Sunday, March 29, 2015

UVA Fraternity Exploring Legal Options to Address 'Extensive Damage Caused by Rolling Stone'

Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Virginia told ABC News today that the fraternity feels vindicated after Charlottesville, Virginia, police said their investigation found "no evidence" of an alleged rape at the fraternity house.

Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, said in a statement, "These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault.”

He continued, “We hope that Rolling Stone’s actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve.”

Phi Psi has been working with the Charlottesville police throughout the investigation, the statement said.

"Following the publication of the defamatory article, the chapter launched an extensive internal investigation, which quickly confirmed that the horrific events described in the Rolling Stone article did not occur," the statement said. "Both the Virginia Alpha chapter and Phi Psi’s national organization adhere to a strict zero tolerance policy in regards to sexual assault."

Phi Psi said it is "exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone."

The woman, identified as "Jackie," alleged in a Rolling Stone article that she was gang-raped by seven men at a UVA Phi Psi fraternity party on Sept. 28, 2012.

But police said today they were not able to conclude that an incident occurred at Phi Psi that night.

Police said "we can't say something didn't happen" to her, but they have "no basis" to conclude anything happened at Phi Psi.

During the investigation, police talked to about 70 people, including Jackie's friends and fraternity members, Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo said. Investigators talked to nine of the 11 Phi Psi members living in the house at the time, and none of them knew Jackie or had any knowledge of the alleged assault, Longo said, also noting that Jackie declined to be interviewed by police for the investigation.

Police also found no evidence that a party or event took place at Phi Psi on Sept. 28, 2012, noting that a time-stamped photo from that night shows the house practically empty, Longo said.

In January, a police investigation cleared Phi Psi of any involvement in the alleged rape and the fraternity was reinstated on campus.

Longo noted today that the case is not closed, but is suspended until they are able to gather more information.


Professor and his wife sacked by failing British University  'for blowing whistle on £100,000 mis-spending

A lecturer and his wife have been sacked from a struggling university after being accused of leaking embarrassing stories about its controversial £200,000-a-year vice-chancellor to the Press, it emerged yesterday.

Damien and Jenny Markey were summarily dismissed by the University of Bolton after articles in the Daily Mail highlighted how the institution spends public money, a union said.

The couple, who have three young children, deny being the source of stories revealing that the university was lending vice-chancellor Professor George Holmes £960,000 to buy a new house and spending up to £100,000 on staff away days to the Lake District.

Critics had branded the expenditure a waste of money from an institution which has spent much of the 11 years since it became a university near the foot of national league tables.

The latest case demonstrates how harshly public bodies treat those even suspected of being whistleblowers, let alone those who are proven to have leaked information to the media.

It comes amid mounting alarm that staff in all organisations are not being protected from punishment if they report their concerns to the Press.

The sackings were also branded a worrying blow against the tradition of free speech on campuses.

Mr Markey, 42, was dismissed as a senior lecturer in visual effects for film and television after a 45-minute disciplinary hearing last Friday for ‘leaking information to the Press aimed at damaging the university’.

According to his union he was told he had been overheard talking on his mobile phone using the words ‘boats’ and ‘lakes’, and accused of being the source of the story that the university was sending its 700 staff to a Lake District hotel in a series of away days for pep talks by Professor Holmes, who has a yacht moored nearby.

The article first appeared in Times Higher Education, which yesterday said neither Mr Markey nor his wife were the source.

Details of the trips had been sent to all staff, while the two-year loan to Professor Holmes appeared in university accounts.

Mr Markey was also accused of making malicious statements about colleagues and bringing the university into disrepute for highlighting concerns about a shortage of equipment following an £800,000 flagship project, the union said.

His 36-year-old wife, an academic administrator in the health and community studies department, was dismissed on Monday over similar allegations which she also denies.

Mr Markey, who is said to have had an unblemished disciplinary record, was secretary of the local branch of the University and College Union (UCU) and led a walkout in 2013 in protest at a planned 1 per cent pay rise.

The couple had been advised not to comment yesterday as the union insisted it would be appealing against the dismissal. General secretary Sally Hunt said: ‘These sackings are completely unjustified. Nobody likes looking a bit silly in public, but to start axing staff without evidence is the response of a desperate despot, not a university vice-chancellor.’

