UD thanks Dennis, a reader, for linking her to the latest revelations in the UVa rape case.

The Washington Post’s interviews with the three friends of “Jackie” who rallied around her in the immediate aftermath of events make clear that all three are skeptical of her claims.

Even more ominously:

[P]hotographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hasn’t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.

UVa/Rolling Stone: An Update, an Interesting Idea, and a Bit of Self-Analysis.

Says here that Rolling Stone will entirely re-report the now-notorious “Jackie” piece (UD assumes this means a group of RS editors will re-report the piece?), a project that will involve “head[ing] to UVa both to sort through the errors of the story and to tell readers what actually happened.”

Indeed, as Joseph Heller put it, Something Happened. It’s even possible that we’ll find out much more precisely what.

*********************

Some people believe “Rolling Stone was credulous about such an intense story because from factcheckers to editors to writers they are predisposed to believe the worst about fraternity brothers at an elite university.”

I suppose this goes to a culture clash idea: The argument would be that you’ve got brainy lefty hipsters who write stuff like this about Goldman Sachs, versus a fratful of future Mr Goldman Sachs… Sachses…

Maybe. UD thinks it may have more to do with the Huguely factor — UVa was attractive and … plausible… to the writer of the piece and to the factcheckers and editors and writers because as recently as last March Huguely’s murder of his girlfriend was still in the news.

**********************

And why, UD has been asking herself, was she so “credulous about such an intense story”?

First of all, as I said above, something traumatically assaultive did happen. At this point, this seems to me beyond doubt, though of course we could turn out to be living in the sort of Kafkan world in which the whole damn thing is a lie… I’ll just say again that this seems to me wildly unlikely. So I was credulous because there was credible material in the story.

Second, though, and pertinent only to me: I was perhaps borne along by the prose. It didn’t occur to me, as I praised the article’s writing, that the writing was maybe too good, too perfectly lurid. I was captured, as they say, by the style, and as a result I take on the coloration of Gwendolyn: “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

The Washington Post Now Reports Serious Problems with the UVa Rape Story as Recounted in Rolling Stone.

Apparently the woman at the center of the case has told conflicting versions of the story.

The fraternity, too, will soon begin defending itself against her claims.

***********************

A note from Rolling Stone. UD thanks Chris, a reader, for the link.

***********************

I should have been more skeptical.

The Faceless Institution

The overwhelming majority of fraternity men are not rapists nor would they ever consider committing or condoning sexual violence, but as President Sullivan said on Monday, “There is great concern that a sexual predator can hide out in a fraternity, and therefore that fraternal social activities pose literal dangers to their guests.” This has nothing to do with whether fraternities contain a vast majority of good people (I have no doubt they do). It has everything to do with the fact that fraternities have houses with unwatched upstairs and padlocked doors, the ability to widely distribute unidentifiable mixed drinks to unknowing first-year girls and national organizations with comprehensive systems for deflecting liability. A rapist on a college campus is three times more likely to participate in a fraternity than not and sorority women are 74 percent more likely to be sexually assaulted than nonaffiliated women. Again, whether most people in fraternities are well-meaning individuals is beside the point; the faceless institutions in which these good people exist are flawed.

Closing Law Schools, Fraternities, Football Programs…

… It’s drinking-up time at the American university, and although we know all conditioned things are impermanent, a lot of people seem really, really pissed about it.

Yes, yes, only one football program has actually shut down.

As for fraternities [aka eat or be eaten clubs, dahling]: Like vampires, they cannot truly be killed. Fraternities can be suspended while crews hose down the vomit, but they almost always come back to haze again, until once again they are suspended, etc.

Even when a school or a national organization officially shutters them, fraternities live on as rogue operations just off campus.

Fraternities will never authentically be threatened with extinction. They are too important to the nation. The behaviors and attitudes you learn at a fraternity are structural to the leadership of America’s elite financial organizations. Fraternities are not about college; they are about Goldman Sachs.

And on law schools… How has it come to this? Can we actually be about to witness the shuttering of some of them?

Probably.

It’s all about the tragic confluence of the we’ll accredit your Aunt Tillie’s ass ABA, the ne touche pas my salary and course load law professioriate, and a collapsed job market.

In response to the collapsed job market, the ABA continues to accredit new schools.

I know you think that this cannot possibly be true, but it is. Every ten seconds the ABA accredits a new American law school.

Well, not every ten seconds. But frequently.

“As an ex-Greek member, I can honestly say that even I was shocked at what happened that fateful night.”

Even?

What is this former member of a sorority at San Dildo State University trying to tell us?

An Open and Shut…

case.

For reflections on whether this will mean downward pressure on law faculty salaries (UD can’t see how it could be otherwise), go here and read all of the posts on the page.

