Student leaders committed to ending sexual assault banded together Monday at the University of Virginia (UVA) after a recent Rolling Stone article laid bare an epidemic of sexual violence at the school. Despite their pledge, students were as of yet unable to offer a concrete solution to the problem, instead noting that it will take the work of the entire UVA community, and federal government, among others.
“Many this week have called for a solution, for an end, an answer to sexual assault. We don’t have that answer,” said UVA junior Jalen Ross, president of the student council, at a news conference Monday. “But if we have any chance at finding it, at building one, building a solution, it’ll have to be together.”
The university suspended all campus fraternity activities on Saturday, following the publication of a Rolling Stone article that detailed a horrific tale of gang rape on campus and a bungled administrative response — one which has for years resulted in silencing survivors. In another blow to the university, WUVA Inc. published a video taped weeks before the Rolling Stone article came out that showed Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo acknowledging several UVA students had been suspended, rather than expelled, after admitting to sexual assault. The Board of Visitors, a panel that governs UVA, has called a special public meeting to discuss the matter Tuesday, The New York Times reported.
Tommy Reid, president of UVA’s Inter-Fraternity Council, told reporters Monday that the decision to suspend fraternity activities would give students time to develop cultural and institutional changes that address the problem, but said that a permanent ban on Greek life was in and of itself not the solution.
“Sexual violence is a very serious issue in the Greek system, but it’s a very serious issue and it’s much larger and much more complicated than the Greek system itself,” said Reed during Monday’s news conference. “It requires deeper attitudinal shifts on an individual level, for men in the fraternity community, and outside the community.”
UVA is among some 80 colleges currently under investigation by the federal government over its practices regarding sexual assault on campus. In the past year, a number of students have come forward listing multiple alleged violations of federal laws, including Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in any school-related activity that receives federal funding, and the Clery Act, which requires schools to accurately report statistics about on-campus crimes to the government.
Though the U.S. Department of Education has said that sexual harassment and sexual violence against students are forms of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX, no school has ever lost federal funding for violating the statute.
“It’s not just a UVA issue,” said Ashley Brown, president of the group One Less, during Monday’s press conference. “This is a pervasive, national epidemic that we are hoping to continue to fight here at UVA, the place that we call home, and spread this message nationally.”