Bizarrely, the university’s official Twitter feed briefly ‘favourited’ a UCU tweet branding 53-year-old Professor Holmes a desperate despot.

Mrs Markey is a member of Unison whose regional secretary Kevan Nelson said: ‘We are alarmed that the university has taken this arbitrary and vindictive decision. We will challenge this by all available means.’


NY: The Ithaca Stasi

The Ithaca College Student Government Association passed a bill March 16 to create an online system to report microaggressions, which sponsors of the bill said will create a more conducive environment for victims to speak about microaggressions.

The bill, sponsored by Class of 2018 senator Angela Pradhan, calls for the implementation of a campus-wide online system to report microaggressions to “make Ithaca College a safer, more inclusive and diverse community for all students.”

Pradhan said the online system would fill what she sees as a lack of an adequate system to report microaggressions.

“I know a lot of senators are working on microaggression stuff within their respective schools, but I felt that there was a need for something to happen schoolwide,” Pradhan said. “And if there was a concrete way to document [microaggressions] online, it would provide students a way to kind of state what’s going on.”

The system would allow individuals reporting microaggressions to remain anonymous. However, junior Kyle James, vice president of communications and co-sponsor of the bill, said those reporting a microaggression would likely have to reveal their identity if they wanted to pursue any legal action.

James said in addition to a space to report the particular incident, the online system would track the demographics of those reporting microaggressions as well as those accused of committing them.

Pradhan said the way the demographic information would be tracked is not set in stone, but it will likely be based on a temporary pin and coding system. She said the system would note the gender, race, age and school within the college and year of both the person reporting the microaggression and the person being reported.

The system would also contain a way to distinguish between staff, faculty members and both international and American students, as well as a mechanism to include where the microaggression took place, Pradhan said.

She said the demographic information would be used as data regarding the issue of microaggressions. Currently, Pradhan said there is no data system tracking microaggressions at the college.

The bill does not currently state that the names of people accused of committing microaggressions will be reported. While Pradhan said she believes the names of alleged offenders should be reported, she said there could be possible legal barriers.

James said the college’s legal affairs representatives are looking into potential legal roadblocks regarding the online system. However, he said he is not sure exactly what parts of the bill are coming under legal scrutiny.  “There’s a lot to sort through,” James said. “They haven’t told me the parts that are worrying them.”

However, he said in his initial conversation about the bill, the question of anonymity in the online reporting system came up as a potential legal problem. But he said it was indicated that there is a way for the bill to be legal.

The bill calls for a committee to be created to begin the process of creating and implementing the online reporting system.

Junior Elijah Breton, senator for the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, said he supports the bill.  “Just like any other resolution that we want to pass with microaggression and diversity in the institution, what it does is it helps to make people think a little more before they do or say something,” Breton said.

Breton co-authored a bill addressing microaggressions within the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance in October 2014, leading to a series of similar bills in the other schools.

Pradhan said the bill is not meant to be a cure-all solution to the issue of microaggressions. She said it is meant to work in tandem with bills the SGA has already passed to address microaggressions in the individual schools of the college. Class of 2015 senator Taj Harvey said this is one of the main reasons he supported the bill.

“I thought this was a very effective means of trying to navigate [microaggressions] because having separate schools just kind of doing their own thing … kind of takes away from the larger effort,” Harvey said.

Sophomore Joshua Kelly, senator-at-large, was the only SGA member to vote against the bill.  Kelly said he was taken back by mentions of taking legal action against people who commit microaggressions.  “The very definition of a microaggression is that it isn’t intended, so the very idea of taking legal action against somebody for not intending to say something that happened to be harmful is not my idea of living in a free society,” Kelly said.

He said microaggressions are not something that can be stamped out by administrative action, but instead need to be addressed through educating people about the issue. Harvey agreed and said saying more information about the issue would help to prevent microaggressions.

Harvey also said there should be involvement from the general student body, as well as departments such as the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs and the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity.

“We need to make this more than just an SGA-run committee,” Harvey said. “Because I don’t think that’s going to be enough.”


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