Communities cannot expect their members to behave morally if they do not exact a price for immoral and amoral behavior.
Now that we know what we already knew, namely that Sabrina Erdely’s Rolling Stone story about a gang rape at a fraternity at the University of Virginia was a fabrication, we should move on to the next step: who is paying what price for the gross dereliction?
Many people have railed about the fact that Erdely has not been fired. It suggests that, from the magazine’s perspective, she has done nothing wrong.
If Erdely herself believes that she was conned and that she violated journalistic ethics she should not need to be fired. She should resign. Now.
If she does not, she is telling us that she did not really do anything wrong. The larger principle—the war against rape culture--trumps the lies that she presented as factual truth.
Of course, Erdely’s source, the pseudonymous Jackie also needs to come forth and apologize.
By now Jackie’s true identity has been exposed online, but still she lied to the press and slandered a group of young men. She should show her face and apologize. She should also withdraw from the university.
In a better world she would be expelled. In our world she ought to manifest her shame by leaving a school whose reputation she has grossly defamed.
The fact that many media outlets are still calling Jackie the victim is another type of moral derelict.
If Jackie reported the incident to the police, as Brit Hume suggested last night, then she should be indicted. Attempting to have men arrested and imprisoned for something they did not do is a crime. Jackie should be treated as a criminal, not as a victim.
Finally, President Teresa Sullivan of the University of Virginia should also resign her office. Her irrational response to the magazine article was irresponsible and disgraceful.
If she refuses to resign her post, Sullivan should be fired.
Glenn Reynolds explained:
One person who shouldn’t get off the hook here is UVA President Teresa Sullivan. She essentially found the fraternity guilty based on a story in a music tabloid. She could have told the University community that “we don’t convict people based on stories in the media,” that she was going to independently investigate the accusations, and that people named in tabloid stories should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty in the American tradition. She did no such thing. She hastily imposed a group punishment on the entire Greek system, and pretty much stood by while angry crowds mobbed and vandalized the fraternity house. (Faculty members didn’t help by staging their own marches; they may want — especially now — to characterize those marches as “anti-rape” or “pro-woman,” but there’s no getting around the fact that they were perceived at the time, and probably meant, as targeting the accused. In this case, the falsely accused.) As I’ve said before, there’s no place in America today where the authorities are more likely to be found siding with (or at least enabling) a lynch mob than on a university campus, and that’s a disgrace.
University presidents, along with the rest of the administration and faculty, talk a lot about a “university community.” But when it comes time to show students who produce bad press the kind of fairness that any member of an academic community should expect as a matter of right, they often drop the ball. At the very least, Sullivan owes these fraternity guys, and the Greek community, an open, public, and contrite apology. If I were on the UVA Board of Visitors, I’d be demanding her resignation.
Sullivan did not apologize to the fraternity brothers she treated as guilty. She implied that the cause of combatting rape culture on college campuses was more important than journalistic truth. She was also implying that male fraternity brothers should be punished for being who they are, regardless of what they have done.
As of now, no one has paid a price for the Rolling Stone fiasco. That means that no one really did anything wrong. Fanaticism and zealotry has, yet again, damaged America’s moral character.