Welcome! Here is a bit about me to ease you in.

Me in the executive office of the Vermont Cynic newsroom April 2016 during my time as editor-in-chief at the Vermont Cynic, where my love for journalism began.

The first newspaper I was ever published in was made out of glue, magic markers, and oversized construction paper. It contained the stories of each member of her fifth-grade class. Some of my peers resisted the idea writing or illustrating at first, but  my friend and I  said  it would not be a class paper unless the whole class was represented.

A decade later, my passion remains the same: representing many voices to understand a higher truth. At 18, I went to a meeting for her college newspaper where I found that my passion had a name — journalism. I went on to serve as the editor-in-chief for that paper, the Vermont Cynic.

The Cynic has been named the 19th best paper in the nation by the Princeton Review.

In October 2016, a story  I cowrote as a part of the Cynic’s investigative news team was named the American Collegiate Press’ Diversity Story of the Year. During the story, we interviewed over fifty sources during over the course of a month, a four-part series and nearly 15,000 words.

It happened then: the moment. The moment when a journalist realizes that their life will belong to the pursuit of truth: a rebirth, a baptism, an awakening. Mine came at 4 a.m. during a document gold-mine we found while working on this story.

I had the privilege of working under two editors during the process.  One is now covering congress, the other is the news editor at a daily newspaper. I wrote alongside Bryan O’Keefe, who would later become the Cynic’s managing editor during my term as editor-in-chief.

The enterprise team always pushed the bounds of what we could accomplish in a way no other role has ever done for me. There is no doubt this collaboration is why each of us is where we are today.

Myself and then managing editor Bryan O’Keefe outside the Vermont Cynic newsroom during my time as editor-in-chief.

In summer of 2016, I was lucky enough to intern with one of Vermont’s most respected news organizations, VTDigger again pushing me past the bounds I thought possible. With the help of the Burlington Bureau Chief, one of the best journalist I know,  I covered the city of Burlington (BTV), acting as a full-time reporter, producing 800-word stories on a daily deadline.

I was asked back to intern directly in their Montpelier newsroom this Summer, where I currently work beside the edit staff to prepare stories for online publication.

In addition to my time spent in the media wing of UVM’s student center, I love being an active member of the UVM community. I have been  a Lead Resident Advisor (’16-’17) and before that, a Resident Advisor(’15-’16). I was also the student program director of UVM’s Dean Signature Integrated Social Science Program (’15-’16), after having the opportunity to be a part of the program my first-year.

On the off days — I am a dancing, book reading, people watching, bagel-loving native New Yorker.

Fun fact: My high school superlative was biggest chatterbox.  Reach out, I would love to chat.

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UVM is Being Sued for Equal Pay

(Author’s note: This story was originally published by the Vermont Cynic on Dec. 2, 2015. Graphics for this story are by Aviva Loeb for the Vermont Cynic.) 

UVM is being sued by a former employee on the grounds that she was paid less than her male counterparts based on her gender, according to documents obtained by the Cynic from the Vermont Superior Court.

A civil lawsuit was filed Dec. 12, 2014 against the University on behalf of former UVM employee Cynthia Ruescher alleging they had violated equal pay law, according to the lawsuit.

UVM employed Ruescher as an IT professional in Enterprise Technology Services in February 2001, according to University officials.

UntitledShe was let go April 8, 2015 due to a University-wide budget cut, according to her letter of termination.

UVM strongly denies the allegations of unfair pay, University communications Director Enrique Corredera said in a Nov. 30 email.

Ruescher and her attorney have not responded to the Cynic’s requests for comment.

UVM has an “internal process” to deal with discrimination, Corderra stated in the email.

“We work hard to ensure that our employment and compensation practices are fair and equitable, and we are confident we will prevail in court,” he stated in the email.

See UVM’s full official statement at the bottom.

The case will be ready for trial by April 1, 2016, according to the lawsuit.

UVM hired Ruescher in 2001, Corredera stated in the email.

There were disparities in pay, title and training opportunities, according to the lawsuit. Opportunities were offered to Ruescher’s male counterparts but not to her, the lawsuit stated.

UVM asserts that a project position, which included training, was offered to all employees in the department, according to the University’s Feb. 25 answer to the lawsuit’s initial complaint.

Ruescher claims she was denied this opportunity, according to the lawsuit.

Ruescher claims that there was “illegal retaliation” when she asked UVM why there was a difference between her pay and her counterpart’s pay in 2012, the lawsuit stated.

UVM denies these claims in their answer, which states that her complaint did not go through UVM’s “grievance procedure.”

Situations in which a person is being discriminated against for their sex is “expressly excluded” from UVM’s grievance process, according to UVM’s employment grievance policy.

Ruescher claims in the lawsuit that she filed requests for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigations twice in 2013, according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC is “responsible for enforcing federal laws” that make it illegal to discriminate in the workplace, according to their website.

An EEOC investigator was sent to UVM to look into this claim in June 2014, according to the lawsuit.

“We are not comfortable talking in detail about a matter that is in litigation, except to say that we strongly deny the allegations raised in the lawsuit. The university has effective internal processes to review any complaint involving discrimination or unfairness in pay. Furthermore, the university regularly reviews pay equity, and when appropriate, upon review of the individual facts, makes necessary adjustments. We work hard to ensure that our employment and compensation practices are fair and equitable, and we are confident we will prevail in court,” Corredera said in the Nov. 30 email.

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Ben & Jerry’s signs ‘Milk with Dignity’ pact with migrant workers

Vermont migrant workers filled Church Street with the sound of cheers Tuesday as Jostein Solheim, the CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, signed a legally binding agreement, nearly three years in the making, to improve dairy farm standards in Vermont.

