A top University of Virginia official blasted Rolling Stone’s “false portrayal” of the university in a public meeting Friday, saying the university had fallen victim to “drive-by journalism” that showed “callous indifference to the truth.”
Rector George Keith Martin, speaking at a special Board of Visitors meeting, said of the story of an alleged gang rape and the university’s reported indifference to it that “innocent people have been hurt, some of them even devastated,” and that “our great university’s character has been tarnished.”
The fierce tone contrasted starkly with the comments made by University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan on Dec. 5, after questions about some of the allegations as reported were raised by The Washington Post. She said then that “While all of us who care about the University of Virginia are upset by the Rolling Stone story, I write now with a different message. Over the past two weeks, our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today: sexual violence on college campuses. Today’s news must not alter this focus. Here at U.Va., the safety of our students must continue to be our top priority, for all students, and especially for survivors of sexual assault.”
Martin did say that sexual assault is under-reported, but also said that “the truth is, we don’t know how common sexual assault is” at both UVA and across the country. ”We know that too many incidents go unreported, either to law enforcement or to university personnel.”
But he blamed federal statutes requiring confidentiality for preventing the university from defending itself from allegations made in the Rolling Stone article, which reported that the school failed to act on an alleged gang rape, even though the young woman at the center of the story told a university dean about it.
“The record will show that we have acted in good faith, responding to new and shocking allegations … in the best way we could,” Martin said. He added that the lesson was to be ”less quick to judge and a little more reluctant to assume the worst of each other when it’s contrary to all we know of our community.”
“It is a good and noble place, Mr. Jefferson’s University, and it is blessed by God,” Martin said, before the meeting adjourned to a closed session.