'Rolling Stone' & The UVA Fraternity Named In "A Rape On Campus" Have Finally Settled
A controversial legal battle spanning three years came to an end on Tuesday, as Rolling Stone settled with a University of Virginia (UVA) fraternity. In 2014, the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi was implicated in a since-discredited and retracted story about an alleged gang rape at the college. Now, after many twists and turns, the controversy has finally come to an end.
The New York Times reported that Phi Kappa Psi will receive $1.65 million from the magazine (the frat was originally seeking $25 million in damages). This comes after the author of the story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, also settled another lawsuit filed by UVA employee Nicole P. Eramo. Eramo claimed that the article cast her as the "chief villain" in the now-debunked narrative.
In a statement from the fraternity to the Times about the settlement, members expressed relief at the end of the legal battle and a desire to "close the book" and begin moving on with the UVA community:
It has been nearly three years since we and the entire University of Virginia community were shocked by the now infamous article and we are pleased to be able to close the book on that trying ordeal and its aftermath.
The story, "A Rape on Campus," was given a thorough postmortem by a Columbia Journalism School report in 2015, which analyzed exactly "what went wrong" with the feature.
Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, wrote in the report (co-authored by Sheila Coronel and Derek Kravitz) that the magazine failed to do its due diligence in verifying the claims of the accuser, known only as "Jackie," also noting that Erdely "relied on what Jackie told her without vetting its accuracy."
At the time of the report, Rolling Stone's Managing Editor, Will Dana, wrote that it was "painful reading," and added that his team had deep regrets that the fallout might've harmed fraternity members, UVA administrators, or survivors and victims of sexual assault. Dana resigned months later. Per his editor's note:
We are also committing ourselves to a series of recommendations about journalistic practices that are spelled out in the report. 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. Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.
As for the money, the Times reported that members of the fraternity plan to donate “a significant portion” of the $1.65 million settlement funds to sexual assault awareness and prevention training programs and on-campus victim counseling services.