Rolling Stone retracts campus rape article

April 7, 2015

Rolling Stone has formally retracted a much discredited November article about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia.

The magazine announced its retraction in releasing a report prepared by officials of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism that Rolling Stone commissioned when numerous questions were raised about the accuracy of the article, “A Rape on Campus”, which almost immediately caused a sensation.

The report outlines numerous journalistic failings by Rolling Stone – most of which provide more detail on previously discussed actions (or failure to take actions), such as not reaching out to people who might have discredited the account.

The Columbia report strongly suggests that if those actions were taken, the magazine might have had serious doubts prior to publication. The report also notes that some University of Virginia officials strongly dispute the way their actions were portrayed in the article. Much of the public stance of the university since November has been not to dispute particulars of the article, but to focus on sexual assault and sexual harassment issues, which university leaders have repeatedly said they believe to be real, regardless of the magazine article.

The statement from Rolling Stone specifically apologised to people at Virginia, including the fraternity named as the site of the alleged rape.

“We would like to apologize to our readers and to all of those who were damaged by our story and the ensuing fallout, including members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and U.Va. administrators and students. Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings,” the statement said.

The Columbia report, referring to the name the magazine used for the alleged victim, said that “the magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of report that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine’s editors to reconsider publishing Jackie’s narrative so prominently, if at all”. The magazine hoped that the article “would sound an alarm about campus sexual assault and would challenge Virginia and other universities to do better”, the report said. “Instead, the magazine’s failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.”

Teresa A. Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, issued a statement on the report that said in part: “Rolling Stone’s story ‘A Rape on Campus’ did nothing to combat sexual violence, and it damaged serious efforts to address the issue. Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed university staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored.”

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest