UVA ducks another crisis as police find no evidence of gang rape

March 23, 2015, 7:25 PM UTC
UVa Sexual Assault
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. A Rolling Stone article last week alleged a gang rape at the house which has since suspended operations. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Photograph by Steve Helber — AP

Following an investigation of a Rolling Stone cover story about an alleged gang rape of a student at a University of Virginia fraternity, the Charlottesville Police Department announced that it found no evidence that there was such an incident.

The police report, revealed on Monday afternoon, clarifies a storm of controversy that—at least until Rolling Stone’s reporting was discredited and its editors apologized for the article last fall—put a terrible stain on one of America’s most prestigious state universities and on its president, Teresa Sullivan.

“We don’t get to choose our adversity,” Sullivan told me in an interview for a feature that will appear in the April issue of Fortune and on Fortune.com this Wednesday.

UVA’s president arrived in typically quiet Charlottesville from the University of Michigan in 2010. Since then, she has grappled with Rolling Stone’s suggestions that she had mishandled a rash of student sexual assaults—plus an aborted ouster by the university’s governing board, two high-profile murders of female students, and, this past week, racial tensions over the arrest of a prominent black student, Martese Johnson, by seemingly belligerent white officers.

Regarding the allegations of “Jackie,” the woman who claimed in Rolling Stone‘s article that she had been gang-raped inside UVA’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said that the department met with “Jackie” multiple times and she declined to provide any information about the alleged incident. “We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter,” Longo said during a news conference. “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie,” he added. “We’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”

Regardless of this latest Charlottesville Police report—and whatever findings come out of a Columbia Journalism School investigation of the flawed article, due in April—Sullivan is trying to turn the mess to her advantage: “I want the University of Virginia to play a major role on the issue of sexual assault,” she told me.

Sullivan, 65, has earned national praise for her work with student leaders on the development of new rules to crack down on binge drinking and frat-party excesses that put students at risk. A new code of conduct at UVA requires at least three fraternity brothers to be “sober and lucid” at all fraternity events; at least one must be on duty at each point of alcohol distribution, and another at the stairs leading to residential rooms.

Meanwhile, UVA’s board of visitors, the school’s governing body, is discussing whether to extend Sullivan’s contract beyond July 2016. Despite her troubles, she wants to stay on.

Is Teresa Sullivan the leader that crisis-plagued UVA needs? Read Fortune’s assessment—and for the first time, Sullivan’s revelations of behind-the-scenes details of her 2012 ouster—on Fortune.com this Wednesday morning.

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