Comments on the Rolling Stone article and sexual assault
The events described in the recent article in Rolling Stone magazine are deeply disturbing and should prompt us to redouble our efforts to combat sexual assault. I have conveyed my serious concerns to University administrators and believe it is proper that they have turned this case over to the Charlottesville Police Department.
While sexual assault is not a problem unique to UVa, that fact should not obscure our responsibility to confront this problem directly. Our great University should not and cannot become a poster child for inaction. UVa and the Commonwealth should be leaders in addressing a problem that is increasing in severity. The 2014 report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault study reported that:
- One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college.
- Undergraduate women are most likely to be raped during the first six weeks of their first semester of college.
- Campus assailants are often serial offenders. This is perhaps the most shocking fact of all.
President Teresa Sullivan and Rector George Martin have both issued statements decrying the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. But, as they acknowledge, words alone will not suffice. UVa is one of twelve schools in the country under a U.S. Department of Education Compliance Review; it will immediately need to increase its efforts to combat this very serious problem within the community. This includes both continuing to challenge its students on the need to report sexual assault and requiring university officials to report offenses when made aware. It means encouraging these allegations to be handled as criminal misconduct rather than treating them as “honor offenses”. It means continuing to confront and eliminate a culture of alcohol and drug abuse. It means taking swift and firm action against individuals who engage in these activities, as well as the organizations such as fraternities and sororities who condone such behavior. If the facts of this case are supported, there should be serious criminal and civil sanctions directed at the fraternity and the members who were involved.
As a city and region, we should increase our police presence in the Rugby Road area. The University should also increase its own security measures. And as a Commonwealth, we should seek changes in law that will encourage victims and universities to report this behavior and expel students guilty of this egregious activity. The Governor recently established a Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, and they will begin reporting recommendations very soon. We should enact legislation that requires universities to develop vigorous reporting policies involving sexual misconduct and requirements that universities mark the transcripts of students convicted of sexual misconduct so that if they seek to transfer, the next institution would have the benefit of this information. Another option involves legislation or regulation designed to crack down on fraternities which are operating as “de facto” clubs without liquor licenses.
The Charlottesville Police Department is now involved investigating these allegations; we should let them do their work expeditiously and unencumbered. But while they do, we need to examine new policies. And I will continue to encourage the University to do much more to address this problem.
As always, I am honored to represent this community and encourage individuals to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 UVa’s policy on Student Sexual Misconduct provides information for victims and encourages reporting. It is designed to encourage a culture of reporting. It only tangentially mentions the obligations of others at the University to report. Many do not realize that as of August, 2014, many UVa employees became mandatory reporters of sexual misconduct. This would include most members of the faculty and administration, and the reporting would be to UVa’s Title IX Coordinator through a secure website. Ironically, the University published a new Student Sexual Misconduct Policy on November 19, which is now open for comment. Comment period ends December 5, 2014.