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Alcohol and Sexual Behavior: A Risk Mix

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Washington and Lee senior Lucy Hundley knows firsthand how excessive alcohol use can lead to sexual misconduct. When she was a first-year, Hundley said, she got so drunk with her friends at a fraternity party that she failed to notice that everyone except a senior man left the room.

“And all of the sudden he jumped on top of me and started making out with me,” she said. “He kind of had his tongue in my mouth, and it was really gross. I just started saying, ‘Stop, stop, stop,’ and he wouldn’t get off of me.”

Hundley said she freed herself by tickling him, and ran out of the room. Now a resident advisor, or R.A., for first-year women living at the Gilliam residence hall, she said she worries that other female residents will experience sexual misconduct.

It is not uncommon for teenage alcohol abuse to lead to something more unfortunate like sexual abuse.

W&L first admitted women almost 25 years ago, but gender relations on campus remain far from perfect. In rural Lexington, Va., much of W&L’s social scene revolves around off-campus parties on Windfall Hill – a cul-de-sac of houses about two miles from the university where upper-class fraternity men live.

The excessive drinking that occurs at these houses often leads to risky behavior that faculty, administrators and health officials describe as sexual misconduct. University health officials have struggled to quantify how often inappropriate sexual behavior occurs—and what to do about it.

“Alcohol is often a factor in sexual assault because it affects people’s decision-making and perception of dangerous situations,” said Dr. Jane Horton, W&L’s director of Student Health. “There’s a lot of miscommunication here.”

Since 2001 W&L health officials have surveyed students about their sexual behavior and alcohol use. In recent years the survey has been refined, partly because of suspicions about the accuracy of the numbers.

Since 2004 health officials have requested that all W&L undergraduates participate in an online, anonymous survey. School health officials said the response rate has been high and survey respondents have accurately represented university demographics, based on gender, participation in Greek life, and socioeconomic and racial backgrounds.

In 2009 the health survey revealed that 20 percent of the 341 women who responded to the questionnaire said they’ve been taken advantage of sexually after drinking alcohol. The 341 female respondents represent 39 percent of undergraduate women.

Until now, W&L health officials limited release of the survey’s results to select student and faculty groups. Dawn Watkins, dean of student affairs, said she and other administrators feared the numbers would be taken out of context.

But the Rockbridge Report recently obtained a copy of the questionnaire data, which Horton believes accurately capture students’ experiences with alcohol and sexual misconduct.

About 18 percent of the survey’s female respondents said they’ve experienced rape or attempted rape – a figure that is two times the national college average for sexual assault, said Horton.

But what is rape? That question is at the center of the debate about sexual assault at W&L, mainly because consent is a key component of rape. Legally, rape is defined as “the crime of sexual intercourse without consent and accomplished through force, threat of violence or intimidation.”

The W&L survey defines rape as “sexual penetration against [someone’s] will.”

When alcohol is involved, it becomes difficult to determine whether a woman has given, or is capable of giving, consent—and whether the man is sober enough to understand what she’s said.

Off-campus parties: Where men and women meet

Some W&L students and faculty members blame binge drinking at off-campus parties at Windfall and the nearby Pole Houses for sexual misconduct and strained gender relations.

“Most of the interactions between men and women occur at parties where there is a lot of alcohol involved,” said Melina Bell, a professor of philosophy.

Further complicating the issue is that students say they choose to attend W&L because of its reputation for binge-drinking—which the university defines as five or more alcoholic drinks in the same night for a man and four or more for a woman. Jan Kaufman, director of Student Health Promotions, said such high-risk behavior often leads to inappropriate sexual contact.

Hundley, who spends much of her time as an RA talking to female dorm residents about drinking and sexual misconduct, said first-year students are often excited about getting drunk at parties but understand little about the consequences.

“First-years have this overwhelming perception of drinking as something that people do every night,” she said.

She also said there’s a lot of pressure on first-year women to drink to impress male students, their sorority sisters and other women on campus.

About 90 percent of W&L students join fraternities and sororities – another key aspect of the university’s social scene that some faculty and students say exacerbates the problem. The fraternities usually provide the alcohol at off-campus parties, where, Bell said, she thinks the male-dominated atmosphere overwhelms women and pressures men to prove their “manhood.”