The so-called “Milk with Dignity” agreement requires dairy farm suppliers to provide workers with higher wages, time off and better housing.

Solheim said Ben & Jerry’s is the first major corporation to sign such an agreement.

“This is what we are calling a new day in dairy, a new day for the human rights of farmworkers,” said Migrant Justice leader Enrique Balcazar.

The program aims to open communication between farmers and farm workers with assistance from the corporation when needed, Solheim said.

“This is a program that will give workers a seat at the table, it will provide dignity and a real voice,” Solheim said. “It also gives the farmer a committed team, and a premium to support them when they need it.”

Though the specifics will not be made public, Will Lambek of Migrant Justice, an advocacy group for undocumented Mexican farmworkers, said the group has five basic demands: dignified wages, dignified schedules, dignified housing, safe workplaces and cooperation.

One of Ben & Jerry’s primary dairy suppliers, St. Albans Co-op, has the largest number of migrant dairy farm workers in the state, according to Migrant Justice’s website.

Solheim applauded their partners at the St. Albans Co-op, whom they have worked with for the past seven years to develop the Milk With Dignity Code of Conduct.

“Innovation is challenging, it’s hard to change, it’s hard to bring in new voices and they have done it,” Solheim said. “Vermont is ready for this.”

In 2014, Migrant Justice began the Milk with Dignity campaign with large corporations, such as Ben & Jerry’s, to promote justice for dairy workers. It is modeled after the Fair Food Program in Florida, a program that began when tomato farm workers banded together to forge agreements with companies ensuring fair treatment for workers, according to a release.

According to a Migrant Justice survey, 40 percent of the 172 farm workers they interviewed worked for less than minimum wage and 40 percent did not have a day off.

A National Day of Action was to be held on Thursday if there was no action. Now, because of the announcement made by Ben & Jerry’s, that campaign has successfully concluded, Lambek said.

Members of Migrant Justice and their families stand outside Ben & Jerry’s flagship store in Burlington to celebrate the signing of the Milk with Dignity agreement. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer/VTDigger
 This story was originally published by VTDigger on  Oct. 3, 2017.

Students demand expulsion of UVM sophomore who stole BLM flag

Sept. 29, 2017

Two hundred University of Vermont students marched Mondayto the UVM Waterman Building with a list of demands.

The students demanded that the UVM President Tom Sullivan expel a student who stole a Black Lives Matter flag on campus last fall. They also urged the university to hire more faculty of color, reform diversity requirements and increase training for faculty. In addition, they want UVM to rename a building on campus that was named for George Perkins, a UVM dean who was the father of professor Henry Perkins, who contributed to the eugenics program at UVM in the 1930s.

“We are a different generation, we are not the generation that will allow this school to trample on students of color anymore,” Harmony Edosomwan, UVM’s Black Student Union president said to administrators outside the executive offices. “We demand to be fully seen as human by the institution.”

University of Vermont President Tom Sullivan sat down with the student leaders of the protest on Wednesday.

On Friday the university released a nine-page response. Sullivan, Provost and Senior Vice President David Rosowsky, Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity & Multicultural Affairs Wanda Heading-Grant, and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Annie Stevens, addressed the entire “University Community.”

“For more than three decades, the University has taken clear and decisive steps to address many of these issues outlined in these most recent concerns,” Sullivan and administrators wrote.

University administrators will not remove Perkins’ name from buildings, as demanded by students. They said there was no evidence that the building’s namesake, Dean George Perkins was involved in the eugenics movement, but they acknowledged that his son, Henry Perkins, a biology professor at UVM, was an active participant in the Nazi era movement.

Officials said the university cannot expel the student who stole the Black Lives Matter flag as he has already gone through a disciplinary process.

“The student involved in the Black Lives Matter Flag theft was afforded a due process procedure and was sanctioned. The student cannot under law be charged or sanctioned again for the same incident that has been adjudicated,” the release states.

They also explained plans to improve diversity courses and add more faculty of color.

Student leaders said while they will have a response soon, they were not ready to comment at this time.

UVM
Two hundred students marched Monday to the Waterman Building, demanding that President Tom Sullivan expel a freshman who stole a campus Black Lives Matter flag last year. Photo courtesy of Elias Periera, a UVM student.

This Saturday, the leaders planned to host a student forum to share experiences and explain why these demands should be met, Edosomwan said.

“Our voices haven’t been heard for such a long time, it’s our turn to speak up and be listened to,” she said.

BLM flag theft

The demands and protest were in part a response to the theft of a Black Lives Matter flag on campus last year. The students want the university to expel UVM student J.T. Reichhelm who allegedly stole the flag last year. He returned this fall as a sophomore, according to UVM’s directory.

Many students have called for the theft of the flag to be considered a hate crime.

“We need to recognize this as a hate crime,” Angelica Crespo, UVM senior said. “Stealing that flag was stealing our humanity.”

Last September, UVM made national headlines for flying the flag over the Davis Center green.

Days later, students woke up to an empty flagpole. Students discussed the theft in campus-led events of solidarity in the weeks after.

In April, documents obtained by UVM’s student newspaper regarding a fraternity suspension stated that fingerprints confirmed Reichhelm had stolen the flag.

Reichhelm was a fraternity pledge who was immediately expelledfrom the fraternity. Records show the fraternity turned the freshman over to university officials who did not release the information, citing federal student privacy laws.

Students are also demanding the reform of diversity requirements, which were first established in 1991 after a protest in which students of color occupied the president’s office in Waterman for 20 days before being removed by police.

The university plans to release a response to students in the next few days, UVM spokesman Enrique Corredera said in a statement on Thursday.

“A communication that will provide some background and information about the university’s efforts and its response to the concerns that have been raised by the students is being prepared, and will be shared broadly in the coming days after it is shared with the student representatives,” he stated.

UVM
UVM students gather outside Waterman Building, demanding that the university update its 1991 diversity policies and hire more faculty of color. Photo courtesy of Elias Periera, a UVM student.

Burlington group discusses Memorial Auditorium future

Sept. 27, 2017

BURLINGTON — The closing of a popular downtown event venue has prompted a Burlington neighborhood group to launch a discussion to help determine the fate of the space.

More than 100 members of the Burlington community gathered Tuesday at City Hall to discuss the future of Memorial Auditorium at a meeting hosted by the Neighborhood Planning Assembly.

The meeting was intended to serve as a “firewall” between highly polarized groups who have very strong beliefs on the now-closed venue’s future, NPA chair Jim Holway said.

“We hope this is the first of many conversations,” he said.

When Memorial Auditorium closed in December, residents were left wondering what would replace the brick building built in 1935. The downtown site hosted events, including musical groups, as well as the winter farmers market for several years.

Many who spoke believed that renovating the original structure was essential to maintaining Burlington’s history. The building is located on Main and South Union streets.

Councilor Sharon Foley Bushor spoke about the value she found in the space after coming to Burlington to go to UVM.

She emphasized the low-cost entertainment options that the space provided her.

“I am very sad that we don’t value anything old – we tear it down and build something new,” Bushor said.

Bushor also said she believed it was the city’s fault that the arena fell into disrepair.

“I take responsibility because the city was a lousy landlord,” she said.

The space requires much work due to deferred maintenance, a cost that would cause taxes to increase, a NPA release stated.

Last year, Burlington was in talks with UVM about a possible joint-venture renovation of the auditorium. Ultimately, UVM decided to instead build an arena in South Burlington.

The city’s decision to ask UVM to help prompted questions surrounding transparency and community involvement in plans for the auditorium’s future.

Another portion of those at the meeting thought Memorial Auditorium’s meaning rested in the cultural development it allowed for, rather than the space itself.

Alan Abair, former property manager of the auditorium, said that he wants the city to renovate the space or build a new one.

“Burlington is the cultural center of Chittenden County,” said Abair. “If the city is going to take Memorial Auditorium, they sure better build us a new civic center.”

The potential deal with UVM sparked community activism beyond the NPA meeting as well.

James Lockridge said earlier this week that he will run in March for City Council, largely because he finds problems with the city’s “transparency and representation” and wants to get involved.

The mayor stated in a press release Tuesday that he would be putting together a team to address the future of Memorial Auditorium later this fall.

“In our history, Memorial Auditorium has served as a valuable assembly space, and as we pursue its revitalization and adaptive re-use, we should prioritize how the building will continue to serve that vital function for our community,” he stated in the release.

NPA Chair Holway said this meeting is the beginning of what many hope to be a revival of the grassroots, community-driven Burlington that Bernie Sanders created almost 40 years ago when he won election as mayor.

“Right now, people want to get a feel for, can NPAs redefine the way public process works?” he said.

Burlington teachers vote to strike next week

BURLINGTON — The city’s teachers have voted to go on strike Wednesday if the school board doesn’t agree to reopen contract negotiations.

The vote came Thursday in response to the board’s imposition of salary and other terms on the union last week. The sides remained deadlocked after months of talks.

“Call us, and we’ll come back to work,” said Fran Brock, Burlington Education Association president.

Ninety-five percent of teachers voted to strike. “There was no question,” Brock said.

A spokesperson for the school board could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

This is the second year in a row the Burlington union has voted to strike after the board imposed working conditions. Last fall an agreement to resume negotiating averted a walkout just hours before it was to begin.

This year the two sides again failed to reach agreement on pay increases and health care contributions. Teachers also hoped to continue negotiations about their schedules, Brock said during informational picketing Tuesday.

Without further negotiations, high school teachers could be assigned a sixth class instead of being able to use the time for preparation and student-directed programming, she said.

The South Burlington school district also decided to impose working conditions on its teachers last week after 10 months of negotiations.

Gov. Phil Scott called for districts and teachers to compromise for the sake of students.

Burlington School Board Chair Mark Porter has said the terms the board imposed were fair and fit student needs and the ability of the community to fund education.

Brock said the decision to strike is in solidarity with 100 colleagues who have chosen to leave the district in the past five years.

The delay between the strike announcement and planned walkout is to make it possible for parents and students to make adjustments, Brock said.

Burlington teachers picket for further strikes

BURLINGTON — City teachers have been picketing in the pouring rain to urge the school board to reopen negotiations with their union.

The Tuesday afternoon informational picket — and others planned for today — aimed to inform the public of the school board’s recent decision to impose working conditions rather than continuing to negotiate a contract with the Burlington Education Association.

This is the second year in a row that the board has imposed salary and other terms on local teachers. It’s the seventh school board in the state to take that step twice, the BEA said.

The union membership plans to meet Thursday to decide what to do next, including the possibility of striking.

Last year the two sides reached a one-year deal hours before a strike was set to begin in October.

“We are not happy. We are angry,” union President Fran Brock said at Tuesday’s picket.

The teachers’ goal is to persuade the board to reopen negotiations, the union said in a news release Tuesday.

The two sides haven’t agreed on salary increases or health care contributions, although the union has said they are close.

One of the biggest issues teachers want to negotiate is the use of time throughout the school day, Brock said.

Since cutting back on educators and para-educators in recent years, class sizes have increased, with some nearing maximum occupancy in the high school, Brock said.

