This question is predicated on the now-debunked "A Rape on Campus" Rolling Stone article.

As user Ben points out, this information isn't in the post.

Now that the reported rape at the University of Virginia has been thoroughly discredited and exposed as serious journalistic misconduct, I think it is worth adding a new answer to this question that reflects that updated information.

While his "answer" is certainly abrasive, it does merit consideration that the question should be changed to either reflect that the example didn't happen, or edited maybe to be about any other sexual assault that occurred in a frat:

From aeismail's suggestions:

Personally, I think changing the predicating assault is fine - or the OP Ben Crowell can weigh in.

3 Answers 3


The question, as is, asks the question: Given that a horrible gang rape happened in a fraternity event, what can and should the university do?

This question is reasonably independent of the actual university in question. Furthermore, even if no such events had happened, the similar hypothetical question would have the same answers, and would still be on topic.

The question is not part of an argument, and is not intended to be evidence for anything, and as such editing it to point to actual examples, with maybe a note at the end about the original question, is in my opinion unproblematic.

The current situation, where the question claims that there a happened a rape at a particular fraternity where such an event did not happen, is very bad: it makes a serious false accusation. At we should edit in a note saying that that the claim about the rape is false.

In fact, I went ahead and edited the question to include a note about the retraction and similar events. A false accusation should not stand uncorrected.

Academia.SE is not an advocacy group

This section mostly addresses a misconception by the user Ben. Academia.se is not a discussion group or an advocacy group. It is a site for asking concrete questions about academic life, and for providing answers to such questions. This is not a blog or a discussion forum.

The reason why this particular question contained misinformation for such a long time is because nobody who knew about the misinformation happened to read it and bothered doing anything to address the matter. It was a good thing for Ben to let the users know about the issue.

  • Thanks for editing, Tommi, but the point of making a meta post was for everyone to weigh in before anyone did anything - I haven't even seen a mod commnet yet. Feb 27, 2018 at 16:54
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    @Azor-Ahai diamond moderators often chime in with our opinions because we are active members of the community, but ultimately, we are a community moderated site. Sometimes there are things that the community wants done that requires special privileges that only a diamond moderator has.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 27, 2018 at 18:14
  • @StrongBad Sure. I just meant the only people involved in the convo up to this point are 3- and 4-digit rep users. I would expect input from higher rep users before anyone did anything, that's all. Not sure why you keep putting "diamond moderator" in italics. Feb 27, 2018 at 18:49
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    @Azor-Ahai because I like to think of everyone as a moderator not just the few of us with a diamond next to our names.
    – StrongBad
    Feb 27, 2018 at 18:57
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    @Azor-Ahai I figured that that noting the presence of false accusations is a priority here. I will not be bothered if another conclusion is drawn and the post edited to match, or the edit reverted.
    – Tommi
    Feb 27, 2018 at 19:56

Thanks to Azor-Ahai for making this meta-post. As the poster of the original criticism of the question, here is my two-cents on possible amendments/retraction:

  • In my view, it would be dishonest to alter or remove the initial claim in the post, or substitute it with another alleged incident of rape. The very fact that a false rape claim was used as the example is informative of the subject under discussion. (In particular, it undercuts the OP's claim of a "pervasive rape culture" and raises the issue of false rape claims.) Given that the question asks what can be done about fraternities, it is relevant that the example raised to justify the discussion is an example where the fraternity was falsely accused.

  • Replacing the incident in the post with another incident would be a classic example of cherry-picking and swapping-out of evidence. It would be highly intellectually dishonest. The question is predicated on the assumption that a rape accusation was correct, when it has subsequently been shown to be false. The OP cites this case as an instance of "entrenched rape culture", which is itself a highly controversial notion. By substituting the false rape claim for a true (or possibly true) rape claim, that would mean that the OP is able to put forward evidence, have it rebutted, and then change the evidence to ignore the original evidence.

  • So what should be done. In my view, the question should be edited with an update at the end, correcting the record. The initial claim could be edited with strikethrough so that the initial claim is visible, but the reader is alerted to the fact that it is now being retracted.

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    Again, this isn't a rape culture QA site, this is an academia site. I am not quite sure why you are so set on "shaming" everyone here by forcing the site to leave up an article that was later retracted. As to your second point, Ben C makes the argument rapes happen on fraternities, which are related to universities. A piece of evidence he used is now debunked. There is really no reason why he can't add more evidence to support his claim. Having one piece of evidence rebutted doesn't mean the whole idea of rape culture is thrown out forever. Feb 27, 2018 at 16:59
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    Firstly, I didn't bring up rape culture, the OP did. Saying that there is a "pervasive rape culture" is a much stronger claim than "rapes happen". The fact that an alleged rape was cited, then discredited, is relevant evidence. The update to the post (that I have also contributed to and presently have no problem with) updated the reader with knowledge of the retraction, and also cites the new evidence that other readers suggested.
    – Ben
    Feb 27, 2018 at 21:30
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    I am not sure why you think it matters who brought it up. Feb 27, 2018 at 21:33
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    Are you serious? You just said to me (above), "this isn't a rape culture QA site". So I am telling you, that topic was not started by me, so I am not the proper person to direct that criticism to.
    – Ben
    Feb 27, 2018 at 21:37
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    I am not criticizing the fact that you mentioned "rape culture." I'm suggesting that since this site isn't about rape culture it isn't as necessary to focus on the "undercutting" and "raising the issue of false rape claims" as it is to focus on the actual question, which is what the university can do to a frat where a crime was committed. Feb 27, 2018 at 21:39
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    That is not the question. The actual question, which is there for all to read, gives a preliminary setting out of facts that include a false allegation of gang-rape, followed by a claim of "pervasive rape culture" in academia. The OP then asks what can be done to the fraternity to deal with this. In such a case, it is a perfectly legitimate answer to point out the falsity of the initial claim, and the implications of that.
    – Ben
    Feb 27, 2018 at 21:44
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    We are going in circles here, so I'm going to drop this conversation, but I will point out to you that the retraction of a magazine article based on false allegation does not disprove the premise of the existence of a "pervasive rape culture" and I don't think repeated edits to a question on this site are the place to have that conversation. Feb 27, 2018 at 21:48
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    Fine. It doesn't "disprove" it (and in any case, the onus of proof is on the person asserting rape culture), but it does constitute evidence against it.
    – Ben
    Feb 27, 2018 at 21:55
  • @Azor-Ahai "this isn't a rape culture QA site, this is an academia site"...the two are not mutually disjoint categories.
    – Fomite
    Mar 5, 2018 at 21:39

I am at a little bit of a loss about what the question is about and how the originally cited incident and the other similar incidents relate. At the heart of the question, I think, is what can universities do to fraternities that do bad/awful things. But maybe the question is really about when the awful thing is rape. Then there is the part about a very minimal punishment (at least according to the OP). Did the other similar incidents also result in similar punishments? Does it matter?

Part of me thinks the question could avoid rape all together and essentially be be reduced to

Supposing for the sake of argument that they were willing to completely disassociate themselves from one frat, or from the frat system as a whole, would it do any good? I assume that the frats own their houses, and the schools can't actually shut them down.

but this would invalidate the answers which focus on the rape aspect.

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