Sunday, December 14, 2014

Another ski location

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My blog

Thank you for visiting my blog. I sometimes don't have time to post here everything that I send to my school reform email list, so if you want to receive my regular (approximately once a week) email updates, please email me at WTilson at In addition, in between emails, I regularly tweet the most interesting articles I come across, so sign up to follow me on Twitter at:

For more about me and links to my favorite articles, posts and videos on education reform, see my School Reform Resource Page at, in particular my Powerpoint presentation entitled A Right Denied: The Critical Need for Genuine School Reform, which is posted at
The idea for this came to me after watching An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's documentary about global warming. After seeing it, I thought to myself, "That's exactly what school reformers need as well!" My presentation is meant to be a collection of data and arguments that forcefully advocates for an urgent school reform agenda. It was made into a documentary in 2010 that you can watch at I did an interview about it with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo:

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New York State Education Commissioner to Leave for Federal Post

Ed warrior John King is becoming the #2 at the DOE – a huge win for the country, but a big loss for NY State. He is leaving big shoes to fill.

New York State's education commissioner, John B. King Jr., who has been a staunch advocate for the Common Core standards and a frequent target of those who criticize them, announced on Wednesday that he would step down at the end of the year to take the second-highest-ranking job at the federal Education Department, senior adviser to Secretary Arne Duncan.

Dr. King, 39, a former charter school leader who was appointed commissioner in 2011, presided over major revisions to curriculum as well as the way that teachers are evaluated and trained. The most significant change during his tenure was New York's transition to the Common Core, a new set of learning goals embraced by most states. New York was one of the first to test its students against the new standards, and when scores plummeted, teachers and parents blamed him for not giving schools enough time to adjust.

Nonetheless, he was a firm defender of the Common Core and the tougher tests, saying the old standards had been set too low and did not reflect the skills students needed for college or jobs.

In an interview conducted when he was named commissioner, Dr. King, who was orphaned at age 12, credited teachers with "quite literally" saving his life (his father had been the first African-American principal of a public school in Brooklyn). He earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale and a doctorate in education from Columbia. Before becoming education commissioner he was a co-founder of Roxbury Prep, a highly regarded charter middle school in Massachusetts, and led Uncommon Schools, a charter network based in New York.

Here are two more articles about this:
·         In first goodbye, King calls for successors to continue his work:
·         The man who will be King (NY Post editorial):

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Dispelling Five ‘Falsehoods’ About Newark’s School System

Speaking of ed warriors, here's Chris Cerf with a full-throated defense of Cami Anderson's tenure as Newark's superintendent:

Having served as New Jersey's Commissioner of Education from 2011 to 2014, I have had an inside view into efforts to improve Newark's struggling school system. Superintendent Cami Anderson's recent letter goes a long way toward countering the narrative of failure that has taken hold about the Newark school reform effort. Between a recent "New Yorker" piece and Mayor Baraka's astonishingly inaccurate "New York Times" op-ed, however, the blogosphere has reached a verdict that the tumult in Newark signals a lack of success and that more effective "community engagement" might have yielded a better outcome. This assessment of the work in Newark is incorrect in virtually every respect.

Here are five falsehoods worthy of dispelling: 

Falsehood 1: The work of the past 3.5 years (Superintendent Anderson's tenure) has been a failure:

Falsehood 2: The 1995 state takeover has failed.

Falsehood 3: Anderson's "One Newark" plan is a conspiracy to "privatize" public schools by replacing the traditional system with charters.

Falsehood 4: "One Newark" resulted in closing dozens of schools

Falsehood 5: Had there been better "community engagement," these positive changes could have been achieved in a more harmonious way.


Dispelling Five 'Falsehoods' About Newark's School System

Chris Cerf | December 2, 2014

Despite narrative of failure, former state education chief says Newark has met with success on numerous fronts

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2014’s Best and Worst Players in Public Education

What a badge of honor for DFER, Welsh & Brown to make the NEA's list: 2014's Best & Worst Players in Public Education:

TIME magazine's decision to demonize public school educators and due process with its now notorious Nov. 3 cover story was a " here we go again" moment in  year that seemed full of them. The economy began to pick up steam but the attacks on public education continued – in the media, courtrooms and at the ballot box. While there were undeniable setbacks, the year also saw real momentum build against high stakes testing and educators notched some key victories at the local and state level.

