The University of Virginia’s selection of an independent counsel to investigate rape allegations turned out to have been a member of the fraternity that is the subject of the accusations.
Attorney General Mark Herring said Friday that the university agreed to withdraw its appointment of former federal judge and prosecutor Mark Filip as a result.
“This situation is too serious to allow anything to undermine confidence in the objectivity and independence of this review,” Herring said in a statement about the decision to rescind the appointment.
UVa Rector George Keith Martin announced late Thursday that Filip would lead a review of university policies that would include “how best to maximize opportunities for successful criminal prosecution of sexual misconduct cases.”
But Filip was a member of Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1988.
In an article published Wednesday in Rolling Stone magazine, a UVa student says she was raped by seven men in 2012 during a party at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The chapter voluntarily suspended all activities Thursday after its fraternity house was vandalized.
Herring, chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, said the university had requested the appointment of an independent counsel “to review their structure of prevention and response to reports of sexual violence.”
He agreed it was a necessary step but “the independence and objectivity of the review must be unimpeachable.”
The Rolling Stone article ignited a storm reminiscent of UVa’s leadership crisis — in which the board of visitors unsuccessfully sought to remove President Teresa Sullivan — during the summer before the alleged gang rape took place.
UVa’s Facebook page was filled Friday with comments from alumni and parents, with many calling for Sullivan to denounce the fraternity culture blamed for the assault.
“President Sullivan: I was so disgusted by the Board of Visitors’ ‘misconduct’ toward you that I twice drove from Richmond to UVA to protest and demand integrity on behalf of you, UVA’s first female president... Like so many others in this thread, I’m ACHING for you to state YOUR outrage and disgust regarding these alleged rapes and protection of perpetrators,” one commenter wrote.
Another referred to how her supporters had rallied during the crisis and said Sullivan should be doing the same now for the women of UVa: “Many people fought hard with similar gestures to keep you in office and instead of releasing this white washed statement you should be showing outrage and passion and fire.”
Alumni are “extremely concerned and distressed” by the Rolling Stone article, Tom Faulders, president of the UVa Alumni Association, wrote in an email letter to the group.
“We have heard from many of you through direct email, posts, phone calls and tweets. You have expressed shock, anger, extreme disappointment and disbelief,” he wrote.
The association established an online portal to receive “concerns, thoughts and recommendations,” his letter said. “We realize that this is a difficult and painful subject, but we also know that through your ideas and debate, a stronger university will emerge.”
Rolling Stone, meanwhile, posted a selection of what it described as an outpouring of comments “that further illuminate the chilling frequency with which sexual assault on campus occurs.”
One said: “I was also raped at UVA in a frat house in 2013. I reported it through the Sexual Misconduct Board at the University and had it tried in 2014. My evidence included texts calling for help, police testimony consistent with mine, and numerous witnesses. But the University still found him innocent.”