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President Sullivan addresses Rolling Stone article, University response plan

Sullivan will prioritize investigating and examining policies and issues over school reputation


University President Teresa Sullivan addressed the University community Monday afternoon about how the administration plans to respond to rape, alcohol abuse, danger at fraternity parties and other key issues brought to light following the publication of a Rolling Stone article Nov. 19 which documented several rape allegations by University students. The conference was closed to media, but live-streamed on the University website.

In her address, Sullivan emphasized that the University’s new policies will seek to address the investigations of rape allegations rather than the reputation of the school and its administration.

“How we answer these questions is not about protecting the University’s reputation — it is about doing the right thing,” Sullivan said. “We will not be doing business as usual in spring 2015.”

Sullivan said she was heartened by the passionate response of the community “to condemn the evil acts that have been reported.”

She also highlighted the faculty-wide sexual assault training the University will incorporate into its policies, citing the Green Dot program at the University Women’s Center and the “Victim’s Bill of Rights” written by department of psychology faculty member Joseph Allen. 

Sullivan said she has discussed with Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo about how the University can better engage with law enforcement.

“One thing we know for sure is that survivors need support, and we need to provide it to them,” Sullivan said. “But we also a need a culture in which reporting is valued and supported by everyone who has contact with a survivor. Every faculty member and every staff member is going to learn how to do this.”

Sullivan condemned the University’s binge drinking culture, acknowledging that “binge drinking is a problem for us,” and discussed collaboration with Greek organizations, ADAPT, the Gordie Center and other groups in developing alcohol use policies.

“Women and men should know what they are drinking and who is serving it to them,” Sullivan said. “Alcohol does not cause rape, but alcohol is often the tool of a predator.”

Sullivan also addressed the outcry among community members for an end to Greek life on Grounds.

“In any crisis it can be far too easy to paint with a broad brush, and blindly attack entire groups of individuals,” Sullivan said. “This is not a responsible reaction. It is not fair to fraternity men here who are good and decent people and are just as horrified as we all are about these disgusting allegations and revelations. Moreover, rapes and other sexual assaults occur in apartments, in public venues, and more rarely, in residence halls.”

Social activities have been suspended at all fraternities until next semester while University leaders work with leaders of Greek life to craft new Fraternal Organization Agreements that provide greater safety for guests, Sullivan said.

Fraternal Organization Agreements are made between chapters and the Dean of Students office, and includes requirements for a chapter statement, chapter constitution and chapter house rules, as well the yearly completion of six educational programs and a year-end assessment of goals.

Other programs the University plans to initiate include placing unarmed security personnel around the Corner and Wertland Street areas on weekend nights and providing additional funding for the Women’s Center to hire another trauma counselor.

“It is time for an open discussion about whom we will and will not tolerate among members of this community,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said student involvement in sexual assault trials was “controversial,” but the University must drive institutional changes in college sexual assault.

“Our university has been placed at the center of this crisis,” Sullivan said. “We will not shrink from it. We will lead.”

Sullivan concluded her address by advocating for student safety to improve the educational environment of the University.

“Our mission is to deliver a great educational experience,” Sullivan said. “[It] cannot succeed if students are not safe.”

Sullivan’s full remarks can be found here.