“Socialization takes place on male territory. It all happens under the control of men,” she said. “There’s this social pressure among men to ‘get it’ or take advantage of women who have been drinking.”

Hundley said first-year residents don’t believe that they’re in danger when they go out to the parties.

“[Women] don’t expect men to behave badly around them,” she said.

Garrott McClintock, president of the Interfraternity Council, said men and women make bad judgment calls when they’re intoxicated, but he doesn’t think the Greek system is to blame.

“We don’t think about it like that,” he said. “I think we just throw a lot of parties in general where everyone can come.”

Still, McClintock said, he’s worried about sexual misconduct at W&L. “We have a problem with people not knowing how to handle sex and alcohol in the same setting,” he said. “Gender relations can always be worked on.”

Under review: The Student Faculty Hearing Board

Each year two to three women who say they’ve been sexually assaulted go to the Student Health Center for treatment, Horton said.

But those women rarely go to the police to press criminal charges or report the assault to the Student Faculty Hearing Board, a quasi-judicial university committee that decides whether to punish students accused of sexual misconduct. Sanctions range from community service to expulsion.

Students and faculty members also blame W&L’s historically male-dominated culture for the lack of reporting.

“A lot of times here, people are reluctant to name someone and bring charges against someone because of the fear of, basically, social ostracism,” Horton said.

This term, W&L President Kenneth Ruscio appointed a committee to review the hearing procedures after a controversial SFHB decision that Hundley said reinforced the belief among some women on campus that they shouldn’t speak up about sexual assault, especially if alcohol is involved.

Last year, when a female student brought a sexual assault complaint to the hearing board, the committee found the accused male student responsible for exploiting the woman’s drunkenness in order to “physically and emotionally abuse” her, according to the SFHB’s decision.

But the male student was not suspended or expelled from W&L. Instead the board ordered him to perform 150 hours of community service, working with abused women at a local clinic.

Hundley said she and others were outraged at the decision.

“In its current form, the SFHB has lost all credibility,” she said. “Basically it’s a failure.”

Ruscio has asked the review committee to conclude its examination of the hearing board’s procedures by the end of this term and release final recommendations at the start of Winter term classes.

The omen of ‘O’ Week

Binge drinking at off-campus parties starts the week before classes begin, when first-year students attend information sessions as part of the university’s orientation program. Kaufman said participation in off-campus partying becomes ingrained in first-year students that week.

During Orientation Week, first-years must attend mandatory meetings about academic life, the W&L honor code and the dangers of drinking and sexual assault. The Student Affairs Office schedules the sessions from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. to try to discourage first-year students from going off-campus to party.

But after 10 p.m., upperclass students show up outside of the dorms in their cars, waiting to ferry first-years to parties at off-campus houses like Windfall, Pumptown and the Pole Houses.

“We can’t control, as a Student Affairs staff, what cars line up out there and take students away,” Watkins said.

This year, Hundley said, all of the first-year women in her dorm went out almost every night of Orientation Week—even after the first night when she hosted a hall meeting to warn the residents about the risks of drinking at off-campus parties.

That night, Hundley said, she took one of her residents to the Student Health Center because the woman was so drunk she couldn’t talk coherently when she returned to the dorm at 2 a.m.

“It’s a really dangerous time to be a first-year student,” Hundley said, referring to the first night of Orientation Week. “We haven’t had any of the programming about drinking, any of the programming about sexual assault, and [first-year women] are already being put in pretty dangerous situations.”

‘Traveller’ trouble

The high-risk, off-campus drinking continues throughout the school year. And in a city like Lexington, which has no public transportation to accommodate 50 percent of W&L students living off-campus, a university safe-ride program is a necessity, said Watkins.

Since 2004 the university has offered buses and vans known as Traveller to provide transportation to and from the parties. Some members of the W&L and Lexington communities criticize the program as a university “taxi service” that encourages and excuses irresponsible drinking in dangerous social situations.

“I think [Traveller] does encourage underage drinking because now [W&L students] can get a ride home or back to the Pole Houses or wherever they live,” said Lexington Police Chief Steve Crowder.