Without further negotiations, she said, teachers would have to increase the number of classes taught, taking time away from student-directed programming and one-on-one time with students.

This increase in workload is meant to address the achievement gap between different groups of students, but Brock said students would suffer in the long run if teachers must increase their course load.

“We too want to narrow the achievement gap, but we need the board to do it with us and not against us,” Brock said.

The school board chair, Mark Porter, has called the contract terms set by the board “fair and reasonable” in the context of “student needs and the ability of the community to fund public education.”

SGA president Petrillo presents UVM Board of Trustees

Part of the SGA president’s role is to be the face of the Student Body at the board of trustees meeting, which occurs tri-annually

In addition, the SGA president updates the board on what the SGA senate has been working on and what they plan to do in the upcoming four months.

“Every administration comes in with passion projects; these happen to be [Vice President Nicole Woodcock] and mine,” Petrillo said.

For Petrillo, his passions are student health and wellness, as well as communication between clubs and SGA, he said.

Petrillo and Woodcock have begun discussions with many people on campus, discussing increased awareness and resources for mental health and wellness on campus.

In addition, they have created a committee to work together on this issue that includes faculty, SGA senators and staff.

The statement Petrillo prepared for the May 19-20 meeting stated that SGA was also in the process of creating an ad-hoc committee to improve communication between SGA and clubs on campus.

Ad-hoc committees are created to address issues that overlap from committee to committee, Petrillo said.

This ad-hoc committee will address communication between SGA and both environmental groups and identity groups on campus, he said.

The decision to create this came in part when student leaders came to SGA with concerns about communication after the name of the BLM theft was revealed, Petrillo said.

Though these conversations contributed to the immediate creation of this committee, it was always part of Petrillo’s vision to implement increased communication, he said.

Petrillo said it is so early in its formation that it has yet to form a clear mission yet.

Petrillo also updated the board on the status of the advising center, the health and wellness fund and the Catamount Innovation Fund, all programs brought to life in the previous administration.

Cited in the Associated Press

April 20, 2017: Associated Press

This story, by the Associated Press was follow-up coverage to a story I oversaw. In  September of 2016,  UVM made national headlines for hanging a black lives matter flag alongside the Vermont and U.S. flags.  A few days later, the flag was stolen. We found out about through a public records request. Two fraternities had been suspended, one put in an appeal. I instructed my reporters to request the appeal. Once received a 157-page document with all names redacted, it was a lot of information:  University officials knew who stole the flag two days after it had been stolen  —  a fraternity pledge. After the fraternity found out, they unanimously voted to expel the pledge and turned him into University officials. Fingerprints confirmed. 

Coverage of New Voices legislation

Background:

In October of 2016, my adviser rallied supporters of the first amendment to work towards reinstating the Tinker standard in Vermont. With the help of Student Press Law Center and the New Voices legislation movement a bill made its way to the Golden Dome, the Vermont Statehouse.  In January 2017, two high school newspaper editors and I went to the statehouse to testify before the Vermont senate. In May 2017, the law was signed, ensuring first amendment rights in schools.

January 2017

A screenshot of a blogpost by Chris Evans, UVM student media adviser, on the journey of the bill

 Below is an excerpt of a VTDigger article by Alan J. Keays that covered the senate meeting I testified at. Here, UVM’s student media adviser, a few high school editors expressed the need to bring the Tinker standard back to Vermont schools, citing instances of high school censorship and  speaking to the impact of a free student press.

Again, this is from an article by Alan B. Keays by VTDigger. It was originally published on Jan. 18, 2017. Read the entire article here.

 

 

 

 

 

On Vermont Public Radio

Dec. 4, 2015 – Vermont Public Radio, Morning Edition

‘Former UVM employee sues school over alleged equal pay violation’

 

VPR reported on this after the Vermont Cynic published my story, “UVM being sued for equal pay.” I was interviewed by VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb.

VPR’s Summary of this segment: “A former employee at the University of Vermont is suing the school, saying she was paid less than her male counterparts because of her gender.The university’s student newspaper The Cynic broke this story by obtaining documents from Vermont’s Superior Court, and reports that the lawsuit alleges former IT professional in Enterprise Technology Services Cynthia Reuscher experienced “disparities in pay, title and training opportunities.” The suit also alleges that she suffered “illegal retaliation” when she complained of the alleged denied access to training opportunities. Reuscher was let go in April due to budget cuts at UVM. Cynic reporter Kelsey Neubauer joined us for our Friday Regional Report to talk about the suit.  …”

 

Oct. 28, 2016 – Vermont Public Radio, The Frequency

‘UVM student newspaper wins national diversity story award’

 

VPR reported on the story that won the ACP’s Diversity Story of the Year Award. My co-author Bryan O’Keefe and I were interviewed by VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb.

VPR’s summary of this segment: This week, the University of Vermont’s student newspaper, the Vermont Cynic, won the Associated Collegiate Press’ 2016 Diversity Story of the Year award for a look back at the history of race at the university. In a series called “Exploring Race at UVM,” the paper examined past traditions like the Kake Walk, a yearly dance featuring students in blackface, and how that and other events on campus shaped UVM’s policies around race and diversity. VPR spoke with Kelsey Neubauer and Bryan O’Keefe, who co-wrote the series for the Vermont Cynic, to learn more about how they reported the story and what stuck out to them. Continue reading “On Vermont Public Radio”

SGA promotes innovation through new fund

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 27, 2016.

Students will soon have access to a new program promoting innovation.

UVM’s new center for student innovation and ideas is set to be completed by the end of next semester, SGA President Jason Maulucci said.

