False rape accusation stains Phi Kappa Psi’s legacy

Austin Burmester, Staff Writer

Rolling Stone magazine published an article Nov. 19, 2014 titled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA.”  This article, which Rolling Stone later retracted due to false accusations, claimed members of the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Virginia had gang raped a freshman named Jackie at their fraternity house the night of Sept. 28, 2012.

Since society and the American media often negatively portray fraternities and sororities, this didn’t come as a big shock to many people. Studies have shown 1 in 5 females will experience sexual assault at some point in their four years of college and that fraternity men are 300 percent more likely to be involved in sexual assault.

However, you will never see a viral article about a fraternity raising a lot of money for charity, which happens constantly. Rest assured though, you will always see the negatives of fraternity life in mainstream media. The journalist who wrote the story, Sabrina Erdely, took the word of Jackie and went on with the story without any evidence.

Rolling Stone’s apology reads, “We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and UVA administrators and students.” That’s it. That’s all the fraternity of Phi Kappa Psi received from the magazine. Rolling Stone bashes the Greek life system at UVA, bashes the fraternity name, accuses members of gang rape, and that’s all they get in return?

Once Rolling Stone released this article, students and faculty at the University of Virginia were outraged. The president of UVA decided to suspend all fraternities and sororities immediately. In turn, Phi Kappa Psi’s national leadership shut down their UVA chapter to cooperate with the police investigation and began one of their own. Keep in mind there had still been zero evidence to support the woman’s claims at this point, only her word. Then a police investigation began. You would think a journalist writing for Rolling Stone would’ve gotten quotes from police, the victim’s friends, and the alleged rapists or would’ve asked her source, Jackie, to talk to the police before she decided to write an article with massive accusations.

After many others began to question the story, Erdely did an interview with the Washington Post explaining the steps she took to write the story. It turns out Erdely talked to no one besides Jackie. “I’m satisfied that these guys exist and are real. We knew who they were,” she said.

The story began to unravel when many “facts” in the article turned out to be false. Phi Kappa Psi did not have a party on the night Jackie claimed, her friends didn’t believe her story and the people she named and described in her interview either didn’t exist or were fabricated to some degree.

On April 5, Rolling Stone officially retracted the article after five months in the public eye. There is no way to know how many people read this article before then, thousands, hundreds of thousands; we’ll never know.

Even though Rolling Stone retracted the article and apologized, it is not enough. This article is perfect evidence of how the media and the people in this country portray fraternities. I’m not going to sit here and pretend a member of a fraternity has never raped a girl, because that has happened before, but you shouldn’t judge a community as a whole by the actions of a few individuals.

Although law enforcement never confirmed the accusations in the Rolling Stone article, this is yet another stain on the Greek community, especially the fraternity system at UVA, which will forever be tainted with this national story of gang rape. Although it was unsubstantiated, people will probably wonder and sometimes associate the fraternity with this article.

The truth is there are more than 9 million Greek members in this country. Those members raise over $7 million each year for charities. Fraternity members head 43 of the country’s 50 largest corporations and 83 percent of the executives of all Fortune 500 companies are members of the Greek community. Forty out of 47 men who have served on the Supreme Court and 76 percent of Congress members are also members of fraternities.

The fraternity system teaches leadership and philanthropy by forcing new members to be organized, push them to better themselves and make them want to become leaders. Greek members are fully indulged into community service and work together every semester to raise amazing amounts of money for charity.

I’m not saying fraternities are perfect, because they aren’t. Though it can bring substantially more positive things into our community than negative. The Greek system teaches leadership and philanthropy, not rape. The mainstream media’s biased stereotype and hatred of fraternities needs to end.