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Newsletter > June 2017 > "Rolling Stone Settles with Phi Kappa Psi"
Rolling Stone Settles with Phi Kappa Psi
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two and a half years ago, Rolling Stone stunned the University of Virginia (UVA), the fraternity world and America in general with an expose of alleged sexual assault in the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity House at UVA. The only problem was, the story wasn’t true. Within months, Rolling Stone retracted the entire article and apologized, but was left to defend multiple lawsuits.
In the immediate aftermath of the article’s publication, Phi Kappa Psi, whose house was the site of the alleged gang rape described in the article, became the campus pariah. Many initially accepted the article as true and the fraternity house was repeatedly vandalized. Protest graffiti was spray painted on the house, windows were broken and the members were humiliated on social media. A protest march against sexual violence on campus ended in front of the house. Until the article was withdrawn and the apologies made, life at the Phi Kappa Psi house could not have been comfortable. Ultimately the Fraternity filed suit.
Nicole Eramo, a UVA Administrator overseeing matters of sexual assault, also filed suit against the news magazine. Rolling Stone’s effort to have her lawsuit dismissed failed in September of 2016, her case went to trial. The jury in that case found for Eramo against the magazine, its publisher and the article’s author, awarding Eramo $3 million in damages.
Three members of Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity involved, filed their own lawsuit against Rolling Stone. That case was dismissed with the federal district judge hearing the case finding that the students were not specifically named in the article and any connection to them from the article was “too vague and remote.”
The fraternity did succeed. On June 13, 2017, Phi Kappa Psi settled its lawsuit against Rolling Stone for $1.65 million dollars.
Sabrina Erdely, the article’s author, may well have been attempting to draw attention to the issue of sexual assault on campus. But her lack of journalistic accuracy and integrity did more to encourage those who seek to question the credibility of sexual assault survivors than to contribute to the effort to address this very important campus issue.