It’s been nearly four years since Rolling Stone magazine published its disastrous article about an alleged gang-rape at the University of Virginia. The story was so unbelievably fake (the main accused rapist didn’t even exist!) that the magazine was forced to settle three lawsuits brought by those who had been harmed by the article.
The president of UVA at the time of the hoax, Teresa Sullivan, leaves office on Tuesday, and has naturally provided some historical revisions as to her role in the debacle.
“People said you didn’t have to change anything because the story was wrong,” Sullivan said in an interview with The Daily Progress. “Well, the story was wrong, but the underlying issue is, were there sexual assaults happening? Yes, there were, and were we responding adequately to those? I thought we could improve and I believe that we have.”
Sullivan makes it seem like she didn’t wildly overreact to an accusation with more holes than Swiss cheese. In the wake of the article, without missing a beat, Sullivan extended a voluntary weekend ban on social activities from the school’s Greek Council for nearly two months. This was a blanket punishment on all Greek organizations, and it continued after the ban was lifted. To resume activities, the organizations had to sign new agreements with the school, which included new restrictions on social activities, such as requiring fraternities to block stairs to residential rooms and place sober brothers throughout the event. Mixed drinks, such as punches, were also prohibited.
Sullivan never apologized for rushing to judgment or assuming the guilt of all Greek organizations. Instead, she claims she was simply improving policies.
“One of the things we did try to do was make sure that the person accused also got due process, as well as the person complaining,” Sullivan also said in the interview.
Too bad a spectacularly false accusation was what was required for the school to realize that maybe people accused of serious offenses should have the chance to defend themselves.
Sullivan was UVA’s eighth president and the first woman to hold the position.