this particular case, Brake said it should be done in a way which doesn’t bear judgment on all issues of sexual misconduct.

“I don’t think that people should really be drawing conclusions about what's true and what’s not true right now because everything seems to be so up in the air,” he said. “I would urge people to wait until we have a more complete picture of the facts before making any conclusion — and I hope that when people do make their conclusion they’re able to go about it in a way that divorces the particular circumstance described in the article from the larger issue of sexual assault.”

Brake said he hopes the University community will continue to address the broader issue of sexual assault moving forward.

“I think we can all agree that even if the article is in some ways false — which would be in many ways tragic — it wouldn’t take away from the fact that there is a real problem on this campus like there are at many colleges,” Brake said.

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