When Rolling Stone published an account late last year of a brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house, it crystallized concerns about a national campus-rape problem. Frats were suspended, reforms were implemented, a national discussion ensued.
Then it all fell apart.
After the Washington Post pointed to major inconsistencies in the story from the accuser known as Jackie, the magazine said its trust in her had been “misplaced” and asked Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism to take an independent look at what had gone wrong. On April 5 Columbia released a searing report documenting a “journalistic failure that was avoidable,” and Rolling Stone formally retracted the piece.
The retraction capped a painful controversy that has roiled UVa’s campus since the story was published in November, causing protests, an overhaul of the university’s Greek system and threats of physical violence and vandalism against the fraternity named in the story, Phi Kappa Psi. But it also left advocates for campus sexual-assault victims fearful that the whole episode would make victims less likely to come forward–a fear Rolling Stone echoed. “Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward,” managing editor Will Dana said. “It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.”
The troubles at Rolling Stone may not be over yet. The fallout hasn’t cost anyone a job, but a lawsuit may be in the magazine’s future; the UVa chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said it planned to “pursue all available legal action” against the magazine.
But at least for UVa, the saga is over.
This appears in the April 20, 2015 issue of TIME.
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