‘On Friday, a Take Back the Night anti-rape march by about 35 people from the Concerned Students and Take Back the Night groups was met by egg-throwing, sex toy-waving members of two fraternities …[T]he next night, a woman was reported to have been sexually assaulted at a fraternity house. San Diego State University police confirmed there was a sexual assault report but declined to identify the fraternity involved.’

Universities don’t get much worse than San Diego State, an epicenter of the drug trade, a money-hemorraghing sports joke, and a school run (though considering what goes down there, is anyone actually running it?) by a president whose greed so outraged the local community that legislators moved toward imposing mandatory salary caps on executive pay there.

And now, with the eyes of America on the issue of rape on campus, SDSU’s fraternities, apparently looking for something to do since an unusually big drug raid two years ago shut down their main activity, have decided that their contribution to the crisis will be assaulting women and pitching dildos.

Where are you, President Hirshman? The local suckers pay you almost half a million dollars to do something. But what is that thing?

Drugs and violence. Violence and drugs. If you take away your students’ drugs, they turn to violence. (“[S]even students have reported being raped at SDSU this year, one about 24 hours after a protest last Friday night against sexism and sexual violence.”) For some of your students, those are apparently the only two behavioral options.

UD says, Maybe it would be safer to give them back the drugs.

“The Dartmouth College student newspaper [called for abolishing all fraternities] in October, writing that ‘Greek life is not the root of all the College’s problems or of broader societal ills … [but] as a system, it amplifies students’ worst behavior’ and citing a 2001 incident where the Zeta Psi fraternity ‘encouraged the rape of a female student.’ A final decision by the administration has yet to be made, but school faculty voted 116-13 in early November to end Greek life campus.”

Moving right along.

From a music professor at UVa.

The past few years have witnessed a steady stream of alleged rapes at schools with big revenue-generating sports cultures and Greek systems. Part of the supposed shock of the [Rolling Stone] article involves a sense that [UVa] as an institution is committed to high-minded ideas and taking care of our students, and that we ought to be better than this, even better than the rest of the society. If only that were true…

‘“The fraternity culture has to change, but I don’t know how it would, because the fraternity culture is such a big part of life here,” said Annalise Gill, 18, a first-year student from Texas.’

From the mouths of babes. She’s quite right. As I said in an earlier post, about places like Penn State and Florida State, when sports and fraternities and drinking rule and have long ruled, it’s hard to know how any of that would change.

Fraternities in places like these tend to be the quintessence, the culmination, of all the alcohol and athletics in the larger campus culture. At UVa, “the fraternity system is king and heavy drinking is part of the culture.”

More frighteningly, fraternities are young, tightly-knit, all-male subcultures. In many settings, young, tightly-knit, and all-male is bad news. Young, tightly-knit, and all-male adds group aggression – extreme hazing, fighting, assaulting – to the mix. “Fraternities have become more like lab experiments for the distillation of male sexual aggression” than anything else.

Some have called for UVa to close its frats permanently.

Phi Kappa Psi, like all fraternities, exists to teach bad values to developing young men. Sent off to campus to educate themselves as individuals, fraternity members instead learn to subordinate their values and plans to a collective. After a torturous and dehumanizing selection process, fraternity members are able to write a check and purchase 30 new friends; it’s not surprising that they would see sex — pour a drink, girl is yours — as similarly transactional.

… By deciding to suspend its fraternities temporarily, the University of Virginia has acknowledged that those frats cannot be implicated in any new offenses while the eyes of America are watching. It is a tacit admission that the school cannot risk, not now, another sexual assault being committed. It has decided that the easiest and most palatable way for this to happen — for UVA’s fraternity brothers not to rape — is for its fraternities to cease to exist.

So why bring them back? Shut them down and move on.

Dahlia Lithwick doesn’t weigh in on shutting or maintaining them, but she does get to the nub of things:

Fraternities are nuts.

***********************

UD doubts closing them down is really a solution. Sick and sometimes criminal initiation rituals will persist somewhere on campus at any booze and sports soaked university that ignores them. The Florida A&M marching band didn’t need a fraternity to beat a fellow student to death in a long-tolerated form of hazing.

Perhaps what makes more sense is really serious policing and surveillance of fraternities – policing and surveillance for which the fraternities would pay.

Just as many schools spend a fortune on squads of extra police for their football and basketball games (students are prone to mischief and violence both in and outside sports arenas), so fraternities should be willing to bill their current and past members for the heightened security procedures they need. Hugely wealthy Michael Bloomberg happens to be a proud and loyal member of Phi Kappa Psi; with his passionate involvement in violence reduction, he should be willing to subsidize the hiring of guards and cameras for his brothers. A million dollars a year, say, would set Bloomberg back not at all.