The new program aims to help students with entrepreneurial ideas pursue their goals, Maulucci said.

“What we’re in the process of doing right now is establishing an innovation fund in which students with business of non- profit startup ideas can come to a panel or board of students and make a pitch and apply for funding to fund their idea and turn it into a reality,” he said.

The program will give students the opportunity to pursue their business ideas regardless of what they study, Maulucci said.

“Right now the concept of innovation and entrepreneurship can be siloed inside the business school and there are plenty of students outside and inside of the business school… who have ideas that can turn into impactful, successful, productive businesses,” he said.

When the project comes to fruition, SGA hopes to have a committee of about 15 students who oversee the funding for the program, Maulucci said.

Additionally, a board of local advisers and leaders in the business community will act as mentors for students, he said.

Students are excited for the possibilities that the implementation of UVM’s new center for student innovation and ideas will bring about at the end of the spring 2017 semester.

“I think this could make starting a business as a young person much easier, instead of just assuming your idea could never be a real thing,” first-year Juls Sundberg said.

Sundberg also believes this would help students network.

“It would also be great experience in professional public speaking,” she said.

Sophomore Bridget Dews also supports the program.

“This is a great thing for the UVM community,” Dews said.

There are many students who don’t know where to go if they have ideas, she said.

SGA gives student voice to faculty contract negotiations

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 20, 2016.

Students have added their voice to faculty contract negotiations this year.
A resolution passed by SGA Oct. 2 outlines undergraduates’ expectations for an upcoming bargaining agreement between the University and United Academics, the faculty union.

SGA believes the expectation must be explicitly written into a contract in order for the policy to be upheld, SGA President Jason Maulucci said.

“It is our role to represent what is best for students, and what is best for students is what is best for the University,” Maulucci said.

United Academics was not available to comment at this time.

Under the resolution, SGA states it expects there to be explicit language on the timing that syllabi are released, more professional development opportunities and a call for extended office hours.

The expectations set forth in the resolution are a way to hold faculty accountable for responsibilities outlined in federal higher education policy.
As of right now, there is no University document that does this, Maulucci said.

Extended course description and access to syllabi at the time of registration have been policies SGA has been attempting to enforce for over 20 years, he said.

In each of UVM’s peer colleges and universities, they should hold faculty accountable for releasing syllabi and other course information, the resolution states.

This gives students the ability to plan out finances or decide not to take a course, Maulucci said.

Sophomore Molly Keenan said she is happy SGA took this step.

“I think it’s great that SGA is taking the initiative,” Keenan said. “If I am paying this money for an education, I want to know what I need for the class so I am not spending so much money.”

McKayla Kingsbury, a continuing education student, said she is excited.
“If you don’t get the help you need, you’re not going to succeed,” Kingsbury said.

During the last collective bargaining negotiations in January 2014, SGA voiced concerns with portions of the negotiations, according to a Feb. 2, 2014 Cynic article.

SGA released a statement in February of that year stating they did not support UA nor an increase in pay because it would increase undergraduate tuition, the article states.

“These are several items that we believe would benefit not just students, but the entire University,” the resolution states.

The bargaining negotiations will begin in spring 2017, according to a Sept. 6 Cynic article.

Community stands against pipelines

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 12, 2016. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer for the Vermont Cynic.

Students and community members stood in solidarity with Standing Rock on the Davis Center green Monday.

The event was organized by Rights and Democracy VT to show support for Standing Rock, a Native American tribe in South Dakota that is opposing the construction of an oil pipeline on their land.

Rights and Democracy VT is an organization that focuses on promoting livable wages, environmental issues and healthcare in Vermont according to their website.

The pipeline will stretch across 1,172-miles from South Dakota to Illinois, according to the project’s website.

“I’m here today to support my brothers and sisters of Standing Rock,” senior Darnell Holmes said, “to disapprove the pipelines going across Vermont and the U.S.”

Holmes said there should be more of a focus on energy resources that help instead of hurt the environment.

Junior Roz Aronow also attended the rally and supports an end to pipelines.

“I feel once a pipeline gets denied there’ll be another and another,” Aronow said. “You need to break that pattern.”

Aronow said legislation should be changed to focus on the renewable energy industry.

“We should be putting our energy and jobs into renewable resources,” she said.

Members of both the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation and Standing Rock attended the rally.

“Just remember there were 138 [pipeline] leaks in the past month alone,” Beverly Littlethunder said.

Littlethunder grew up as a member of the Standing Rock tribe in South Dakota, but decided to move to Vermont.

“I felt it was important to speak about what’s affecting Standing Rock and Vermont,” she said. “I’m tired of hearing about Trump and Hillary and their day-to-day soap opera.”

If more people gathered to raise awareness about the pipeline, more action might be taken, Littlethunder said.

“I felt like the rally was real good,” she said. “Like it was successful even if just two people came and now there are a lot more people who have heard about it.”

Sophomore Jane Stromberg said the gathering was an act of solidarity.

“This is an anti-pipeline gathering,” Stromberg said, “we have to stop sacrificing long term stop short term profit.”

In light of the event as a moment of solidarity for standing, she said she was shocked to see so many protesting wind when the event was about protesting the pipeline.

The discourse around the use of wind turbines is an area of great contention for Vermonters, and the population is split 50/50.

Many say that wind is ugly on mountains and it makes too much noise, while others say it is a renewable source of energy, Stromberg said.

She said the signs were a divisive act, instead of what the protest was supposed to be a uniting force.

Everyone in attendance, however, was unified under the idea that there is a need for change in the approach to energy use in the nation.

Laura Mistretta of Rights and Democracy in VT helped organize the rally.

