Editorial: Magazine hurts greeks, survivors


Editorials, columns and cartoons.

Editorial Board

The revelations that have become public knowledge following the debacle of Rolling Stone reporting on the alleged fraternity gang rape of a student named “Jackie” at the University of Virginia has shown the worst side of journalism. It has also set back the struggles of sexual assault survivors across the nation.

Perhaps the largest threat to eliminating the sexual assault culture that does indeed exist on college campuses is to publish false or exaggerated stories about sexual assault. As it has become evident, this was the case in Rolling Stone’s publication of “Rape on Campus” last year.

The Columbia School of Journalism recently released a report on the story, a report that Rolling Stone itself invited, that said the magazine’s “failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.”

If this speculation in the report is true, then the journalistic process — or the failing thereof in this circumstance — has let down both present and future sexual assault survivors. The story set out to illustrate the reality of dangers of sexual assaults on campus and advance advocacy efforts for sexual assault survivors, as well as sexual assault prevention programs, but instead they have hindered any such efforts. Hopefully not for long, but the ability for survivors to have their stories heard and believed has certainly moved in reverse.

It is also worth noting the greek system and one fraternity chapter in particular, Phi Kappa Psi, came under heavy fire and was the subject of far more scrutiny than it deserved. The entire greek institution was indicted at times as a result of this story.

Even while a member of Iowa State’s greek system has had it’s own allegations of sexual assault this year, it is especially important to remember that each chapter — and by extension, each member — should be judged individually, by their own merits, just as it would be the case in any other attempt to prove guilt or apply blame.

Accordingly, the University of Virginia Phi Kappa Psi chapter is planning to “pursue all available legal actions against the magazine,” as is their right. If the assertion is that the fraternity chapter was libeled by Rolling Stone and had its reputation tarnished, then it’s hard to formulate a counterargument as it appears the facts became of secondary importance, taking a backseat as increased readership became the priority.

Rolling Stone and the author of “Rape on Campus,” Sabrina Rubin Erdely, have since apologized and taken responsibility for any damage the story may have done or will do in the future for the struggles of sexual assault survivors. Erdely herself said she does not want her errors in reporting the story to “silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.” The words “too little, too late,” seem apt for this apology.

This editorial board only hopes the damage can be reversed, and swiftly.