But Crowder also credits Traveller for the decline in drunk driving arrests in Lexington to 48 in 2008 from 56 in 2005.

Both Crowder and Watkins said that, without Traveller, they fear more students would get behind the wheel and drive drunk.

“If I have to make a choice between enabling, which I wouldn’t agree is occurring, but if I had to make a choice between enabling bad behavior or seeing people die, I’m going to choose the former,” Watkins said.

Professional drivers operate Traveller’s two large buses that run from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The university also hires student drivers who must pass a driving test to operate the smaller sedans and vans for people who call and request rides. The dispatch service is available any night of the week until 2 a.m.

In October the Traveller system fell under more scrutiny than usual after one of the buses struck a W&L sophomore woman as it pulled away from an off-campus party. The female student was hospitalized with a fractured left hip but plans to return to school in the Winter term after her recovery. The driver was not charged.

For some, the accident highlighted the problems with the safe ride system and dangers of high-risk drinking at off-campus parties.

“[Traveller] very much facilitates students not having to accept personal responsibility for getting themselves home from parties,” Kaufman said.

Raising awareness

This term students and faculty groups on campus are working to shine a spotlight on sexual assault, including a group of 11 W&L women who are enrolled in a women and gender studies class designed by Bell. The first class of its kind at W&L, the group hopes to end sexual misconduct at the university by 2030. At a Dec. 9 campus forum, the women plan to present suggestions on how achieve that goal.

“In particular, we’re trying to [raise awareness] about what a good sexual assault policy at W&L should look like,” Bell said.

Bell’s students put up flyers around campus, polled students and faculty about sexual assault and wrote editorials in the school newspaper to bring attention to the issue.

Other university officials say female students need to take a more active role in setting the social tone on campus. “I’d like to see more women take more leadership,” Kaufman said. “Right now, women aren’t really exercising their voices.”

Watkins also said women need to speak up more frequently about sexual misconduct and get more involved in W&L student government.

“Women students…just don’t want to put themselves ‘out there,’ ” she said. “That concerns me. What is it that’s ‘out there’ that our women students don’t want to experience that our male students don’t seem to be concerned about?”

Excessive drinking linked to high sexual assault rate, study shows

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A 2009 anonymous health survey given to Washington and Lee undergraduates shows that about 18 percent of female respondents have experienced rape or attempted rape. That’s two times the national college average for sexual assault, says Dr. Jane Horton, Washington and Lee’s director of student health. The report shows that 39 percent of undergraduate women attending Washington and Lee responded to the survey- 341 women in total.

“We feel comfortable that our survey is representative of our students’ experience here,” said Horton.

Commonwealth Chronicle reporter Cameron Steele takes an in-depth look at sexual assault at Washington and Lee as part of an on-going investigation about gender relations on local college campuses. To watch the package and hear Steele speak on the Rockbridge Report broadcast about her in-depth series about gender relations and sexual assault at local colleges, click the video below.

In case you missed it: Video interview with Jayson Blair

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In case you didn’t scroll all the way to the bottom of our previous story, here’s the Chronicle’s 10-minute video interview with former NYTer Jayson Blair. He says he has finally forgiven himself for his transgressions while working at the Times – have you?

Exclusive: The Chronicle’s weekend with Jayson Blair

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By Becky Bratu and Cameron Steele

The sun streamed through the room’s large glass windows, lighting the weary faces of Washington and Lee University students, professional journalists, academics and notorious former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair. The crunching sound of chips accompanied Washington and Lee professor Dayo Abah’s talk about media law over a lunch of boxed sandwiches and salads. As the participants of the university’s 48th Journalism Ethics Institute finished the last of their Italian paninis and cobb salads, Abah began to explain false light – a privacy tort similar to libel.

Unless someone is crazy, he’s not going to write a false story about someone else, Abah said. An awkward moment of silence followed her words as most of the 20 people in the room glanced at Blair.

“Oh, and I’m not talking about Jayson [Blair],” Abah added with a nervous laugh.