As 2014 draws to a close, let's take look back at some of the individuals and groups who emerged during the year who either made you stand up and cheer or made you hiss and boo (and hopefully get even more politically involved). This is by no means a definitive list. There are many more onions to give out, but there are also as many, if not more, apples. Use the comments field to tell us who you would nominate!

Let's get the boos and hisses out of the way first.

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Issues affecting black girls

This is terrible – and completely unsurprising, sadly:

For all the attention placed on problems that black boys face in terms of school discipline and criminal justice, there is increasing focus on the way those issues affect black girls as well.

Data from the Office for Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education show that from 2011 to 2012, black girls in public elementary and secondary schools nationwide were suspended at a rate of 12 percent, compared with a rate of just 2 percent for white girls, and more than girls of any other race or ethnicity. In Georgia, the ratio of black girls receiving suspensions in the same period compared with white girls was 5 to 1, and in Henry County, that ratio was 2.3 to 1, said J D Hardin, the spokesman for the county's school district. And researchers say that within minority groups, darker-skinned girls are disciplined more harshly than light-skinned ones

Schools' Discipline for Girls Differs by Race and Hue

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The voters of Washington state got snookered

The voters of Washington state got snookered. This will enrich the unions while doing almost nothing for students – at tremendous cost.

Last month, voters in Washington decided that the state's classes were filled with too many kids. A ballot initiative seeking to limit class sizes to 17 students for kindergarten through third grade and to 25 students for all others squeaked by, garnering only 51 percent of the vote. But a majority is a majority, and now the state must cut class sizes at every grade level — meaning it needs to hire thousands of new teachers, counselors, teaching assistants and librarians.

The initiative will cost nearly $5 billion through 2019, a hefty sum considering that the state's current two-year budget for public education is around $15 billion.

But it's unclear where the money will come from. Or if it's even worth spending.

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Sam Walton's Granddaughter Has Plans To Fix Public Education In America

A great Forbes article about Carrie Walton Penner & her family's incredible support for school reform, esp. charters:

Until now the personable Penner has been hesitant to speak up. Her conversations with FORBES make up her first extensive media interview, and she speaks with the careful deliberateness of one of her charter school English teachers. Listen carefully, though, and you get a clear vision of the charter school movement over the next five years and her place in it, something that she's been working toward, both consciously and unwittingly, over the past two decades. YES Prep North Central is an appropriate place to begin that conversation. Ranked the fourth-best high school in Texas and 28th in the country by U.S. News & World Report, it represents everything that's great about charters. Namely that all children, no matter their circumstances, can succeed when they attend the right school.

"We've always had a strategy and theory for change," she says. "The current plan has been to have a new supply of high-performing, mostly charters, for parents to choose from." To Penner that last clause is key: choice. Her four children, ages 10 to 16, go to private schools, but each attends a different one based on what is best for them. "We're living choice. That's what we want for all parents."

…Penner has emerged as the Waltons' leader in education efforts. She attended her first board meeting at age 12 but became passionate about K-12 when, as a freshman at Georgetown, she started tutoring high school kids on probation at D.C.'s public schools. She was shocked. "There were no safe places for these kids, certainly not in school. It was amazing to me that they stayed in school given the circumstances," recalls Penner. "I was helping a 17-year-old who didn't read at second-grade level. I asked him, 'What do you do when called on in class?' He said he acts out."

Penner was nearing graduation, in 1993, just as the family foundation was formalizing. She pitched in, reaching out to Waldemar Nielsen, best known for his influential tome, The Big Foundations. At his recommendation she went to New York City to work with several individuals and institutions, including education expert Edward J. Meade Jr., a veteran of the Ford Foundation. She also interned at the Aaron Diamond Foundation, one of the first supporters of AIDS research, and at the Rockefeller Foundation, where she got to do a three-week stint in Zimbabwe. "We were trying to figure out our choices," recalls Penner. "Learning by doing, which was my grandfather's approach."

