Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Most of you are probably too young to remember the Duke lacrosse team brouhaha, and if you do, you probably don't remember that I steered clear of it here, but I did. It didn't smell right to me and I figured I'd wait and see what happened rather than seize upon it as a parable of all that is wrong with society. The sad part is that frat boys often are racist and sexist and rapes do happen in frat houses. That's why it's always dangerous to seize on a cause celebre to make a wider point about society. Viz also Tawana Brawley.

So, I steered clear of Jackie and UVA, for the same reason. There was nothing entirely implausible about the Rolling Stone story, but quite a bit about it was odd and the lack of corroboration or any journalistic enterprise was unsettling. Where things stand now, we know that some details were wrong -- the date and which frat house it was we can excuse, could be misremembered. However, specifically identifying a real individual as the ringleader who could not have been is really troubling. Something bad evidently happened to Jackie but whatever it was, it was not the story she told.

However, that is basically irrelevant to anyone but the people directly involved. Rapes do happen on college campuses, they do happen in frat houses, and colleges have tended to sweep it under the rug. This was true before the Rolling Stone story, and it is just as true afterwards. For some reason the zeitgeist needed a specific, particularly horrific individual story before it could wake up to this. That should not have been necessary in the first place, and I sincerely hope this debacle won't set back the momentum that was already building.


robin andrea said...

I did read the Rolling Stone story, and I was very concerned about some of the details in the piece. When I was employed at UC Santa Cruz, I advised students who published the campus newspapers. We had a First Amendment attorney come every quarter to lecture on the finer points of the law. One of the things that troubled me was the lifeguard (of which there are probably many) and the other was the student from her Anthro class (also many). Each of them was in some way libeled by her recounting of the rape. It is a terrible thing that Rolling Stone did not do its due diligence in verifying aspects of Jackie's story before publishing the piece. This stupid bit of reporting is what some people will remember when they think of campus rape. That's the horror of it.

Cervantes said...

The student newspaper here covered my talk about race and health care, and of course they got most of the details wrong, including my affiliation (School of Public Health, not Medical School). Our PR office corrected that, but I didn't bother with the other stuff.

However, Rolling Stone is not a student newspaper.