Blair laughed, and others in the room followed suit. Students shook their heads, making eye contact with each other. As the Ethics Institute neared its end, the feeling that Jayson Blair was the elephant in the room still lingered.

“I’m sorry, Jayson,” Abah said. Blair waved his arms in the air and laughed again, dismissing her apology.

But Blair himself was not forgiven so easily. Blair left the Times in shame after a 2003 investigation uncovered that he had plagiarized and fabricated major elements of his stories. In August, the plagiarist-turned-life-coach agreed to give a public speech as the keynoter for the institute – a two-day event during which journalism students, professors and professionals discuss ethical dilemmas facing the news media. Blair’s public speech read like a 20-minute-long apology.

And forgiveness didn’t seem to follow. Not after Friday night’s speech to about 150 people, and not after the last of the institute’s two private sessions concluded Saturday morning. Still, Edward Wasserman, the Knight Professor of journalism ethics who first asked Blair to W&L, said he was happy with Blair’s performance at the institute.

“I was pleased with the turn-out,” Wasserman said. “I was worried about it.”

In an exclusive interview with the Commonwealth Chronicle, Blair said when Wasserman first contacted him in August, he saw speaking at W&L as an opportunity to permanently close a scandalous chapter of his life.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve forgiven myself for what I did,” said Blair. “I just needed an opportunity to do something good and for something good to come out of my actions.”

The Institute

Since the mid-1990s, W&L’s Journalism Ethics Institute has been the centerpiece for the capstone journalism ethics course. Twice a year, junior and senior journalism majors get the chance to talk to professors and outside media professionals in seminar settings, where the participants discuss real-life ethical cases. Wasserman, who’s led the institute since he came to W&L six years ago, divides these cases into temptations and dilemmas. While the former category deals with clear-cut decisions between wrong and right, the latter poses more challenges, as practicing journalists try to balance out personal and professional obligations.

Wasserman said it’s his goal to transform the institute seminars into “a kind of Socratic garden.” Inviting Blair to participate in the conference was a huge departure for the program, said Wasserman.

“The idea seems absurd of Jayson Blair keynoting an ethics institute, but it’s an opportunity for students to confront a key figure in a major ethical scandal,” he said.

This year, Wasserman invited seven other journalism professionals and academics to join Blair at the institute. They included: Caesar Andrews, former editor of The Detroit Free Press and Reynolds Distinguished Visiting Professor in Journalism at W&L; Jon Carras, producer, CBS Sunday Morning; Michael Getler, ombudsman, PBS News; Arlene Morgan, associate dean at Columbia University School of Journalism; John Watson, associate professor in the American University School of Communication; Reed Williams, reporter with the Richmond Times-Dispatch; and Corinna Zarek, Freedom of Information Director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.


W&L journalism students smile for the camera. Students, professors, journalists and Blair attended dinner after the Friday night speech.

About 30 people filled the cozily furnished room on Friday afternoon, taking seats to form a large, misshapen circle as Wasserman welcomed participants to the institute. Sitting next to a table laden with cookies, coffee, water and soda cans, Blair seemed a bit uncomfortable. He wore a burnt-orange zip-up sweater, gray pants and brown shoes – a casual look among the suit-clad crowd. Personal introductions followed, then Jon Carras kicked off the first seminar discussion with a case study about celebrity gossip website TMZ’s breaking news coverage of Michael Jackson’s death this summer.

“How did TMZ get the biggest scoop of its short, four-year history?” Carras asked in his case study hand-out. “Should ‘old’ media have reported the story based solely on TMZ’s report?”

A couple students glanced sideways at Blair, who sat quietly as he leaned an elbow onto the table beside him. Arlene Morgan broke the silence, beginning what was to be a heated, two-day debate between students and professionals about various ethical dilemmas.

“The last I heard, journalism was supposed to be based on facts,” Arlene Morgan said, and a few more students shot looks in Blair’s direction.

The case studies

TMZ was the first outlet to report Michael Jackson’s death, beating the Los Angeles Times, NBC, CNN and others by an hour, said Carras in his case study. The conversation that ensued focused on “new” media standards and practices, and the seemingly unfair competition between traditional and new media to break a story first. The speed versus accuracy debate proved foreboding. In his public speech later that afternoon, Blair talked about the pressure felt in a stretched and fatigued Times newsroom after 9/11.

