Reflections from the Phi Editorial Board

A problem, a scandal, some discrepancies, and moving forward

Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia rape article sent shock waves across the country. On a smaller scale, it served as an important wake up call for the Washington and Lee community.

The accuracy of the Rolling Stone article, entitled “A Rape on Campus,” has undergone heavy criticism recently.

After facing several allegations, the magazine issued the following apology to its readers:

“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.”

Speaking as a journalism organization, the Phi staff is disappointed by the Rolling Stone’s failure to check the facts before running such a sensitive story, without multiple collaborating sources.

One of the first lessons learned as a journalist is the importance of accuracy. Whether this lesson was intentionally ignored to gain more publicity, or if it was due to a lack of collaborative reporting is not important. What is important is the potential impact of this discrepancy on future instances and reports of sexual assault.

W&L and UVA share several similiarities. Rigorous academics, a vibrant social scene and the Greek system all form the core of each school’s identity. Both universities place high value on integrity and honesty through their respective honor systems.

With such striking commonalities between the schools, this sexual assault case speaks directly to our community. Fraternity parties are just as common at W&L as they are at UVA.

Alcohol and other substances often dominate such parties. While it is difficult to imagine such an event happening at W&L, we must recognize that sexual assault is just as much of a reality here as it is at any other university.

It is our hope that the controversy surrounding this article will not discourage victims from coming forward in the future. The W&L campus has many resources for victims of sexual assault.

We would like to thank all of the members of the W&L community for sharing their thoughts on this controversy. We hope our readers can reflect on this final Fall Term 2014 issue of The Ring-tum Phi and continue this important discussion about our community.