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All the news you missed this summer

Lawsuit updates, the Strategic Investment Fund and other headlines from the past few months

Strategic Investment Fund controversy

The University’s Strategic Investment Fund has been the source of a lot of controversy this summer.

Former Board of Visitors member and Rector Helen Dragas left the board in June after serving two consecutive four-year terms.

After resigning, Dragas published an op-ed in the Washington Post in which she accused the University of irresponsible spending, highlighting the existence of a $2.3 billion dollar reserve which she referred to as a “slush fund” created to support University “pet projects.”

The fund — formally known as the Strategic Investment Fund— was included in the University’s 2013 Cornerstone Plan and officially received its name from the Board in 2016, according to Chief Operating Officer Pat Hogan. Hogan said the fund was established according to procedural rules in order to improve infrastructure and hire new faculty.

Dragas, however, was later joined by several Virginia legislators with inquiries about the origin and transparency of the fund this summer.

In a letter addressed to President Teresa Sullivan and current Rector William Goodwin Jr., legislators requested a “fulsome response” be provided about the financial makeup and origin of the fund, which they claim was created prior to the Board’s approval. In the letter, legislators said they were disappointed with the amount of documentation provided by administrators and demanded recent tuition raises be canceled “not next year, but now.”

Sullivan responded to the letter by stating all relevant records were accessible and the University is cooperating with all inquiries.

University sends 18 to Rio games

The University sent 18 representatives to the Summer Olympics in Rio this year.

Two current students competed in events — fourth-year College student Leah Smith and fourth-year College student Filip Mihaljevic. Smith participated in the 400-meter and 800-meter freestyle as well as the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. She won a bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle on Aug. 7. A track and field participant, Mihaljevic competed in shot put.

Other University representatives include coaches and alumni.

Feds open new Title IX investigation

The Department of Education opened a new Title IX investigation July 22 about the University’s procedures handling sexual assault cases.

The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights said the investigation stems from a complaint filed by a male student who claims he was treated unfairly during a Title IX case.

The student — who remains anonymous — claims he was discriminated against on the basis of his gender and an unnamed disability.

The current investigation is unrelated to the previous four-year investigation into the University’s Title IX policies which concluded last September and resulted in an overhaul of the University’s policies regarding sexual assault cases, according to the DOE.

Rolling Stone suit dismissed

On June 28, a federal judge dismissed the defamation suit filed by three University alumni against Rolling Stone about the now-retracted article “A Rape on Campus.”

The alumni — George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford and Ross Fowler — were members of the University’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and claimed the details included in the article could lead others to believe they participated in the alleged rape depicted in the article.

Judge P. Kevin Castel, however, ruled that any details in the article were too vague to specifically incriminate the plaintiffs and dismissed the suit.

Eramo’s defamation suit continues

Former University Dean Nicole Eramo’s defamation suit against Rolling Stone, author Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Wenner Media is ongoing. Eramo filed a motion requesting partial summary judgment in July, to which defendants responded with a motion for summary judgment.

The judge has yet to respond to either the defendants' motion or the plaintiff’s motion for prior judgment. The case is set to be heard in court in October of this year.

Professor faces child porn charges

The University Police Department charged Assoc. Prof. Walter Francis Korte, Jr. with two counts of possession of child pornography on Aug. 2. Korte — who is also the Drama Department’s director of film studies — was denied bond by the Albemarle County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

He is currently being held at the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail until further court proceedings, which are yet to be announced.

SYC president announces he will step down for the fall

Second Year Council President Ahmad Shawwal announced on July 24 he will be stepping down from the presidency for the fall semester and SYC Vice President Floyd Black will fill his position.

Shawwal, who is a second-year Engineering student, will be taking a semester off from the University for personal reasons.

Shawwal previously held the position of First Year Council President and was elected to serve on the Second Year Council in February.

Shawwal said he will return to the University in spring 2017, though his role with the SYC is yet to be determined.