Defamation Case Against Rolling Stone


Interviewer: The reports of hazing, racist chants, sexual assaults, have really become the ugly face of college fraternities over the past few weeks. Sigma Alpha Epsilon racist chant at the University of Oklahoma, that may have been one of the biggest scandals just this week. We’ve covered the suspension of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at Penn State, who allegedly used a Facebook account to post compromising photos of women, including some who appeared to be asleep or passed out. But even more allegations of criminal activity of fraternities have left a lot of people wondering whether the Greek system itself is the problem. Let’s talk with criminal defense attorney, Page Pate about this. Clearly, we want to point out these acts are not representative for fraternities by any means. But Page, do you think that the concept of Greek life is in trouble on college campuses?

Page: I think so. I mean what we have to be concerned about here is not just public perception or insensitivity, but criminal actions. In the real world, outside of the Greek system, outside of these colleges, if there is an allegation of criminal conduct, it’s going to be investigated first by law enforcement, and that’s not what’s happening here. They try to take these students, Greek organizations and non-Greek students, and give them an opportunity to resolve these things within the school, and that’s not appropriate. And we end up in situations like we have with the Rolling Stone article, which I think should have first been investigated by law enforcement way before it was reported and way before we had this crisis.

Interviewer: But, it’s not unusual for someone who allegedly is a victim of sexual assault to not want to go to police. So, in the Rolling Stone case, when we were talking to Brian about consequences, are there possible legal consequences for Rolling Stone?

Page: I think, absolutely. It’s very difficult to bring a defamation lawsuit against a media outlet like Rolling Stone, CNN, anyone, unless you can show that they literally went into this with an agenda to report something false. And I think this particular reporter made it clear that she was looking for the right fraternity, the right school where the story would fit, and maybe her message is important. I mean obviously, it’s important. But, to use this story to make it fit to her article, I think was inappropriate, without checking all the facts, without doing the kind of interviews that a true legal criminal investigation would have done.

Interviewer: If this scandals continue, I’m kind of wondering how can schools defend fraternities and should they?

Page: Well, I think it is difficult, but if you’re a school sanctioned organization like a fraternity, you have to follow their rules, and what we’ve seen recently with Martese Johnson, I think actually has something to do with this. There have been many complaints about use of alcohol, fraternities with kids on campus and off campus, so, you’ve seen the ABC, the alcohol control folks, the regulators being more aggressive. But perhaps, instead of looking outside of the campus, we need to look inside of the campus. Send these folks into these fraternities, find out how much drinking is going on because it is for the most part illegal for these folks who are under age.

Interviewer: That’s a good point. Page Pate, appreciate you.

Page: Thank you.

Interviewer: Thanks for being here. Victor?


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