The Walton Family Foundation was formally established in 1994, with Penner as its first program officer. She worked closely with her uncle John Walton, who was then leading their education work. One of its earliest grants funded curriculum development. Another went to Teach for America to send teachers to the poverty-stricken Arkansas Delta. That group has since gotten $93 million from the Waltons, making it the single-biggest recipient of the family's funds. As for Penner, she eventually headed to Stanford, where she conducted education-related research. (She had originally planned to get her doctorate, but graduated with two master's.) In one study she did qualitative analysis on how county-based centers provided math and science support to district schools and teachers. She also helped analyze the afterschool curriculum for middle and high school students in San Francisco's high-poverty areas. She might have taken a more low-key role had it not been for the sudden death of her uncle John in a 2005 plane crash. "We were shocked and concerned after he passed away," says Jed Wallace, chief executive officer of the California Charter Schools Association. "But I saw quickly that Carrie herself was quite formidable. She is the anchor of the Walton family after the passing of her uncle."

Sam Walton's Granddaughter Has Plans To Fix Public Education In America

This story appears in the December 15, 2014 issue of Forbes.

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A huge and unprecedented rally for reform in CT last week

A huge and unprecedented rally for reform in CT last week:
Wednesday's rally was a historic day for the reform movement in CT. Despite the rain, mud and cold, we had 6,000 parents, students, civil rights, community and faith leaders join us on the New Haven Green to fight for great schools!  On social media, we reached 1.8 million people! Here's an aerial shot of the event:
Here is a link to the news clips about the day:
(Random thought: it looks like this picture was taken from the office building my grandfather worked in for 50+ years at Wiggin & Dana law firm.)

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Another big rally in Boston in late Nov

Another big rally in Boston in late Nov:
I was in Boston just over a week ago and was able to watch a rally of over 2000 challenge leaders in Massachusetts to open more great schools for kids across the state and in Boston, specifically.   It was powerful – here is a one minute video of the rally – and the woman leading it is none other than Nikki Barnes, our Assistant Principal at KIPP Boston. Her daughter and son are both KIPP ENC alumni (UNC and Tufts).

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Harvard Students Fail A Literacy Test Louisiana Used To Suppress The Black Vote

Fascinating history: Harvard Students Fail A Literacy Test Louisiana Used To Suppress The Black Vote In '64  

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What if Whites Were the Minority?

Kristof with a brilliant mind exercise: What if Whites Were the Minority?

In the responses to my "When Whites Just Don't Get It" series, I've been struck by the lack of empathy some whites show for members of minority groups. So imagine if the world were reversed. Then "the talk" might go like this:

"Son, sit down. You're 13, old enough to have a conversation that I've been dreading."

"Oh, come on, Dad. I hope this isn't about the birds and the bees."

"Nope. That'd be easy. Have you seen the video of the white horticulturalist being choked to death by police?"

"All the kids have seen it. He says he can't breathe, and black cops still kill him. [Expletive!]"

"Don't curse. It is wrong, but it's the way the world works. And that's why Mom and I are scared for you. With us whites in the minority, some cops are just going to see you as a threat no matter what. You're going to get stopped by black cops, and I want you to promise you'll never run or mouth off. Mom and I can't protect you out there, and white kids are 21 times as likely as black kids to be shot dead by police. So even when a cop curses you, I want you to call him Sir."

"Anybody curses me, he won't get away with it."

"Yes, he will. And if he shoots you, he might get away with it, too. Especially when you keep wearing clothes all the other white boys wear like those polo shirts. Black cops see you in them and suspect trouble. Black folks make the rules, and we have to live by them. Like it or not."

"[Expletive!] Racists!"

"Hey! I told you not to curse. And don't hold it against all blacks. Lots have joined with whites in protesting these killings. And even for those who are unsympathetic, most aren't evil, just clueless."

"C'mon, Dad. When a 12-year-old white kid is shot dead because he's holding a toy gun, when a white woman professor is thrown to the ground for jaywalking, when cops smash a car window to taser a white guy in front of kids, that's not cluelessness. That's evil. White lives matter."

"It's complicated. Remember when you were suspended in the fourth grade for being disruptive?"

"That was ridiculous."

"Yup. White kids get suspended when black kids don't. That's just the way it is.

What if Whites Were the Minority?

