UVA Phi Kappa Psi Sues Rolling Stone For $25 Million, And If They Win, We All Do

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Today, the UVA chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity filed a $25 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone magazine for the humiliation and harassment the brothers suffered through following the publication of an article in 2014 titled “A Rape On Campus.”

An investigation conducted by the Columbia University journalism school and the Charlottesville Police Department later found the article to be entirely fabricated. In the horrifying piece, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, a student named Jackie details a brutal gang rape that had apparently occurred during a party at the Phi Kappa Psi house as part of a cruel hazing ritual.

But in the weeks between the publication of the article and the conclusion that it was false, the brothers and alumni were subjected to tremendous abuse. Death threats. Protestors outside of their homes. Activists breaking their windows and vandalizing their property – one such group spray-painted “UVA Center for Rape Studies” on the side of the chapter house.

The entire Greek community at UVA instantly became a public symbol of rape culture bred in a closed society of privilege and misogyny.

The bullshit article slid through the cracks because of shoddy reporting, editing, and a preexisting notion that Greek life is backward and evil. The editor of Rolling Stone, Will Dana, resigned. The magazine issued an apology in April (almost half a year after the article saw the light of day).

But for the brothers, who feared for their lives for weeks, wondering whether they’d be put in jail or banned from getting a job upon graduation or even murdered at the hands of one of the activists threatening to do so, a paragraph-long apology obviously wasn’t enough.

From The Washington Post (the publication that first pointed out the discrepancies in the Rolling Stone article):

The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter at the University of Virginia filed a $25 million lawsuit Monday against Rolling Stone magazine, which published an article in 2014 that alleged a freshman was gang raped at the house during a party.

“The fraternity chapter and its student and alumni members suffered extreme damage to their reputations in the aftermath of the article’s publication and continue to suffer despite the ultimate unraveling of the story,” the Phi Psi chapter said in a statement Monday. “The article also subjected the student members and their families to danger and immense stress while jeopardizing the future existence of the chapter.”

A win in court would be huge for the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at UVA, but it would also be a major win for Greeks everywhere.

There are about a dozen stories a month that resemble the errors of Rolling Stone. A single witness will claim a fraternity committed unspeakable acts of misogyny or racism or homophobia, and a willing media will publish it as truth without even attempting to get the fraternity’s side.

If Phi Kappa Psi wins this case, a precedent for reporting on fraternity scandals will at long last be set. A publication will have to be sure that the life-ruining claims against a fraternity are true, or pay up big time.

[via Washington Post]

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