Following an investigation by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Rolling Stone magazine has officially retracted a controversial article it published on November 19, 2014.
In the article, titled "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA," Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Erdely reported that a University of Virginia student identified as "Jackie" had been gang raped as part of a fraternity initiation.
The story prompted some activists and commentators to declare that a "campus rape epidemic" was spreading across universities in the United States and Canada.
However, from the beginning, others -- including writers for The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times -- questioned the validity of Erdely's article.
On Sunday, an in-depth investigation conducted by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism called "A Rape on Campus" "a journalistic failure that was avoidable":
The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking. The magazine set aside or rationalized as unnecessary essential practices of reporting that, if pursued, would likely have led the magazine’s editors to reconsider publishing Jackie’s narrative so prominently, if at all. The published story glossed over the gaps in the magazine’s reporting by using pseudonyms and by failing to state where important information had come from.
The report continued:
Erdely and her editors had hoped their investigation would sound an alarm about campus sexual assault and would challenge Virginia and other universities to do better. Instead, the magazine’s failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.
After the article appeared, UVA president Teresa Sullivan temporarily suspended all fraternity and sorority events.
The fraternity named in the article, the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, is now "exploring its legal options."