In the responses to my "When Whites Just Don't Get It" series, I've been struck by the lack of empathy some whites show for members of minority groups. So imagine if the world were reversed. Then "the talk" might go like this:


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Echoing Green is looking for applications for the next cohort of Fellows:

Echoing Green, an incredible organization, is looking for applications for the next cohort of Fellows:
Echoing Green is looking to invest $5MM with very early stage social entrepreneurs.
As you may knowEchoing Green is a 27-year-old organization that offers Fellowships for very early-stage social entrepreneurs with a big vision to change the world.  Our 600+ Fellows include Wendy Kopp (class of '91), Eric Adler and Raj Vinnakota of the SEED Schools (class of '98) and Alejandro Gac-Artigas of Springboard Collaborative (class of 2012).  This year, because of an exciting new partnership, we are especially seeking to build our pipeline of education-focused entrepreneurs of color.
Our fairly simple phase one application is open right now until January 5th.  If you know specific individuals who should consider applying, please encourage them to visit the application website.  If your organization could serve as an informal search partner to spread the word and help inform the selection process, please reach out immediately to

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The Learning Accelerator (TLA)

An exciting new program:
The Learning Accelerator (TLA) is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing blended learning to all kids in America.  Who is TLA? Watch this brief introductory video about us. What is blended learning? Blended learning is the combination of face-to-face, teacher-led instruction with online, digital instruction that allows for personalized student learning and competency-based progression. (Awesome 5 minute video here, or just as awesome 2 minute video here, shows blended learning in action.) 
We have been busy identifying the biggest barriers schools face when they want to adopt blended learning, and we are finding and funding solutions to overcoming those barriers.  Case in point: fewer than half of American schools have sufficient Internet connection to run online educational tools.  So we provided early funding to a group called EducationSuperHighway who had developed some excellent tools for schools to upgrade their networks and, just as importantly, had a plan to fund school upgrades through a reform of the federal E-Rate program.  Along with EducationSuperHighway, we are also supporting efforts to assess how to maximize the effectiveness of the administration's Future Ready Schools initiative (which was in the NYT yesterday) in support of the ConnectEd Initiative goals. 
Another exciting project that we announced this week is a collaboration among 11 states to create free, comprehensive, digital, Open Education Resources (OER) for schools. Every year, school districts across the country spend over $8 billion on instructional materials and textbooks that can fall into disrepair and don't provide an opportunity for timely updates. By harnessing new improvements in technology and online content, we will offer students dynamic digital content that is organized, searchable, tagged and aligned with learning standards. The effort will be funded by a public-private partnership to preserve local control of flexible, high-quality educational materials.
We issued the RFP for this work on Wednesday and you can find the press release here.  I've also attached a two-page fact sheet about the project and any content developers or publishers who are interested in responding to the RFP can get more information on the K-12 OER Collaborative website.  We'd really appreciate any help in getting the word out about this exciting opportunity.
If you would like to learn more or have any questions, please contact me. Thanks very much!
Kira Keane
The Learning Accelerator

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Fwd: An offer from Tableau Software

An offer from Tableau Software:
·         Any full-time student gets a free, one-year copy of Tableau Desktop.
·         Students should go to the program webpage.
·         Professors who teach data in their classes can get free, term-length Tableau Desktop licenses for their students, as well as for themselves.

·         If you know anyone, please direct them to our program webpage, or email

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KIPP New Jersey is looking to hire a Director of Marketing & Communications

KIPP New Jersey is looking to hire a Director of Marketing & Communications – for details, see:

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Two major groups of couples: the masters and the disasters.

This doesn't have anything to do with ed reform, but I thought it was great advice for all couples:
From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. When the researchers analyzed the data they gathered on the couples, they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters. 

… Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it's not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they're not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage…

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don't. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

… There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it's often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.


Masters of Love

Emily Esfahani Smith Jun 12 2014, 11:00 AM ET

Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say "I do," committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.

Except, of course, it doesn't work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Rolling Stone apologizes over account of UVA gang rape

