The Cavalier Daily takes a look back over the past academic year.
OCR Review: Sept. 21, 2015
In September 2015, the Office for Civil Rights announced that the University’s sexual assault policies were now in compliance with Title IX requirements after a four-year compliance investigation.
University President Teresa Sullivan signed an agreement to release the OCR findings to the public, but the agreement was not an admittance of guilt in not complying to Title IX requirements. The University had not been compliant with the regulations from the 2008-2009 academic year through the 2011-12 academic year.
Out of 50 reports of sexual harassment made at the University between the four-year period studied, the University was found to have failed to take “prompt and equitable action” in 22 cases and to have failed to eliminate a “hostile environment.”
The resolution established mandatory climate assessments and the formation of a Student Campus Climate Committee as well as new responsibilities and training requirements for the University’s Title IX coordinator.
Later, in November 2015, The Washington Post reported that state legislators and University administration had tried to influence the release of the OCR’s report and findings. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Sullivan had all attempted to urge the OCR to allow the University to see the review before its public release.
In March 2016, a previously omitted letter detailing the unrevised findings of the OCR’s investigation was released. The 39-page letter — which was obtained by The Washington Post through the Freedom of Information Act — was sent to Sullivan Aug. 31, 2015, and retracted Sept. 1, 2015. The revised letter was sent to Sullivan Sept. 19 and reduced to 26 pages.
The letter had originally contained 13 sexual assault cases that would be redacted from the report. These cases showed that the University did not take sufficient action when certain cases came to the attention of the administration. The revised letter describes more broadly cases of sexual assault and misconduct instead of containing the original case descriptions.
A statement from the University stated that the original letter was originally retracted because it contained factual inaccuracies and currently “does not represent the final outcome of the Office for Civil Rights compliance review.”
Campus Climate Survey: Sept. 21, 2015
In late September, the Association of American Universities, in conjunction with the University, released results of the University’s first Campus Climate Survey.
The survey reported that nearly one in four undergraduate women reported experiencing sexual assault or sexual misconduct, while more than two-thirds of University students are not confident the University would take action against an offender if an assault were reported.
One interesting trend the survey identified was a pronounced difference between students in their perception of the question of whether or not a victim of sexual assault would find adequate support in the University community and administration. Men were more likely to believe a victim would find the support they needed than women were.
One positive metric identified by the survey was that University students are generally more aware of “resources, policies and procedures surrounding sexual assault.” Advocacy groups and NGOs like Green Dot, One in Four, One Less and Hoos Got Your Back have had an increasingly significant presence on Grounds.
“Although we recognize the many past mistakes with regards to the treatment of survivors’ stories and reports, it is clear that the University has made crucial steps towards fostering an environment conducive to reporting and comprehensive, fair adjudication,” One Less and One in Four said in a September statement.
BSA Open Letter: Oct. 7, 2015
On Oct. 7, then-Black Student Alliance President Aryn Frazier, a third-year College student, released a letter to the University community criticizing the Office of African American Affairs. The criticism resulted from OAAA’s Strategic Outcomes for 2015-16 where they stated changes regarding “containing, limiting and overseeing black student leaders.”
The letter — written by Frazier and co-signed by six CIOs — stated student unease with the office’s supervision of black student organizations as well as use of phrases such as “wreak havoc” in regard to the student body.
In the letter, Frazier demanded a meeting within the next 10 days between the Office of African American Affairs and the student body. OAAA Dean Maurice Appre said Frazier misunderstood the intentions of OAAA’s stated goal, outlined in the duties of Michael Mason, the director of the Luther P. Jackson Black Cultural Center.
Apprey said the outlined goals would give students more control over dispersal of funds and spheres of influence. Frazier said phrases like “wreak havoc” cannot be easily misconstrued. The next day, the OAAA responded directly to the letter. In his response, Apprey said the passage referenced was pulled out of context.
BSA held a closed meeting the next week to discuss the open letter. During the meeting, those in attendance read a private letter Apprey sent to Frazier in which he voiced his frustration with Frazier about her not handling her concerns privately with the OAAA. In addition, student groups who cosigned the letter expressed concern with the matter of delivery and the context of the statement upon which the letter was based.
Phi Psi files lawsuit: Nov. 9, 2015
On November 9, 2015, the University chapter of Phi Kappa Psi filed a $25 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone Magazine, Wenner Media, LLC, Straight Arrow Publishers, LLC and Sabrina Erdely. Erdely wrote a piece for Rolling Stone, published November 19, 2014, detailing an alleged rape that took place at Phi Kappa Psi in 2012.
The article was retracted following a Washington Post investigation that discovered discrepancies in the story, and a police investigation which could not determine the rape actually occurred.
“Rolling Stone and Erdely had an agenda, and they were recklessly oblivious to the harm they would cause innocent victims in their ruthless pursuit of that agenda,” the lawsuit reads.
