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:
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."
2/The fact that there is a story that appears in Rolling Stone in which I don’t have complete confidence is deeply unsettling to me.— Will Dana (@wdana) December 5, 2014
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:
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.