1) Breaking news: It now appears that one of the most widely known/read /discussed rape stories ever has likely been embellished and may be a total fabrication. Consider (from the articles below):
·         "The University of Virginia's Phi Kappa Psi chapter did not have a party the night of September 28, 2012, the date when the reported attack occurred…"
·         "the orchestrator of the alleged rape did not belong to the fraternity, the fraternity house has no side staircase and there were no pledges at that time of year"
·         "no members of the fraternity were employed at the university's Aquatic Fitness Center during that time frame — a detail Jackie provided in her account to Rolling Stone and in interviews with The Washington Post — and that no member of the house matches the description detailed in the Rolling Stone account."
·         "A group of Jackie's close friends, who are sex assault awareness advocates at U-Va., said they believe something traumatic happened to Jackie but have come to doubt her account. They said details have changed over time, and they have not been able to verify key points of the story in recent days. A name of an alleged attacker that Jackie provided to them for the first time this week, for example, turned out to be similar to the name of a student who belongs to a different fraternity, and no one by that name has been a member of Phi Kappa Psi. Reached by phone, that man, a U-Va. graduate, said Friday that he did work at the Aquatic Fitness Center and was familiar with Jackie's name. He said, however, that he had never met Jackie in person and had never taken her on a date. He also confirmed that he was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi."
Wow, what a disaster in so many ways: for the fraternity and university, who have apparently been falsely smeared; for Jackie, who will forever be stained by this (there's zero chance she'll remain anonymous), which is especially sad because I don't doubt thatsomething bad happened to her; and worst of all, to quote the (female) CNN anchor at the end of this segment: "For all of the women in the future, from this day forward, who aresexually assaulted and raped, will it be taken as seriously as it should be?" The sad but, in my opinion, obvious answer is: NO.
Here's an excerpt from the Washington Post story below:

Alex Pinkleton, a close friend of Jackie's who survived a rape and an attempted rape during her first two years on campus, said in an interview that she has had numerous conversations with Jackie in recent days and now feels misled.

"One of my biggest fears with these inconsistencies emerging is that people will be unwilling to believe survivors in the future," Pinkleton said. "However, we need to remember that the majority of survivors who come forward are telling the truth."

Pinkleton said that she is concerned that sexual assault awareness advocacy groups will suffer as a result of the conflicting details of the Rolling Stone allegations.

"While the details of this one case may have been misreported, this does not erase the somber truth this article brought to light: Rape is far more prevalent than we realize and it is often misunderstood and mishandled by peers, institutions, and society at large," Pinkleton said.
I agree. Even if this one story turns out to be a total fabrication, it doesn't change my view (which is backed up by numerous surveys and studies) that sexual assaults on college campuses occur with alarming frequency and thus this is a very serious issue that our colleges and universities need to do much more to address. Alas, however, in light this high-profile story being discredited, I fear that the momentum that existed at UVA and other colleges around the country to enact meaningful reforms to reduce sexual assaults and the factors that lead to them (such as binge drinking) has just been halted in its tracks. I hope I'm wrong, but doubt it. What a tragedy!
2) Here's the CNN story:

Rolling Stone apologizes over account of UVA gang rape

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 2:17 PM EST, Fri December 5, 2014
Source: CNN
·         Rolling Stone published a scathing report about an alleged gang rape at UVA
·         The magazine is now apologizing, pointing to "discrepancies" in accuser's account
·         A lawyer for the fraternity says there was no party on the date of the alleged attack

(CNN) -- Rolling Stone magazine apologized to readers Friday for a story it published chronicling one woman's account of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house and the school's failure to respond to that alleged assault.

The magazine editors made the choice not to contact the man who allegedly "orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her," a decision Rolling Stone says it now regrets.

"In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in (the woman's) account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced," Rolling Stone said.

The University of Virginia's Phi Kappa Psi chapter did not have a party the night of September 28, 2012, the date when the reported attack occurred, the fraternity chapter's lawyer, Ben Warthen, told CNN. He said email records and Inter-fraternity Council records prove there was no party.

Warthen said there were other discrepancies in the account from the woman, whom Rolling Stone identified as Jackie, who then had just started her freshman year. For example, the orchestrator of the alleged rape did not belong to the fraternity, the fraternity house has no side staircase and there were no pledges at that time of year.

"It's not part of our culture," Warthen said. "It's just not true."

3) Here's the statement from Rolling Stone:

A Note to Our Readers

By Rolling Stone | December 5, 2014 

To Our Readers:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled "A Rape on Campus" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university's failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school's troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie's credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie's account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence. 

