The University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi intends to sue Rolling Stone, calling the magazine's discredited reporting of an alleged gang rape by some of its members "reckless".
The lawsuit comes a day after Rolling Stone editors retracted a story, "A Rape on Campus", that presented a chilling account of a brutal sexual assault that allegedly occurred in the Phi Kappa Psi house at the university in 2012.
A Columbia University report described significant lapses by the magazine's staff while reporting the gang-rape allegations, and the story's writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and the publication's managing editor, Will Dana, apologised for the deeply flawed account. But the fraternity noted that Erdely did not apologise directly to the Phi Psi chapter at the university.
"The report by Columbia University's School of Journalism demonstrates the reckless nature in which Rolling Stone researched and failed to verify facts in its article that erroneously accused Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit," said Stephen Scipione, the fraternity's chapter president. "This type of reporting serves as a sad example of a serious decline of journalistic standards."
In a note to readers, Dana wrote that the magazine planned to revise editorial policies in light of the Columbia report. Rolling Stone spokeswoman Kathryn Brenner said there would be no comment on Phi Psi's plans to sue the publication.
The main subject of the story, a student identified only as Jackie, declined to comment through her lawyer, Palma Pustilnik.
In March, Charlottesville police detailed an investigation that exonerated the fraternity and found there was no evidence to substantiate the sexual assault allegations described in Rolling Stone. The report also showed that university administrators acted quickly to provide Jackie with resources after she disclosed her alleged sexual assault and arranged for her to meet detectives about the case. Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said last month that Jackie refused to co-operate with investigators.
Fraternity members told the Washington Post that they knew within hours of the article's publication that there were significant discrepancies in the account. Phi Psi members said they used social media logs, digital records and financial statements to confirm that the fraternity did not host a function the night Jackie said she was attacked.
Phi Psi members now pledge to undergo sexual assault awareness training and collaborate with sexual violence prevention groups on campus.
- Washington Post-Bloomberg