Would university campuses begin to look like armed camps? Yes, but university football and basketball games (plus tailgates and party/riots) already tend to look like that. And as to cameras everywhere – well, most universities already have cameras everywhere.

In the longer term, UD proposes that frat-run universities like UVa choose as their yearly campus-wide book (UD is talking about the popular One Campus One Book, or Common Read, program) Lynn Chancer’s Sadomasochism in Everyday Life, so that fraternity members can begin to think seriously about their problem, and other members of the campus community can learn enough to at least see the brothers coming.

“If we have learned anything with the Sandusky scandal at Penn State, we have learned that those with expertise in coaching or teaching or research or in university administration are often not equipped to handle the intricacies of a criminal investigation. We have learned that facing an issue head on, regardless of the potential for negative publicity, and letting the proper authorities handle it, will protect both the individuals and the university.”

A Penn State person shares her scandal-wisdom with UVa.

I’m fine with this except for the writer’s suggestion that coaches, of all people, are unequipped to handle criminal investigations.

If university football coaches aren’t equipped to handle criminal investigations, who is?

Doesn’t experience count for anything?

“The deeper you read into the story, the more clear it is that the University of Virginia’s administration has been absolutely and disgustingly derelict for decades, protecting the reputation of the institution at all costs.”

More commentary on “rapey” (new one on me) University of Virginia, in The American Conservative, in which the author quotes a UVa sociologist —

UVA may be to fraternities what Boston was to the Catholic Church.

— and then goes on to elaborate (he covered the church scandal) the ways in which this analogy is correct.

The first case I wrote about, back in 2001, involved an immigrant teenager who was passed around priests in a Bronx parish. When the boy’s father learned what happened, he went to see an auxiliary bishop. According to the victim’s lawyer, the auxiliary bishop allegedly pulled out a checkbook and offered a payout in exchange for the father signing a paper giving the Archdiocese of New York’s attorneys the right to handle his case. The father may have been a laborer and an immigrant, but he knew a scam when he saw it. He left and hired his own lawyer.

And here we see the University of Virginia following a similar script.

He means your basic cover up / keep it in-house M.O.

I don’t understand the attraction of college Greek life… Too rapey. I do not want my kids, as college students, to be subject to rape, to participate in rape, or to be in a position in which they are pressured to prove their loyalty to their fraternity, their friends, and their university by staying silent about rape.

**********************

Overheard from a recent campus tour guide.

‘Near our Jefferson statue all drapey
Live our buck naked frat boys all rapey.
The contrast is striking
And quite to the liking
Of writers from Reuters to AP.’

Terrific summary of events so far at the school some have taken to calling…

… UVrApe. It’s by UD’s friend, Scott Jaschik, at Inside Higher Ed.

There’s so much rape on college campuses, it can get very difficult to keep up with all of the stories.

In this article, Mother Jones just singles out the high-profile football-related rape stories over the last few decades. UD‘s favorites are

Louisiana State University, 1998: Star running back Cecil Collins was dismissed from the team after being accused of two sexual assaults in two weeks (the first was of a minor). He was sentenced to probation. That didn’t stop another football program, McNeese State, from offering him a full scholarship, or the Miami Dolphins from drafting him. “Charming and likable, he has, nonetheless, seen his collegiate football career derailed by sexual assault charges and failed drug tests,” the Sun-Sentinel reported in 1999. His career ended in 2001, when he was convicted of breaking into a woman’s home to watch her sleep.

and

Arizona State University, 2004: A female student working as a tutor for a summer program for football students sent an email to her supervisors about a freshman recruit: “I don’t want to get raped in college and that is what Darnel [Henderson] makes me feel like when he is around me.” By the end of the summer, ESPN reported, Henderson had been accused of sexually assaulting women in his dorm and exposing himself to female staffers. When confronted, his response was to tell a staff member that he felt he had to “show [women] their place.” The university’s response was to bow to head coach Dirk Koetter’s request that Henderson keep his scholarship. When Henderson was accused of rape by a different student a year later, ASU police mysteriously waited three weeks to interview him despite deciding internally that Henderson was probably guilty. A university administrator accompanied Henderson to his meeting with investigators, and when the case was submitted to Maricopa County, the district attorney declined to pursue the case. ASU administrators, meanwhile, tried to destroy incriminating evidence — like the fearful email. Koetter, who sought to get Henderson a scholarship to another top-tier college football program, was fired two years later because he couldn’t consistently beat top-25 opponents.

As the University of Virginia gang-rape story rages, UD will try to put it in context by doing this: Reminding you.