“Somewhere along the way, on my way of climbing upwards, I lost sight of the very reason I entered journalism,” Blair said in his speech.

When Morgan presented the second case after a snack break and an hour of discussion, Blair appeared relaxed and comfortable enough to take part in the debate. Morgan’s case reviewed a short documentary showcasing the life of an illegal immigrant from Guatemala who died in Iraq and was hailed by many as a hero. The case raised issues about the use of language, racial and ethnic descriptions when telling LCpl. Gutierrez’s story.

While some students and professionals questioned CBS’ decision not to interview Gutierrez’s Guatemalan sister, Blair said he thought the piece had an “authentic voice.”

“It’s genuine. It has perspective, depth of reporting,” he said. “No story is flawless.”

Blair’s eager, constant involvement in the discussion hearkened back to his glory days as a student journalist at the University of Maryland, when many admired his “endless energy” and “daunting drive.” (Read about Blair’s college experience here)

As sunlight softened to the gray of Lexington afternoons, the first of the institute’s seminars drew to a close. Wasserman, Blair and the other insitute participants ended the private debate and moved to the university’s Stackhouse Theater. Once there, the journalism students snagged seats that had been reserved for them in the two front rows of the theater. Blair later announced that his speech in front of about 150 people was the last public address about his career at the Times.

In his introduction of Blair, Wasserman enumerated some of the media statements critical of the keynoter. Seemingly amused from his seat in the front left corner of the room, Blair chuckled at the many examples of media outrage, but his face turned blank as Wasserman read the laundry list of Blair’s transgressions at the Times. Visibly nervous for the first time since his arrival on the W&L campus, Blair took the stage as the C-SPAN television crew shone its bright lights in his direction.

A public apology

Blair’s speech seemed sincere.

“I am at peace with the knowledge that there is no one or nothing to blame for my troubles but myself,” he said. “I am here because of the choices I made.”  His voice shook. He stopped often to clear his throat and adjust his glasses as he read the prepared speech from a lectern.

Blair told the audience he wanted to become a journalist because of his curious nature, his love for writing and his desire to help people. After a series of summer internships, he said he became convinced that he needed to work at the best paper on the best beat to make the most impact on people’s lives. For Blair, that paper was the New York Times. But his many lies and fabrications ended up hurting, not helping people.

“For me, as a human being, the hardest part is the personal part… my friends, reporters and editors, who felt betrayed, and then the subjects of the stories,” he said in response to the first question from a journalism student after he finished the 20 minute speech. But Blair said that while he was lying, he never considered the harm he was doing. That, he said, was largely a result of his character flaws, mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse.

For an hour afterwards, Blair answered questions from other students, journalists and academics. He appeared more comfortable answering questions than he did during his prepared address, despite his tendency to shift weight from one foot to the other and switch positions from standing to sitting on the center-stage stool provided for him.

In his conclusion, Blair said he believed he was a valuable addition to the ethics institute because he was an example of how good people could do bad things, thanks to bad choices made in “baby steps.”

“We can learn the most from the worst practices,” he said. ” If we merely believe that only bad people do bad things, then you good people have no reason to learn ethics at all, for you are destined to do good no matter what happens.”

But legal reporting professor Toni Locy said she didn’t buy the “baby steps” scenario. Locy, who had worked at USA Today during a similar scandal involving scorned reporter Jack Kelley, shot Blair a few pointed questions.

“Why didn’t you stop?” she asked.

“I was immature,” Blair said. He went on, explaining how lying “is like erosion, slowly compromising you.” But Locy wasn’t finished. She wanted to know if Blair had made amends with some of the people he had written lies about.

“Did you apologize?” Locy asked. “Did you say ‘I’m sorry’?” she asked again, when Blair refused to answer. He claimed he couldn’t answer because his conversations with his sources were private.

An on-camera interview: sincere or scheming?

That Saturday was warm for November. W&L’s red brick buildings seemed to gleam against the blue backdrop of mountains and sky. Almost finished with his weekend visit, Blair walked into Reid Hall, fondly called the “J-school” by journalism majors. A senior journalism major, and the two Commonwealth Chronicle reporters led the way for Blair.