“We’re here today to raise a call for a new direction for our people and planet,” Mistretta said. “It started out just a thought and a right to democracy and getting people together.”

She emphasized the importance of having these rallies.
“The more that we raise up each others’ voices [the more] we can be heard,” Mistretta said.

Student Government organizes new visions for 2016

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 5, 2016.

Executive members of SGA have set the course for several new initiatives this year.

Upon entering their second year in office, SGA President Jason Maulucci and Vice President Tyler Davis have set a goal for SGA for the 2016 school year: holding the organization accountable in order to elevate its role in student’s lives.

“These two ideas work together,” Maulucci said. “You can’t have ‘elevate’ unless you have ‘accountability.’”

Accountability will begin with transparency at every level, Davis said. Committee chairs will post agendas and details about the roles and responsibilities of each senator.

Accountability will translate into actions SGA will take as a group, he said.

As negotiations with the faculty senate begin, the accountability portion of this vision will drive SGA to pursue contracts that hold faculty accountable for ensuring descriptions and needed course materials be made available to students before they register for courses, Davis said.

“We feel that syllabi and expanded course descriptions should be expected when registration opens,” Maulucci said in a Sept. 6 Cynic article.

With accountability emphasized at UVM, Maulucci said SGA wants to elevate their involvement to one that reaches beyond the limits of campus.

“We want to be involved in everything that impacts students,” he said, “not just [on campus].”

A glimpse of this involvement was seen last year when executive members of SGA went to the State House to support members of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

A key portion of this involvement resides in the students’ relationship with Burlington, Maulucci said.

To do so, SGA is currently gathering information that examines the role UVM students play in the city’s economy, he said.

In addition, Maulucci said he is hoping to bring innovative minds into the Burlington committee by entering the beginning stages of an innovation center.

SGA currently has one of the most experienced bodies in its history, with a retention rate of 80 percent, according to a May 5 Cynic article.

Student speak-out provokes discussion of campus sexual assault response

Sophomore Nina Truslow stood with a megaphone and recounted being raped at UVM.

“My name is Nina and I have experienced sexual assault,” Truslow said.

Heaviness hung in the air Friday as Justice for Queer/Trans Students held a speak-out on sexual assault.

Atop a rock near the Davis Center, survivors of sexual assault shared their stories, and asked UVM to do more to prevent sexual assault on campus.

Truslow was assaulted by someone she was dating last year, but decided not to report because he did not understand that he raped her, she said.

“You have a panic attack and you go home and they text you asking you what is the matter,” Truslow said.

The only education she received from UVM was during her first weekend of school and the CatAlerts that give tips on what to do to avoid assault, she said.

“That’s telling people how not to get raped instead of telling people not to rape other people,” Truslow said.

The students requested that there be a change in education.

Around 50 students joined Truslow, gathering to hear and share stories of their sexual assaults and voice concerns with the way sexual assault is handled on campus.

Students discussed access to education, the importance of intersectionality and the impact of rape culture on campus.

Students were not alone at the rally. Among those in attendance was Victim’s Advocate Judy Rickstad.

In the past year, 61 sexual assaults were reported to the Women’s Center, Rickstad said during an interview last April.

“I speak for victims,” she said, “but sometimes I don’t have a lot of power.”

All of these cases went through Rickstad. She said she meets with each survivor at least 20 times per year.

“We live in a culture where we’re told women are sexual objects,” Truslow said. “I have had enough of being sexualized for having a female body.”

This rally was in response to a recently reported sexual assault on UVM campus.

On Sept. 23, a UVM student was sexually assaulted in her residence hall by a man unknown to the victim prior to that night, according to a CatAlert.

The suspect is believed to be a “white male, approximately 40, with long blond hair, last seen wearing a black sweatshirt with the word ‘Hawaii’ written in pink and green lettering,” according to the CatAlert.

However, the CatAlert noted “this incident is not under active investigation.”

Students can report an incident without requesting an investigation, according to UVM’s Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy.

Some students argue colleges aren’t doing enough to prevent assaults, while others firmly believe colleges are addressing the issue effectively.

First-year Loret Mircia said students seem to be reminded of sexual assault regularly.

“With the constant exposure to drugs, alcohol and the closeness of residing alongside peers, sexual misconduct is, to some extent, inevitable,” Mircia said. “Hearing about the next ‘campus rape story’ is becoming a daily regularity.”

She said colleges are doing a sufficient job handling sexual assault, despite cases that have been highly publicized and made the center point of news coverage.

“Keeping the assailant on probation of some sort and ensuring the population is the way to go,” Mircia said.

First-year Camille Evans said sexual assault prevention at UVM is helpful.

“I can only speak for UVM,” Evans said, “but I was actually impressed with what [sexual assault training] they had us do.”

However, even with the training and discussion of sexual coercion, she said she believes this kind of crime will still happen.

While some students appear to feel colleges are doing the best they can, others say there needs to be improvements.

Sophomore Sara Werth said the way colleges are handling this matter is “disgusting.”

“There should be more prevention strategies, rather than just dealing with the aftermath,” Werth said.

Sophomore Polina Gorshenkova, an international student from Moscow, Russia, said sexual assault is worse in the U.S.

“[In Russia] it’s not a big deal…we don’t talk about it,” Gorshenkova said. “[But in the U.S.] it’s pretty bad… sometimes I’m scared hearing all of the stories. It can happen anywhere.”

Professor Ellen Andersen, who teaches courses on the politics of sexuality and holds a joint appointment in the gender, sexuality and women’s studies program, highlighted what she sees as the underlying force of the issue, which has been causing sexual coercion and its continual prominence in colleges.

