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U.Va. ​suspends fraternity activities after sexual assault allegations

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The University of Virginia on Saturday suspended activities at all campus fraternal organizations amid an investigation into a published report in which a student described being sexually assaulted by seven men at a fraternity in 2012.

President Teresa Sullivan said in a letter to the university community that the Board of Visitors is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the allegations contained in a Rolling Stone article, along with the university's policies and procedures concerning sexual assaults. Groups of students, faculty, alumni and others will be asked to hold similar discussions.

"In the words of one student who wrote to me this week, 'Policy is needed, but people make change,'" Sullivan wrote. "We need the collective strength of the members of our community to ensure that we have the best policies."

Dozens of students and others gathered Saturday in front of the Phi Kappa Psi house, the scene of the alleged assault, CBS affiliate WCAV in Charlottesville reported.

"As ironic as it sounds, I still believe in the power of and the goodness of fraternities and sororities. I think they really do have their benefits," former Charlottesville resident Shannon Cruse Ranson told WCAV. "But the debauchery and all the things that happen behind closed doors shouldn't happen."

Ranson said she was assaulted at a U.Va. fraternity in 1999. She drove 200 miles to attend the protest, saying the Rolling Stone article hit too close to home.

"Boys can make better choices, girls can make better choices," she said. "And the school can support it when, unfortunately those things fall apart."

The article said U.Va. administrators and students keep sexual assaults quiet. Sullivan, however, said the university takes sexual misconduct seriously and that the article included details that weren't disclosed to university officials previously.

In May, U.Va. was listed among 55 schools across America facing a sexual abuse investigation under the Title IX law by the Education Department for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students.

In a statement, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he spoke with university leaders Thursday about the case and asked officials there to review all of the school's policies and procedures and bring in outside experts, if necessary.

Charlottesville police Lt. Steve Upman said the investigation is in the preliminary stages. He declined further comment.

Sullivan said the suspension of all fraternal groups is effective until Jan. 9. She also has asked Charlottesville police to investigate the alleged rape at the Phi Kappa Psi house. The fraternity has voluntarily surrendered its fraternal agreement with the university.

On Friday, Attorney General Mark Herring said the university agreed to withdraw its appointment of former federal judge and prosecutor Mark Filip as independent counsel to investigate how the school responds to rape allegations. In college, Filip was a member of Phi Kappa Psi.

Sullivan had said the Rolling Stone article includes details that weren't disclosed to university officials previously.

"I write you in great sorrow, great rage, but most importantly, with great determination," Sullivan wrote. "Meaningful change is necessary, and we can lead that change for all universities. We can demand that incidents like those described in Rolling Stone never happen and that if they do, the responsible are held accountable to the law. This will require institutional change, cultural change, and legislative change, and it will not be easy. We are making those changes."

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