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

Will Dana
Managing Editor

4) Today's news underscores what I included in my email last week:
To those who say "a woman would never lie about being raped", allow me to share with you the response by my wife's college roommate, who at the time (maybe 15 years ago) was in the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office. When I said this to her, she replied:
Oh please. Rape is the MOST lied about crime. Think about it: does anybody ever lie about being mugged, having their home burglarized, their car stolen, whereas there are a lot of reasons why a woman might lie about being raped. I had one case where, after we investigated, it turned out that she was a prostitute and was using a rape claim to try to resolve a dispute with her customer about how much he owed her. In the case of another woman, her parents found out she'd had sex and they were super conservative so, to get out of being punished, she made up a rape story. Or another woman who made up the story because she was angry that they guy hadn't called her afterward.
Let me be clear: I think a woman completely fabricating stories like these is extremely rare. But far more common no doubt are situations in which I think a reasonable person would say belongs in a gray area: both people are drunk, horny and like each other, they go up to his or her room and start making out, things get hot and heavy, and they have sex. Did he pressure her? Did he force her? Did she say no? Who knows? There are almost never any witnesses. What is a prosecutor or a university supposed to do with this?
5) Here's the lengthy Washington Post story, which includes the only interview any reporter has had with Jackie since the Rolling Stone article came out:

U-Va. fraternity to rebut claims of gang rape in Rolling Stone

Protestors carry signs and chant slogans in front of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia late Saturday night, Nov. 22, in Charlottesville. The protest, the most well-attended of several throughout the day, was in response to the university's reaction to an alleged sexual assault of a student revealed in a recent Rolling Stone article. (Ryan M. Kelly/AP)
 December 5 at 1:01 PM
Washington Post

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rolling Stone article sending shock waves throughout higher education America.

QUINTUPLE STOP THE PRESSES! Here's the Rolling Stone article, which is sending out shock waves throughout higher education America. This is one of those articles that people will be talking about for years – and that will hopefully lead to huge, urgent, and much-needed changes, not just at UVA, but every institution of higher ed:

Jackie was just starting her freshman year at the University of Virginia when she was brutally assaulted by seven men at a frat party. When she tried to hold them accountable, a whole new kind of abuse began…

 Two years later, Jackie, now a third-year, is worried about what might happen to her once this article comes out. Greek life is huge at UVA, with nearly one-third of undergrads belonging to a fraternity or sorority, so Jackie fears the backlash could be big – a "shitshow" predicted by her now-former friend Randall, who, citing his loyalty to his own frat, declined to be interviewed. But her concerns go beyond taking on her alleged assailants and their fraternity. Lots of people have discouraged her from sharing her story, Jackie tells me with a pained look, including the trusted UVA dean to whom Jackie reported her gang-rape allegations more than a year ago. On this deeply loyal campus, even some of Jackie's closest friends see her going public as tantamount to betrayal.

"One of my roommates said, 'Do you want to be responsible for something that's gonna paint UVA in a bad light?' " says Jackie, poking at a vegan burger at a restaurant on the Corner, UVA's popular retail strip. "But I said, 'UVA has flown under the radar for so long, someone has to say something about it, or else it's gonna be this system that keeps perpetuating!' " Jackie frowns. "My friend just said, 'You have to remember where your loyalty lies.'"

From reading headlines today, one might think colleges have suddenly become hotbeds of protest by celebrated anti-rape activists. But like most colleges across America, genteel University of Virginia has no radical feminist culture seeking to upend the patriarchy. There are no red-tape-wearing protests like at Harvard, no "sex-positive" clubs promoting the female orgasm like at Yale, no mattress-hauling performance artists like at Columbia, and certainly no SlutWalks. UVA isn't an edgy or progressive campus by any stretch. The pinnacle of its polite activism is its annual Take Back the Night vigil, which on this campus of 21,000 students attracts an audience of less than 500 souls. But the dearth of attention isn't because rape doesn't happen in Charlottesville. It's because at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students – who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture – and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal. Some UVA women, so sickened by the university's culture of hidden sexual violence, have taken to calling it "UVrApe."

"University of Virginia thinks they're above the law," says UVA grad and victims-rights advocate Liz Seccuro. "They go to such lengths to protect themselves. There's a national conversation about sexual assault, but nothing at UVA is changing."

