Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Spring Rush at the University of Virginia

Spring Rush at the University of Virginia

Before it was discredited, a coed's sensational story alleging gang rape at the University of Virginia prompted the university's president, Teresa Sullivan, to suspend fraternity and sorority activities on campus so that underlying problems of frat-house excesses could be addressed. The result, announced Tuesday, is an encouraging and realistic agreement by student and university leaders to crack down on the sort of binge drinking and partying abuses that have given frat-house behavior a notorious reputation on campuses across the nation.

Under the agreement, at least three "sober and lucid" fraternity members will monitor behavior at parties where "jungle juice" and other potent alcohol punches will be banned along with beer in kegs. Guest lists are to be tightly enforced at the door. One monitor will be in charge of watching frat-house bedrooms with a set of keys to guard against sexual assaults.

The agreement does not dwell on the Rolling Stone rape story that was challenged in subsequent reporting by The Washington Post. Rather, to the credit of the student body and university, the new code focuses candidly on already well known frat-culture excesses that for too long have invited uncontrolled and even criminal behavior on some campuses. The agreement, in which student fraternity leaders played an important role, is worthy of being used elsewhere.

It is important that student leaders played a major role in the process. In a separate statement, the leaders made the point that in allegations of misconduct "universities must demonstrate more respect for the fundamental rights to due process" — an apparent reference to errors in the rape story that spread widely. For its part, the university stressed the students' responsibility to address "high-risk drinking, sexual misconduct and unhealthy power structures" at fraternity events.

Together, the two sides have produced a code of mature behavior to protect what Ms. Sullivan called "our community of trust." It is timely as well: the fraternities' spring rush for new members begins next week. No one knows better than the university's students and leadership that the campus will continue to be watched closely to see how closely the code is observed.


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