- - Sunday, December 7, 2014

Thomas Jefferson would be turning in his grave.

The University of Virginia (U.Va.), his celebrated offspring, has abandoned critical thinking and due process in favor of group think and political correctness over campus rape allegations.

As Mr. Jefferson would have lectured, It is not that investigating rape should be pursued less, but that teaching and practicing due process — the cornerstone of civilization — should be pursued more.

Due process postulates that there are no facts — only interpretations. Events are multidimensional. Participants may misrepresent or distort happenings because of faulty memories, ulterior motives, or otherwise. Due process insists that all sides be heard before judgment is rendered to avoid risking complicity in injustice. No Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland”: “Sentence first —verdict afterwards.”

U.Va. has made a mockery of due process and practiced guilt by association in rashly responding to Rolling Stone magazine’s one-sided account of an alleged two-year-old gang rape at Phi Kappa Psi. It suspended all fraternity social activity for six weeks, with some faculty members urging a more severe penalty.

The summary suspension stigmatized all as potentially implicated in rape without a crumb of evidence that the problem was broader than Phi Kappa Psi. Every U.Va. fraternity member might now be boycotted in the job market as a suspected rapist like alleged Communists in the heyday of Sen. Joe McCarthy because of U.Va.’s reckless rush to judgement. What have we come to when a prestigious university revels in McCarthyism and evokes no public or student rebuke?

But the matter is worse.

The Rolling Stone story was riddled with red flags.

It rested on the uncorroborated narrative of Jackie, a U.Va. junior, an age of immaturity and frequent psychological tumult. She maintained that she was ambushed and raped by seven members at Phi Kappa Psi during a date party in 2012. The sexual assault continued for over three hours and left her blood-spattered and emotionally traumatized, according to Jackie.

But Rolling Stone neither contacted nor interviewed the alleged rapists. Phi Kappa Psi denied that it hosted a date function or social event during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012 when Jackie alleged she was gang raped. Additional discrepancies in her version of events prompted a semi-retraction from Will Dana, Rolling Stone’s managing editor:

“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.”

If Jackie hoped for justice, why did she refuse to identify her attackers which would be indispensable for a criminal prosecution or school discipline?

In any event, despite the unraveling of Jackie’s gruesome narrative, U.Va. did not budge from its arbitrary suspension decree. Instead, U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan announced a doubling of efforts to detect and to deter sexual violence, but not a word about the due process she had slaughtered while unfairly branding U.Va. fraternities with a scarlet R:

“The University remains first and foremost concerned with the care and support of our students and, especially, any survivor of sexual assault. Our students, their safety, and their well-being, remain our top priority.”

But shouldn’t protecting U.Va. fraternities and students from false rape accusations that could destroy their lives be of equal if not greater concern? Doesn’t President Sullivan remember the false accusations of rape made against three Duke lacrosse players only eight years ago? Isn’t a university about searching for truth without ulterior motives informed by skepticism?

Suppose President Sullivan were accused of embezzlement of endowment funds. Would she agree to a student vote that could suspend her immediately for months without an opportunity to confront her accusers? Of course not.

Youths are the future leaders of America. The last thing they need is for a university’s actions to provide instruction in McCarthyism as opposed to due process.

U. Va. should be ashamed.

For more information about Bruce Fein, please visit www.brucefeinlaw.com.


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