High heels clicking, the women towered over Blair, who had agreed to exclusive interviews for the Rockbridge Report, W&L’s student-produced Web site and television show, and the Commonwealth Chronicle. Small talk about the weather, coffee and the building itself made the climb of four flights of stairs to the television studio more bearable.

Once inside the studio, the student journalist and Blair continued chatting, as the Chronicle reporters checked microphones and cameras.

Blair acted jovial and calm, cracking jokes and inquiring about W&L’s journalism program. When he saw the teleprompters set up in front of the studio set, he asked with a grin if his scripted answers would appear on it. The RR reporter chuckled. Blair told the slightly nervous student that younger journalists or journalism students usually ask him the most painful or thought-provoking questions.

The more experienced journalists seem to just yap in outrage, Blair said, as he parodied those journalists in a suddenly high-pitched voice. Blair laughed at his joke, and the young woman joined in.

But as the cameras started recording, the mood turned sober. Blair talked about growing up in Columbia, Md., an integrating community that, he said, gave him ideals, taught him values and fueled his first interest in journalism. He then spoke about two Washington Post articles that, in his teenage years, showed him the healing power of journalism. Blair said that both these stories – one about a high school friend who was murdered and the other about an anorexic girl who had been denied help from her health insurance provider – had “cathartic power.”

After that, Blair said, he was hooked on a journalism career.

“I thought I could combine my curiousity with my natural interest in writing with something that could help people,” he said.

But as the Rockbridge Reporter pressed him further about his plagiarism and fabrication while at the Times, Blair conceded that he shouldn’t have been a journalist.

“I probably would not have gone into the profession if I had known the problems that were going to plague me from within.”

When the interview finished, Blair’s somber face turned up into a grin as he congratulated the student reporter on her on-camera presence. You’re a natural, he told her. As Commonwealth Chronicle reporter Cameron Steele took the student’s seat, Blair commented on her stiletto boots.

He said he would’ve liked to throw one of the high heels at Toni Locy’s head when she interrogated him after his speech the night before. After a pause, Blair continued.

“She probably wanted to throw one at me.”


To watch the Commonwealth Chronicle interview that followed, click on the video above.

Exclusive access to Washington and Lee Journalism Ethics Institute

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Cameron and I will have exclusive access to all of the Institute sessions, not only to Jayson Blair’s public address.

For up-to-the-minute updates, follow us on Twitter.

Follow Becky Bratu here. Follow Cameron Steele here.

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November 6, 2009 at 11:02 am

Jayson Blair to speak at Journalism Ethics Institute

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Jayson Blair (Photo: Washington and Lee University)

By Becky Bratu and Cameron Steele

To the dismay of some online media outlets, former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair is the keynote speaker for Washington and Lee University’s upcoming 48th Journalism Ethics Institute.

Mediaite and The Wall Street Journal are only two of the media organizations that found the news hard to believe. (Click titles for links to stories.)

In 2003, Blair resigned in shame from the Times after an investigation uncovered he had fabricated and plagiarized major elements of his stories. But, while most journalists see lies, scandal and compromised journalistic integrity when they see Blair’s name, W&L’s Knight Professor of journalism ethics sees a learning opportunity for his students.


Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor of journalism ethics (Photo: Washington and Lee University)

In August, Edward Wasserman read a profile of  Blair in The Washington Post.

“He sounded interesting [in the Washington Post profile], like he might have some perspective on the scandal,” Wasserman said. “And he lives right up the road.”

Wasserman e-mailed Blair later that week to invite him to the Journalism Ethics Institute, a two-day event during which journalism students, professors and more than a dozen journalism professionals discuss ethical dilemmas facing the news media.

As the keynote speaker, Blair will give a 20-minute public talk entitled “Lessons Learned.”

“The idea seems absurd of Jayson Blair keynoting an ethics institute, but it’s an opportunity for students to confront a key figure in a major ethical scandal,” Wasserman said.

Like past institute keynoters, Blair was paid $3,000, a sum that’s well below what other W&L public speakers earn, according to Wasserman.