Additionally, George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford and Ross Fowler, former students and members of Phi Kappa Psi, filed a lawsuit for $75,000 in July 2015.
Court documents state that their filing was on the grounds that the article caused them emotional and professional distress due to the negligence of Erdely and Rolling Stone.
Erdely, Wenner Media and Rolling Stone filed a motion on Dec. 23, 2015, stating that the plaintiff’s complaints were invalid because the article did not specifically implicate them or say the alleged rape was an initiation ritual.
Terrorist Attacks: Paris: Nov. 13, 2015; Brussels: Nov. 27, 2016
Paris and Brussels both experienced deadly terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, 2015 and Mar. 22, 2016 respectively. With around 2,000 University students studying abroad every year, threats of terrorism have become a growing concern.
As a precautionary measure, the University has an emergency plan that includes emergency evacuation assistance and security intelligence services.
These institutions provide the University with constant updates during emergency situations, ensuring the knowledge on the whereabouts of University students during these crises.
Third-year College student Margaret Mester, who studied abroad during the fall 2015 semester in Lyon, France, said the University’s measures were effective in making her feel safe.
“U.Va. provided us with on-site program directors that acted as intermediaries between the University and Lyon throughout the whole process,” Mester said. “Their support during and after the Paris terror attacks was comforting and made the situation feel less foreign.”
However, not all students felt the same level of comfort. Third-year college student Bridget Inglima was studying in Paris during the attack — which killed 130 people — and decided she had to leave in order to feel safe.
“I knew that I wouldn't feel safe doing simple things like taking the metro anymore,” Inglima said. “My parents also factored into my decision, because I knew that if I stayed they would be worried sick for a month straight.”
There were two students studying in Brussels during the March 22 attack, as well as one who was there for spring break travel. They were all unharmed.
New football coach hired: Dec. 4, 2015
Former football head coach Mike London resigned November 29, 2015 after a season-ending loss to Virginia Tech. Former Brigham Young University football coach Bronco Mendenhall was chosen as his successor.
During his 11-year run at BYU, Mendenhall compiled a 99-43 record, compared to London’s six-year record of 27-46. Only one of London’s assistants remains on Mendenhall’s staff.
Cavalier fans should have high hopes for this season. During Mendenhall’s tenure as head coach, BYU never had a losing season. Before Mendenhall’s arrival, BYU had three consecutive losing seasons. London will assume the position of associate head coach at the University of Maryland, College Park for next fall’s season.
Otto Warmbier detained in North Korea: Jan. 2, 2016
Third-year Commerce student Otto Warmbier was arrested and detained in North Korea Jan. 2 for a “hostile act” against the country.
Warmbier was on a trip with Young Pioneer Tours — a travel agency which provides tours to North Korea — when he was arrested. In March, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the North Korean state.
In February, Warmbier confessed to steaming a political banner from the Yanggakdo International Hotel where he stayed. Warmbier claimed involvement with the Z Society, Friendship United Methodist Church and the U.S. Government.
In his press conference where he confessed to committing a “hostile act,” Warmbier said these groups encouraged him to steal the banner. However, church officials said Warmbier is not a member of the church.
During his detainment, confirmed by the U.S. State Department in March, Warmbier was visited by a representative from the Swedish Embassy.
University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said the University would not offer additional comment in light of Warmbier’s sentencing.
Warmbier’s family has not been in contact with him and have only seen a few photos of him since his detainment in January.
Honor referenda and student elections: Feb. 26, 2016
In February, the University Board of Elections held a vote for two options concerning Honor’s single sanction system.
Option 1 reinforced the existing single sanction system, under which University students found guilty of committing an honor offense are expelled.
It updated the constitution’s language to reflect that “conscientious retraction” had become an option under the single sanction system, allowing students to admit to honor offenses before an investigation against them begins in order to face milder consequences.
Option 2, which read, “The Honor Committee shall have the power to exclude permanently from student status or impose lesser sanctions to University students found to have committed Honor violations,” would have allowed the Honor Committee to change its by-laws, effectively giving it the ability to implement a multi-sanction system.
Currently, if students admit to an honor offense after being notified of an ongoing investigation, they face a two-semester suspension. This proceeding is known as an informed retraction.
Honor requires a supermajority of 60 percent in order to alter its constitution. The proposal for a multi-sanction system received only 58.9 percent of the 7,553 votes cast, just 1.1 percent less than required to alter the constitution.
The election also determined who would be the representatives for Student Council, Honor, UJC and others. The entire student body was eligible to vote, and of the 22,047 possible voters, 22.91 percent responded.
Emily Lodge, a third-year Batten student and former Student Council vice president of organizations, upset incumbent Student Council President and third-year College student Abraham Axler. She won 55.45 percent of the total 5,460 votes with 3,028 votes.
Jesse Matthew pleads guilty: March 2, 2016
Jesse Matthew Jr. pleaded guilty to the murders of late Univeristy student Hannah Graham and late Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington at the Albemarle Circuit County Court March 2, 2016.
