Reflections on Jackie

Submitted on Mar 4, 2015 by Frank Forman (Col ’66, Grad ’68)

Within days (if not hours) after the appearance of the Rolling Stone article, UVa’s fraternities became the safest place on the Grounds for a woman to be (and on campuses throughout the country).

This is a remarkable claim, startling even. Go do something else that does not involve mental concentration, like straightening out out things in the room you are in, for five or ten minutes.



Our usual default way of thinking is that something happens when the Big Man *makes* it happen. In our vastly more complicated world, most of what happens that is the result of human action that is not at the same time the result of human design (as Adam Ferguson put it back in 1872. Perhaps the president of each fraternity said , “Cut it out, boys! We can’t ruin our reputations.” But they needn’t have done even this. The brothers on their own quickly realized that henceforth sexual assault will be taken seriously. They need not come up with a bunch of rules to make assault less likely; they needed only to surmise that assaults henceforth be far more likely to get detected and far more severely punished. (Afaik, there have been no coital rapes at fraternities anywhere since the Rolling Stone article appeared.) Stephen Scipioni, Psi Kappa Phi’s president certainly did the right thing in suspending social activities, and Terry Sullivan, UVa’s president, did the inevitable thing, even if not quite the right thing, in suspending the social activities of all the other fraternities. She could no more said “Wait a minute. We need to evaluate the Rolling Stone article” no more that, George W. Bush, the United States’ president, could have said immediately after 9/11 “Wait a minute. We need to find out who is responsible.” Both had to take immediate action. Scipioni did not have to, but he did.

After it became clear that there were serious problems with the Rolling Stone article, Terry might have withdrawn the suspension. She couldn’t because of the nature of what a university has become. The great charismatic university leaders of old (Robert Maynard Hutchins at Chicago, Daniel Coit Gilman at Johns Hopkins, Charles William Eliot at Harvard, Theodore Hesburgh at Notre Dame (just deceased), Mr. Jefferson at UVa of course, and not that many others are gone. Leon Botstein at Bard College (which is not a university) is the closest exception.

These men were near dictators. Today’s university president must keep each school and discipline (and sports team) happy. In particular, she cannot join in with those to her political Left that want to abolish fraternities altogether as bastions of White male supremacy. (That the Rolling Stone article was going to be biased was evident on the first page, which said that the fraternity brothers were “overwhelmingly blond.” which is plainly not true, even as it fits Sabrina’s mindset.) These Left Creationists compose but a small part of UVa’s faculty, but they have an effective veto power. So does the business school. I gather that business school students and faculty alike find that fraternities are nigh indispensable in creating networks that certify the competence, agreeableness, companionability, and good character of future job applicants. Dry resumés cannot do this.

Terry has to keep them happy, too. And on down the line. Terry does not talk about her personal political (or religious) beliefs. (My guess is that, since she coauthored a book with Elizabeth Warren, The Fragile Middle Class, her political views favor the expansion of the welfare state. But neither are radicals that want to abolish “corporations,” which they find as wicked as Evangelicals find “secular humanism”.) Rather than trying sneakily using her power to forward a personal vision, Terry simply enjoys being a university president.

Again, just like George Bush, Terry had to form a bunch of committees. One of the them negotiated a set of rules designed to reduce drunken rapes at fraternities. Scipione was wise to simply go along with the rules, even if they do little in comparison with the spontaneous understandings and actions that resulted in making fraternities the safest place to be on the Grounds. Exercise: think about what might happen spontaneously next, meaning will happen without central direction from the top.

The real culprit is the entire hookup culture, which is, essentially, the confusion of coitus with love. Indeed, rape itself has become trivialized.




Consider: William Notingham Beebe belatedly confessed to Liz Securro that he raped her at UVa in 1984, and at Phi Kappa Psi, too. Liz refused to accept the apology and brought charges against him. He was convicted of rape and spent FIVE MONTHS in jail. Rape used to not be so trivial. It was often a capital offense. If the husband killed his wife’s rapist, before the police got involved, the “unwritten law” would often apply, meaning that juries would refuse to convict. (This is one of the major reasons why Prohibition was unenforceable.)

The fraternities at UVa should thank Jackie and Sabrina bringing the rape issue to prominent attention, irregardless of what happened in 2012. (I am not going to offer my own speculations, since they keep changing nearly every week.)

It seems that Jackie did not return to UVa. The fraternities should invite her to come back and offer to protect her. I am all but ready to say that Jackie could walk fearlessly down any dark alley, knowing that one of the thousands of brothers might very well be in that dark alley, too.

The offer has not yet been made. She may not have returned because she has become quite fragile. Were she full of confidence and encountered someone who yelled nasty things at her, she might have responded, “Come over hear, please. Is this nastiness truly worthy of you? Let’s go over to Newcomb Hall and discuss it.”

Or, she may be afraid of being convicted of an honor violation of lying. True, there are huge conflicts with what her friends said happened, what she said on different occasions, stretchers added by Sabrina (remember that Jackie tried to get Sabrina to get the parts of the article removed unsuccessfully), and discrepancies with the known facts (rushes at UVa take place only during the second semester). However, conscious intent to deceive must be demonstrated. If the Honor Committee follows the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Jackie cannot be forced to testify. Her lawyer could argue that human memories are highly fallible and, moreover, the brain will fill in the blanks and be believed in. (S. Holly Socking and Paget H Gross, How Do Journalists Think? (Bloomington: ERIC Clearing House, 1989) is highly useful here. Please also read Stephanie Castillo: Rolling Stone’s Retraction Of UVA Rape Story Fuels Rape Culture: Why I Stand With Jackie
). Also, consider that I was in traffic court during my last year at Uva. My case came up last (driving with a damaged windshield) and was there for the full three hours. During one of the cases, eyewitnesses could not agree what direction a car was moving down a one-way street! No great traumatic events here.)

I can’t image her being convicted of intentional lying. Intention is crucial.

Jackie should quietly but firmly refuse to discuss her past, if only because her brain (and everyone else’s brain) would add connective tissue and thus get trapped in another round of inconsistencies, even though this does not prove *intentional* lying. Talking about her pastsimply compounds her misery.

I have what I think is a superb way of proceeding, but I want her to take credit for it. If my hopes are right, the outcome would result in a *process* that would go far beyond any set of rules that fraternities are now obliged to undertake or any other measures that will spontaneously emerge to reduce sexual assaults. If I am right, it would get to the roots of the whole hook-up culture.

I won’t say what I have in mind but I hope this article stirs guesses on this forum.

Frank Forman
Class of 1966 and Echols Scholar