“There has been a large increase in our awareness that sexual assault happens on campuses,” Andersen said.

This has steered the issue into the direction of the media, allowing it to become more “publicly visible, in a way it used to not be,” she said. “More people are willing to report now.”

“[Colleges] are addressing the issue, and you can’t get through first-year orientation without going through these modules about consent and awareness,” she said.

However, the tone of these discussions needs to be changed, Andersen said.
“The tone is ‘how not to get raped,’ and not enough of ‘don’t rape,’” she said. “We are getting a little bit better, certainly at UVM.”

Students give support to migrant workers

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 4, 2016. Photo illustration by Phil Carruthers for the Vermont Cynic.

Students rallied against the deportation of a migrant rights leader Oct. 3 outside Bailey/ Howe Library.

Miguel Alcudia could potentially be thrown out of the country.
“Not one more, not one more,” the protesters chanted while holding up signs that read “Free Miguel.”

Students joined protesters across the state who hope to end Alcudia’s detention.

Alcudia rose as a leader after he lost two years worth of wages at the hands of his employer, according to the Migrant Justice website.

Migrant Justice is an organization that works to raise concerns of human rights in the farming community in Vermont, the website states.

The organization raises concerns about issues many migrant workers face such as access to housing and health care.

“[Alcudia] is an important figure in his community and his continued detention does harm not only to [him] but to the farmworker movement for human rights that he has led,” the website states.

Alcudia is currently being detained in the Stafford County House of Corrections in New Hampshire on $21,000 bail after his arrest Sept. 22.
He was arrested on the claim that he had overstayed his visa, according to the website.

Alcudia is known throughout the community as a leader in the Vermont justice movement, said Kailee Brickner-McDonald, director of the Dewey House for Community Engagement.

Migrant justice leaders comment that this is the second leader in Migrant Justice to be detained in the past three months.

This is the second protest this year, with one for Victor Diaz occurring in May 2015, sophomore Liam O’Sullivan said.

There will be a letter writing campaign in University Heights South sometime next week, McDonald said.

Black Lives Matter flag stolen overnight

The Black Lives Matter flag was removed by an unknown person Saturday night, according to an email from Beverly Colston, director of the ALANA Student Center.

The disappearance of the flag is being investigated by police as an act of vandalism, Colston stated in an email to the ALANA Student Center community.

“Please know that UVM leadership is committed to supporting the flight of the flag and has not backed down despite criticism and backlash,” Colston stated in the email.

 SGA released a statement regarding the incident around noon.

“This action underscores the necessity in this country to engage in a frank and open discussion about the injustices that so many Americans face simply because of the color of their skin,” SGA states.

 SGA said universities are a place where ideas can be held and discussed, which is why they will they will stand by UVM’s cornerstone and remain leaders in standing up for equity, according to their statement.

 “We as a nation will not be able to address these challenges unless we fully acknowledge that there is a problem….Too often we let ourselves become divided into categories – if you’re for something, you must be against something else. It doesn’t need to be that way,” they state.

 In a second email from the ALANA Student Center, Colston said Pat Brown, director of Student Life, will raise another Black Lives Matter flag sometime late this afternoon.

The raising of the flag Sept. 22 was sponsored by SGA and stood beside the Vermont and United States flags on the Davis Center Green.

 It received national media attention and mixed responses.

 Junior Rachel Altman said she considers the theft of the flag to be a hate crime.

 “Whoever [took the flag] took something beautiful and destroyed it,” she said.

 Altman said she felt a sense of pride when the flag was put up.

 “When I saw it up, I was so proud to be going to a school that understands the value, importance and necessity of reminding the students of color on our campus that their lives matter when everything else in the world is telling them that they don’t,” she said.

 Pat Brown and his wife raised a new Black Lives Matter Flag at 5 p.m. Sept. 25.

 [Update: This article was updated from its original version at 7:42 p.m. Sept. 25]

UVM raises Black Lives Matter flag

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Sept. 23, 2016. Photo by Phil Carruthers for the Vermont Cynic.

A photo of a Black Lives Matter flag flying outside the Davis Center has garnered national media attention.

UVM’s African, Latino(a), Asian and Native American Student Center will be hosting a “Black Out” event to support the flag being raised, sophomores Akilah Ho-Young and Haydee Miranda said in a Sept. 23 email to the ALANA community.

“The purpose of the Black Out, is to welcome people of color and their alliances to dress in all black attire on Monday September 26, 2016,” they said. “The initiative of this event is to embrace the Black Lives Matter flag that was recently raised to pay tribute the tragic deaths within our community.”

At 4:30 p.m. the ALANA community will gather in front of the Black Lives Matter flag to take a photo of everyone wearing black attire, Ho-Young and Miranda said.

SGA sponsored the flag’s placement, which was raised Thursday, SGA Vice President Tyler Davis said.

Ho-Young posted a photo on Facebook Sept. 22 that has been shared over 4000 times.

“Every single person in this world is cherished by somebody. So we protect everybody. Because every person killed is someone losing their baby. That’s why we fight. Thank you UVM. I don’t always feel proud of you, but today I do,” she posted.

Commenters on local news station WCAX expressed concerned for the prominence of the flag on the campus.

“All lives matter, but no flag should be flown at the same height as our American flag,” Chad Cameron, a facebook commentator, stated.

The Black Lives Matter one-issue movement was founded after the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, according to the organization’s website.

“Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” according to the website.

The Black Lives Matter movement has received both national support and backlash. Some say the movement deems other lives invisible.

Center for safe practice of religion to open

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Sept. 23, 2016. Photo illustration by Kira Bellis and Eileen O’Connor for the Vermont Cynic.