In fairness to UVA, I'll bet there are well over 100 university presidents that are (very quietly) breathing a sigh of relief, as the Rolling Stone article could just as easily been written about their school. This is a pervasive problem, especially at schools that are: a) large; b) have fraternities; and c) have drinking cultures (some might add d) are in the South – but that's hard to know).
This is an enormously complex and difficult issue and there are no easy solutions. For example, I think it's naïve to say, "Colleges shouldn't be handling these cases – every woman should be referred to the local police." For sure, that's the right answer in some cases (surely more than is currently happening), but a lot of these cases fall into a grey area where there's no physical evidence or witnesses, so prosecutors can't/won't do anything (more on this below).
There are a number of presidents, board members, trustees, and other influential people on this email list, so if you have ideas for best practices that UVA and other schools could adopt, I'd love to hear them so I can disseminate them in a future email.

A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA

Jackie was just starting her freshman year at the University of Virginia when she was brutally assaulted by seven men at a frat party. When she tried to hold them accountable, a whole new kind of abuse began

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Stone Campus Rape Investigation - Letter from the President of UVA

Ironically, from what I've heard, Teresa Sullivan, who became UVA's first woman president in 2010, had already recognized that UVA had a problem and made this issue a real priority. I'm impressed with her letter in response to the article and the school's decision to suspend all of the fraternities (if only for seven weeks). It will be very interesting to see what new norms and restrictions are required before they're taken off suspension. (One college president I heard from suggested making them co-ed, as some other colleges have done – though he thinks chances of that happening at UVA are zero.) Here's an excerpt from Sullivan's letter (full letter and article below):

The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community. Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place in the world, let alone on the campuses and grounds of our nation's colleges and universities. We know, and have felt very powerfully this week, that we are better than we have been described, and that we have a responsibility to live our tradition of honor every day, and as importantly every night.

As you are aware, I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the 2012 assault that is described in Rolling Stone. There are individuals in our community who know what happened that night, and I am calling on them to come forward to the police to report the facts. Only you can shed light on the truth, and it is your responsibility to do so. Alongside this investigation, we as a community must also do a systematic evaluation of our culture to ensure that one of our founding principles– the pursuit of truth – remains a pillar on which we can stand. There is no greater threat to honor than secrecy and indifference.

I write you today in solidarity. I write you in great sorrow, great rage, but most importantly, with great determination. Meaningful change is necessary, and we can lead that change for all universities. We can demand that incidents like those described in Rolling Stone never happen and that if they do, the responsible are held accountable to the law. This will require institutional change, cultural change, and legislative change, and it will not be easy. We are making those changes.

Stone Campus Rape Investigation

"The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community," UVA president writes in letter suspending fraternities

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UVA student leaders

I'm also impressed with this letter from UVA student leaders and the web site they quickly set up:

From: Jalen Ross, Student Council President <>
Date: Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 5:33 PM
Subject: Rolling Stone Must Unite Us, Not Divide Us

Fellow Students,

This week, the core of who we are has been challenged. We are now questioning if we truly stand for honor and mutual trust. We wonder if we are truly the caring, supportive community that we purport to be. And we are hurting.

This week threatens to drive us apart. But this is not the time to splinter. Amid the shaking reality of a trying semester, made all the more tragic as we lost another classmate yesterday, this is the time to redouble our commitment to our principles. We must not only speak them - we must live them. And we've already begun. The outpouring of support from family and friends - even strangers - proves this community is strong. The swift, passionate calls for action prove that we care about our community of trust and that we're more dedicated than ever to shaping our own University.

But strong, honorable, loving, engaged communities recognize that even they have problems. This week, we've been startlingly reminded that sexual assault is a problem of ours. It's our moral obligation as friends, classmates, and people to end it. Now. 

Today, we call on one another to make this University the safe haven it ought to be. Take a minute to learn more, to become an advocate, or to voice your opinions. Take a moment to tell your story, or to support a survivor with loving strength. Take a second to step in when something looks wrong, to start a discussion, or to attend a prevention event. Doing nothing is to be part of the problem. And we need to be part of the solution.

So we've put everything you need to learn, speak, or get involved in one place.

We can fix this with action rooted in our principles. It is easy to hate, to cast whole communities in doubt, to deny, or to hide. But if we respond to hard times with hard work, if we respond to division with unity, if we respond to efforts to tear us down by building each other up, then we'll look back on this moment as the time we stood up to answer the call.

Let's stand together.

Jalen Ross, Student Council
Ashley Brown, One Less
Brian Head, One in Four

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