*****************

Of course the clever Rolling Stone writer chose UVa for her spell-binding story (she could have chosen almost any university) because of the irony. Schools like LSU (“Went in dumb/Come out dumb too.”) lack, er, valence when the lads go a-raping. You go after UVa because it’s convinced itself and everyone else it’s better than that.

******************

By the way: Don’t tell me you can’t do anything with an English major.

As a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate, [Susan Rubin] Erdely discovered her passion for magazine writing while working at 34th Street, the magazine of the student-run Daily Pennsylvanian. She soon dropped her pre-med studies, graduated in 1994 with a degree in English…

You can change the world with an English major. You can use it to learn how to write like Sabrina Rubin Erdely. From her opening paragraphs:

She remembers the men’s heft and their sour reek of alcohol mixed with the pungency of marijuana. Most of all, Jackie remembers the pain and the pounding that went on and on.

As the last man sank onto her, Jackie was startled to recognize him: He attended her tiny anthropology discussion group. He looked like he was going to cry or puke as he told the crowd he couldn’t get it up. “Pussy!” the other men jeered. “What, she’s not hot enough for you?” Then they egged him on: “Don’t you want to be a brother?” “We all had to do it, so you do, too.” Someone handed her classmate a beer bottle. Jackie stared at the young man, silently begging him not to go through with it. And as he shoved the bottle into her, Jackie fell into a stupor, mentally untethering from the brutal tableau, her mind leaving behind the bleeding body under assault on the floor.

You think this article would have caught fire the way it has, would have left thousands of people – in the words of the UVa faculty – “heartbroken and enraged” if its author didn’t know not just which school to choose but how to write?

She knew to start not with statistics and histories, and not with outrage and disbelief, but right in the thick of the immediacy of the attack: Present tense for Jackie’s ongoing recall (“she remembers”), past for the sober precision of her narration, with the author adding nothing by way of emotion. With this sort of material, you park yourself in neutral and let the tale tell itself. This is what you learn if you study the greats – Orwell, Didion, Capote, Vidal.

You see how she’s opted against commas and semi-colons in the first sentence, in order to let the violent and confusing rush of the events re-present themselves? You see how she’s learned alliteration and assonance (last man sank) along the way, so that our inner ear enters into her poetic rhythm and keeps going?

She remembers the men’s heft and their sour reek of alcohol mixed with the pungency of marijuana. Most of all, Jackie remembers the pain and the pounding that went on and on.

Note also the repetition of remembers, which not only gives the recitation the feel of a mournful litany, but is psychologically true to the lifelong repetition-compulsion to which the rapists have sentenced their hazing object. She’ll circle around these moments forever. Note also that this sentence, with its close knowledge and recall of the rapists’ intimate and particular bodies, says more about the persuasiveness of her account than any lie detector could. It is viscerally compelling.

Erdely has also learned the importance of the powerfully telling detail: her tiny anthropology discussion group. Her tiny anthropology discussion group! Oh right, this is a university! Small serious select groups of young intellectuals gathering to talk about higher things – like about the way human beings act in groups! Well, she’s in a small group right now, and one of those human rituals is happening right in front of her. (“The men are on their own ‘turf,’ whether it be a part of a park, a shack, or a fraternity house. The identity of the woman is irrelevant. Anyone who happens to be at or near the premises will suffice. All the men drink a great deal of liquor. Then, in the presence of the entire group, each has sex in turn with the female. … While individually they probably would not engage in such brutal or degrading conduct, when reinforced by their companions they exhibit no sense of what most men and women consider decency or compassion.”) Come to UVa and don’t just book-learn about tribes! Our opportunities for experiential learning put you right in the middle of the lord of the flies.

And look at the subtleties you’re learning! You’re learning the masochistic anhedonia that underlies happyhappy male bonding, aren’t you? (“cry or puke”… “we all had to do it…”) You could read The Berlin Stories, say, if you wanted, at the tender age of eighteen, to understand this vicious mix… Or you could save time and visit one of our frats.

And the word tiny. The delicacy of that little word almost unbearably conveys the small hopefulness, the fresh modest eagerness, of this clueless, avid freshman from rural Virginia suddenly at the big fancy school full of handsome athletic older men in frats who wanted her! Wanted to go out with her!

Erdely ends the account, and this paragraph, with a riot of assonance/alliteration:

mentally untethering from the brutal tableau, her mind leaving behind the bleeding body under assault on the floor

A bit over the top stylistically? Maybe. If this had been Didion or Capote or Orwell they might have edited it, like this:

mentally untethering from the tableau, leaving behind the bleeding body on the floor

But when things are over-the-top lurid, your prose needs to rise to it, and Erdely has held her heavy verbal weaponry for the very last part of the account.

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