The news about Blair’s keynote address at an ethics institute was met with some support and a lot of criticism by local and national media professionals. Mediate writer Philip Bump calls Blair “one of this decade’s biggest disgraces,” while National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia Shepard believes Blair is enjoying the attention.

In an email, Shepard said she didn’t see the educational value in having Blair speak to students about the temptations a young journalist may face.

“There may be some temptations, but that’s not the issue,” Shepard said. “He was lazy, deceitful and didn’t do the job.”

But Wasserman doesn’t believe Blair is as attention-hungry as his detractors portray him.

“[Blair] did not seek this out and, by his account, he hasn’t done this [spoken publically about the scandal] before,” Wasserman said.

Shepard, who attended the Ethics Institute last year, hopes panelists and participants “come down hard” on Blair, otherwise his presence “might just be entertaining, not educational.” But Wasserman is confident his students are not going to sit back and let Blair place blame on others or avoid the issue of deceit altogether.

Rosemary Armao, assistant professor of journalism and communication at State University of New York at Albany, says Blair will speak to her students in December.

“I cannot imagine a more illustrative lesson for my students than to talk to the person whom we have painted as the biggest bogeyman of journalism ethics of all time,” Armao said in an email. “I want them to think about, to quiz him, to press him on how he could go so wrong.”

McGregor McCance, managing editor of Charlottesville’s Daily Progress, agrees that students have a lot to learn from Blair. “He is exhibit A for how to screw up a journalism career and diminish the credibility of an industry that can’t afford to lose credibility,” he said in an email. “The Ethics Institute deserves praise for doing something unpredictable with its forum this year.”

But Wasserman says the Blair case has been an ongoing study for the institute. “This is not our first rodeo,” he said. “Over the years we’ve done a lot with and had a sustained, considerable interest in this affair.”

Gerald Boyd, the Times managing editor who lost his job following the Blair scandal, attended the Ethics Institute in the past. Last year, Lorne Manly, Times‘ media editor while Blair worked there spoke at the institute. Manly was in charge of developing a project about the long and painful post-mortem at the Times after Blair resigned.

Cable network C-SPAN, non-profit media watchdog Accuracy In Media, and documentary filmmaker Samantha Grant will be among those present at Washington and Lee University on Friday, Nov. 6 to cover Blair’s speech.

He was an anomaly. There may be some temptations but that’s not the issue. He was lazy, deceitful and didn’t do the job. If the temptations are so great, why aren’t there more young journalists in the limelight?

Tapas restaurant, wine bar to open in Lexington, Va

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The lingering financial crisis hasn’t stopped one Lexington man from opening shop. Commonwealth Chronicle Reporter Cameron Steele sat down with the owner of Brix°, the newest local restaurant to bring you the latest on night life in Lexington, Va.

Click the video below to watch.

Virginia Voice becomes Commonwealth Chronicle

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It turns out Virginia Voice is the registered name for Central Virginia’s audio reading and information service, a non-profit organization celebrating 30 years of service to the visually and physically disabled.

Cameron and I are grateful to Virginia Voice Program Director Becky Emmet, who informed us about this situation.

“We’ll certainly be starting a blog of our own very soon, and things could get more confusing,” Emmet said in an email. “Searching for Virginia Voice on Twitter was how I found you.” It looks like our little blog is growing up.

To all our readers, we hope you continue enjoying our stories.

Written by beckybratu

October 20, 2009 at 12:39 pm

VMI cadet pleads guilty to sexual battery, won’t serve jail time

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Stephen Lloyd (Copyright 2009 Rockbridge County Jail)

Stephen Lloyd (Copyright 2009 Rockbridge County Jail)

By Cameron Steele

A former Virginia Military Institute cadet who faced a jury trial on felony rape and sodomy charges pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge of sexual battery.

Stephen Lloyd, 22, won’t face sentencing on the misdemeanor conviction for three years. If he stays out of trouble, he most likely won’t serve any jail time, said Commonwealth’s Attorney Bucky Joyce.

The misdemeanor sexual battery charge and delayed sentencing are part of a plea agreement that Rockbridge County Circuit Judge Michael Irvine accepted at a hearing on the eve of Lloyd’s jury trial, which was supposed to start Wednesday.