Matthew was charged with capital murder of Graham and first degree murder of Harrington. He was also charged with abduction with intent to defile for both cases. Matthew was arrested for Graham’s abduction in Galveston, Texas, in September 2014.
Matthew fled Virginia after the Charlottesville Police Department labeled him a person of interest in their investigation. Graham was last seen on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall in September 2014, and Harrington disappeared from a Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena in Oct. 2009.
Matthew is serving seven life sentences for the murders of Graham in 2014 and Harrington in 2009, in addition to a sexual assault in Fairfax County in 2005. As part of his plea, Matthew waived his right to apply for early release, conditional release and parole.
NCAA Tournament hopes: March 27, 2016
The Virginia men’s basketball team made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over 20 years, but missed a shot at the team’s first Final Four run since 1984 after a loss to Syracuse.
Swim Team hazing lawsuit reaches settlement: March 28, 2016
In August 2015, a trial date was set for September 2016 in a hazing lawsuit against five former University swimmers. Plaintiff Anthony Marcantonio filed the suit, stating that first-year members were subjected to a number of hazing activities, ranging from being forced to eat a goldfish to unwanted sexual contact.
The defendants included his former teammates Kyle Dudzinski, Luke Papendick, Charles Rommel, David Ingraham and Jacob Pearce. All five had been suspended from the team for the fall 2014 semester. Marcantonio would later void his contract with the team and transfer to Northwestern University.
In December 2015, the defendants called for the dismissal of all charges brought by the suit. Defense for the former team members stated that the charges should be dismissed because first-year team members were not forced to participate and had remained at the swim house voluntarily.
The judge would conclude that their motion would be “granted in part and denied in part,” based on the analysis of each party's allegations.
The settlement was reached March 28, 2016, and a joint statement was released by the defendants that stated their innocence, but also acknowledged that several activities conducted were inappropriate. As part of the settlement, Marcantonio dropped several allegations from the suit, including that the plaintiff was not required to consume alcohol and he was not subject to sexual assault or battery.
The terms of the settlement were confidential and further discussion of what was detailed in the agreement is not permitted.
Jackie deposed in Eramo lawsuit: April 7, 2016
Jackie, the center of the November 2014 article “A Rape on Campus,” was deposed in former University Assoc. Dean Nicole Eramo is lawsuit against Rolling Stone Magazine, Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Wenner Media for defamation. Eramo is seeking $7.5 million in compensatory damages for the article.
Jackie — the main source used by author Sabrina Rubin Erdely and a third-party to the lawsuit — was asked to release emails and text messages between her and Erdely.
Libby Locke, a lawyer representing Eramo, told the Washington Post this was because “Jackie was the primary source for Rolling Stone’s false and defamatory article,” and that Rolling Stone “knew she was an unreliable source.”
Judge Glen E. Conrad first ordered Jackie to be deposed in February. Eramo’s lawyers sought to gain additional time for questioning Jackie in response.
Jackie’s lawyers additionally said going through with the deposition cause Jackie “severe harm,” according to court documents. The deposition will be the first time she will testify under oath, as she has not spoken with law enforcement.
Tuition hikes: April 14, 2016
On February 19, the University’s Board of Visitors Finance Committee authorized an increase in in-state tuition between 2.1 and 3 percent for the coming academic year.
The tuition increase, which was already historically low, was lowered further, the University announced April 14.
The budget allotted over $1.2 billion to the University for the fiscal years 2017 and 2018. This was more than the Board of Visitors anticipated, and as a result the proposed tuition increases to in-state tuition were cut in half to 1.5 percent.
Chalking on Grounds: April 19, 2016
Controversial chalk messages appeared on Grounds in the early morning of April 18. The initial messages targeted minority and transgender individuals reading “Confused about your gender? Look down your pants.”
In response, the Black Student Alliance and Queer Student Union held chalking events to promote positive messages. However, the new chalkings were also defaced. One message stating “We don’t stand for bigotry” had the word “don’t” washed away to read “We stand for bigotry.”
Several University groups and officials released statements condemning the chalking messages which targeted transgender and minority student. Dean of Students Allen Groves, Patricia Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer and Maurice Apprey, dean of the Office of African-American Affairs released a statement the next day saying, “The statements can only be characterized as racist and transphobic.”
On April 19, the Z Society sent Bodo’s bagels, flowers and a supportive note to the LGBTQ Center. The BSA and Student Council also released statements in response to the original chalking messages.
The series of events raised questions about the First Amendment and free speech. The University’s official chalking policy regulates where chalking can occur but not what can be written.
John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said once chalking is permitted on Grounds, the University cannot prohibit certain messages that discriminate against particular viewpoints.
Ari Cohn, a representative from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, said chalking would only fringe on an individual’s rights if it contains speech not protected by the First Amendment, such as speech that incites violence.