The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

​KHAN: Don’t stand with students too soon

The Managing Board’s responses to both the Rolling Stone article and Martese Johnson’s arrest have been inappropriate

After countless articles, international news coverage and a University left on edge, the inquiry into the case of Jackie’s alleged rape has finally been suspended. Yesterday, Charlottesville police, after conducting an investigation of over 70 individuals, formally halted further work on the case reporting they were “not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident that is specific to the facts contained in that [Rolling Stone] article occurred”.

When Jackie’s allegations first came out, The Cavalier Daily was quick to provide their fullest empathy to Jackie. The 125th Managing Board sided with her, students outsiders wrote op-eds abhorring the alleged incident and the University went into a state of mourning. The more shocking article came weeks after the incident when The Washington Post broke the news that the story as portrayed by its author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, contained factual inconsistencies. Slowly, the holes in the story grew wider and wider, with arguments promoting Jackie’s descriptions of the events falling apart. Today’s police reports confirm that Jackie’s story was just that: a story.

Last week’s events on the Corner saw The Cavalier Daily quickly stand for Martese Johnson in a similar way to how the previous Managing Board did for Jackie months ago. In “We’re here for Martese,” this Managing Board asserted its position the day after the incident that “Whatever details may surface, a member of our community was hurt. . . in a space where he is supposed to feel safe.” Yet such assertions are weak because details in events like this do matter; details about Martese’s behavior with the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control and the status of his ID are key in understanding what happened that night. To wave them off with a simple “whatever” is misleading. Although reacting to situations quickly and formulating opinions on the fly are essential in news reporting, hastily taking “stands” on situations where many details are yet to be revealed is bad journalism.

When the article was published, there were few details known about the incident. A much-needed Cavalier Daily interview with Trinity’s owner only later showed that Martese had been cordial; it was then revealed that he hadn't been belligerently drunk or used a fake ID, though other details still remain hazy. Clearly, we can see the incident did not so much stem from Martese’s behavior, but rather from overzealous and potentially racist ABC agents. Whether the agents were motivated to arrest Martese based on his race is an entirely different story, but it is impossible to know the true intentions and motivations of the officers that night. But these important bits of evidence showing Martese’s relative innocence were not publicly known when the Managing Board wrote its article advocating for Martese on the 19th. In supporting Martese before details were known, the Managing Board was jumping the gun, pushing out the wishy washy opinion that we should always “put our peers first” when it was still unclear what exactly our peer had done.

Organizations like Black Dot and and the Black Student Alliance also took immediate action in setting up forums and rallies, but their activities are more justifiable considering they are black student groups aimed to offer a community and voice for black students on grounds. When individuals from a discriminated minority are brutalized by a law enforcement agency, there is a tendency for minority communities to see such actions as part of the larger framework of discrimination. And there is nothing wrong with that, especially considering the very recent contexts of similar police brutality incidents in which race was no doubt a factor. Contrast this with the position of The Cavalier Daily, a newspaper whose main job is to report the news and make informed opinions. While “We’re here for Martese” was no doubt an opinion piece, it was also written by the Managing Board, the heart and soul of the newspaper. The fact that the article itself mentions the lack of facts, and then proceeds to take a stance anyway, is disheartening, only further proving that the Managing Board’s reaction was a knee jerk one.

For strictly news-based reporting, an emphasis on speedy reporting isn't so reprehensible, and The Cavalier Daily staff has done a tremendous job this past year of providing coverage, exclusive interviews and diverse opinions on news that matters to University students. But informed opinions should wait to be published, written only after sufficient evidence exists regarding a controversial incident. Such evidence was not gathered at the time of Jackie’s story, nor was it gathered for “We’re here for Martese”; I personally “stood with Martese” only after the Trinity interview divulged details of his relative calm. The Managing Board is tasked with the difficult duty of publishing daily, so it is understandable that members of it would want to write about the news at hand. Still, “We’re here for Martese” is revelatory of the Managing Board’s propensity to take stands too quickly. The best opinions aren't ones that are emotionally fueled or take the popular stand, but the ones supported by details and evidence.

Hasan Khan is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at


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