“We all feel [the plea agreement] is a good conclusion to the case because no one is completely happy with it,” Joyce told the judge.

Lloyd’s guilty plea was a so-called “Alford” plea, meaning that he did not admit guilt for all aspects of the crime. Instead, the plea means that Lloyd accepts that there is enough evidence to convict him if the case went to trial.

The case began last March when a female cadet at VMI accused Lloyd of raping and sodomizing her. At the time, Lloyd was a cadet at VMI.

Plea negotiations between Joyce and Lloyd’s defense attorneys began late Monday night and resumed Tuesday morning, continuing until almost 4 p.m., when the two sides told Irvine they had reached an agreement.

Joyce said the female cadet was consulted throughout the negotiation process. She decided to accept a plea agreement because she realized “what a tough case it would be,” he said in an interview.

On the morning of March 29, the female cadet, 21, reported to the VMI infirmary that she had been sexually assaulted by Lloyd. She later repeated her accusations to VMI police and was taken to Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital for a physical examination. As part of its protocol, VMI alerted Project Horizon, a Lexington-based agency that counsels cadets and others who report assaults.

Joyce told the judge that the female cadet took a few days to consider whether to press charges against Lloyd. She decided to pursue the charges, and Lloyd was arrested on April 1. A grand jury indicted Lloyd on rape and sodomy charges in July.

In an interview after Tuesday’s hearing, Joyce said he was torn about whether the evidence was strong enough to prosecute the case.

“This has been the most difficult case I’ve been involved in,” he said. “She maintained all along she’d been assaulted, but the corroborating evidence all along was weak.”

Joyce said that while scientific analysis of a swab taken from the female cadet’s neck suggested the presence of Lloyd’s DNA, no other swabs taken from anywhere on her body matched Lloyd.

Before the assault, she also had had an intimate relationship with Lloyd and had been drinking alcohol on that night — key facts that weakened the prosecution’s case, Joyce said.

“Basically, it all comes down to her testimony,” the prosecutor said during the hearing.

Joyce said his evidence would have shown:

On the night of March 28, the female cadet went to bed at about 10:30 p.m. in her barracks room, which she shared with two other cadets. A couple of hours later, Lloyd came into the room and woke her. He also sent two text messages to her cell phone, but the female cadet didn’t get the messages until later.

Lloyd asked her to smoke a cigarette with him outside the barracks, and she agreed. On their way back inside, Lloyd kissed her outside the trunk room, a basement area where cadets store their luggage. She kissed him back.

Joyce said it was unclear whether the female cadet entered the trunk room willingly.

For the next 45 minutes, the prosecutor said, Lloyd performed various “sex acts” on the female cadet against her will.

As Joyce summarized what she would have testified, the female cadet began to cry. The court bailiff handed her a box of tissues. Two of her friends, a woman and the male cadet who first convinced her to go to the infirmary after the assault, sat on either side of her and patted her shoulders.

Lloyd kept his eyes on the judge throughout the hearing. He wore a navy suit and spoke only when the judge asked him questions, answering “yes sir.”

When Joyce finished summarizing the evidence, he said the misdemeanor sexual battery charge and three-year sentencing delay were a sufficient compromise in the case.

Cary Bowen, one of Lloyd’s defense attorneys, said in court that they were ready for trial.

“We had many witnesses,” he said. “It would be hotly contested whether it [the sexual acts] was consensual or not.”

Joyce said Lloyd was dismissed from VMI after the charges were filed and did not graduate. In an interview, Lloyd said he lives in Mason Neck. He said he plans to move to Richmond to work as a helicopter mechanic and take flight lessons to become a pilot.

The female cadet returned to VMI this fall to finish her senior year. After the hearing, she rushed out of the courtroom with her two friends and could not be stopped to comment.

Virginia Military Institute rape case scheduled for trial Oct. 14

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A former VMI cadet faces a jury trial on rape and sodomy charges. Stephen Lloyd, 21, will go to court on Oct. 14. Virginia Voice reporter Cameron Steele has more from Lexington, Va.