Ryan M. Kelly / The Daily Progress / AP

UVA students protest against rape in wake of damning Rolling Stone article

University of Virginia suspends all fraternity activities after article exposes lackadaisical attitude about campus rape

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff members marched and chanted Saturday night at the University of Virginia in protest of what they said was a campus culture focused on fraternities and which put women at risk of sexual assault, according to UVA student newspaper The Cavalier Daily.

The protesters, armed with signs such as “She trusted you to do the right thing” and “Throw parties that respect women’s bodies,” flooded Rugby Road, the center of Greek life on the picturesque Charlottesville campus, on the same day the university suspended all campus fraternity activities in the fallout of a damning Rolling Stone magazine article that investigated the university’s responses to students’ sexual assault cases there.

The Rolling Stone article, published last week, painted a picture of a campus dominated by wealth and privilege, where administrators and students alike have a cavalier attitude toward the multiple students who have alleged they’ve been raped by fraternity members at UVA. Current female UVA students and alums interviewed in the article reported that both classmates and administrators pressured them to stay quiet to save the reputation of the Greek system and the university, including one current student who described being attacked and violently gang-raped by seven fraternity members at a party in 2012.

In response, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan on Saturday said in a campus-wide letter that the Charlottesville Police Department would investigate the alleged gang rape described in the Rolling Stone article. She also announced that all campus fraternities would be suspended until Jan. 9 in the wake of an impending discussion with students, faculty and alumni about how to prevent sexual assault on campus.

“This will require institutional change, cultural change, and legislative change, and it will not be easy,” Sullivan wrote. “We are making those changes.”


Later Saturday night, when fraternity parties on Rugby Road would have been in full-swing, the protesters gathered there told the student newspaper that they wanted to “protest a culture which puts female students at risk.”

“We’re here because we think there’s an ongoing problem with social life at UVA,” UVA English professor Susan Fraiman, one of the main organizers of the rally, told the Cavalier Daily. “It is centered on fraternities and as a result, men control who enters parties and women are not on their own turf.”

The University of Virginia is one more than 80 colleges currently being investigated by the federal government for how they handle sexual assaults on campus. Within the last few years, students at schools across the country including Yale, Harvard, Columbia, the University of North Carolina, UCLA and U.C. Berkeley have filed federal complaints alleging that their colleges have violated the Clery Act, which calls for schools to accurately report statistics about on-campus crimes to the government, and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in any school-related activity that receives federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Education sent a guidance letter to all schools in 2011 informing them “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.” But complaints from student activists and a survey asking about colleges’ approaches to sexual assault cases spearheaded by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, have found that many institutions don’t conduct any investigations into the incidents.

While such injustices have spurred an activist movement in which college students from across the country have connected on social media and in person to demand justice, ultimately resulting in a White House task force to address the problem of campus rape, the Rolling Stone article portrayed UVA as a conservative campus where speaking out against rape was discouraged.

The student who was allegedly gang-raped, for example, became actively involved with campus anti-sexual assault initiatives and as a result, was harassed by men who recognized her from presentations, according to Rolling Stone. One man she encountered outside a bar flung a bottle at her that broke on her face, bruising and bloodying her, the article said.

UVA made headlines in 2010 when senior lacrosse player Yeardley Love was killed by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely, also a senior lacrosse player. He was convicted of second-degree murder after he burst into Love's apartment and repeatedly banged her head against the wall.

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