Students will have more ways to practice and explore religion this year.

By the end of this fall, an Interfaith Center will open its doors on Redstone campus, allowing people of different faiths to worship, pray, meditate and learn, Interfaith Coordinator Laura Engelken said.

The center is a part of the University’s plan to give space for differences and diversity, Engelken said.

“Looking at religious and spiritual identity is huge; it’s part of who [students] are,” she said. “For some of us that’s an understanding of divinity; that’s an understanding of solidarity or philosophy.”

If students have a place to engage with their faith, they will be able to bring their full selves to classes and other areas on campus, Engelken said.

In addition, it will give students a safe space to practice, she added.

Junior Karyn Dukes said she agrees this space is necessary for religious inclusivity on campus.
“Religion is a right,” Dukes said.

One study found that close to half the number of college students in America practice a religion.
The University of California Los Angeles conducted a national study looking at college students and their engagement with faith.

They found 42 percent of college students feel secure in their religious or spiritual beliefs, but the study does not account for religious diversity.

About 70 percent practice some form of Christianity and less than 5 percent practice the next two largest world religions, according to the Pew Center for research.

In Vermont this number goes up to 8 percent.

UVM does not make data on religious diversity accessible to the public, but there are multiple religious organizations on campus that many students engage in.

The idea of the center has been in the works for a while, Engelkin said.

A signed SGA resolution from 2014 in support of the Interfaith Center said the center was once just a sitting idea.

“[UVM] has already identified the Interfaith Center as an institutional priority, but has inadvertently put the project on hold,” the resolution states.
Some religions have historically had spaces to practice: Catholics have the Catholic Center, and Jewish people have had Hillel and Chabad.

The new center allows multiple religions to practice their faith, Engelken said.

For many students, the church was not a space afforded to all before this change, Dukes said.
“[When people go to college] they stop practicing because they may feel there is no place to practice here,” she said.

However, this new center will give all students a safe space to go to, Dukes said.

In addition to giving a safe space for people to practice religion, religious xenophobia on campus could be minimized by exposure to the diversity in one place, she said.

The hope of the center is to do just this, encourage and engage effectively with dialogue of difference on campus, Engelken said.
“[My role is both] individually and institutionally feel more comfortable and competent about engaging with religion and spirituality on campus,” she said.

In the Burlington Free Press

 Sept. 21, 2016: Burlington Free Press

‘UVM paper up for national award’

Free press staff writer Cory Dawson wrote about our story’s nomination for ACP’s diversity story of the year. In addition to being the author of this story, Cory is also my former editor and one of the people who inspired me to pursue journalism. It was an honor to be interviewed by such an incredible journalist. Below is a quote from an interview he did with me on the impact of the story, followed by his coverage:

 

“It was a solemn and thoughtful day for campus. You felt it, there was nobody who hadn’t heard about it on campus. There was this heaviness.”

 

 

 Below is the story as printed by Burlington Free Press on Sept. 21, 2016: 

For the second year in a row, student journalists at the University of Vermont are up for a national award  — this time for a retrospective on the Kake Walk, a popular UVM tradition that for decades brought the campus together to watch students dress up and dance, in blackface.

The Associated Collegiate Press, a national student journalism association, tapped reporters from the Vermont Cynic last week for a Diversity Story of the Year award. Their story, Kake Walk: Alumni, faculty and students reflect on 73-year tradition, was the first in a three part series examining race relations at UVM. Last year, Cynic reporters won the second place prize for News Story of the Year after submitting a piece on university dining contractor Sodexo’s labor practices.

“It was an all encompassing event, not only on campus but in Burlington. Everyone was part of this event,” said Kelsey Neubauer, a junior and one of the reporters on the Cynic story.

The Kake Walk was part of UVM culture since the early 1890s.  The event originated as a competition among slaves and the winners were awarded cake. Later, the event became more elaborate, incorporating costume, music and skits. The Cynic advertised the Kake Walk with colorful, full page prints every year.

The beginning of the end for the Kake Walk started in 1954 when an entire fraternity, Phi Sigma Delta, refused to wear blackface in protest, according to a UVM special collections website with pages of documents on the Kake Walk. The last Kake Walk was in 1969, but some campus groups were intent on bringing the event back.

Interviews with UVM alumni who were involved with the Kake Walk drive the Cynic story. Garrison Nelson, a UVM political science professor and a judge at the last Kake Walk in 1969, told the Cynic that there was a lot of speculation about a Kake Walk resurgence. That ended when Lattie Coor, president of UVM from 1976 to 1989 gave a clear message to campus, he told the Cynic in a video interview.

“When we came to him about it he said, look, there are three K’s in Kake Walk, like the Klu Klux Klan and we’re not going to do it,” Nelson said in the video.

Many students had little or broken knowledge of the Kake Walk before the Cynic story, said Hannah Kearns, editor-in-chief of the Cynic.

“Until the story idea was brought up to me I wasn’t completely aware of the tradition,” Kearns said.

The story was uniquely sensitive, Kearns said. Before going to print, Kearns reached out the Vice Provost for Student Affairs Annie Stevens and student groups like the Black Student Union and the African, Latino(a), Asian, and Native American student center, to let them know of the coming story and soliciting their reaction.

“We wanted them to know this was something we were going to publish, just because this piece and the two that followed could have been very triggering for some people,” Kearns said.

After the story was printed and distributed in late Feb. 2016, Neubauer said the campus was buzzing. Students huddled around copies of the Cynic. Professors read the article aloud in class.

“It was a solemn and thoughtful day for campus. You felt it, there was nobody who hadn’t heard about it on campus. There was this heaviness,” Neubauer said.

Finalists for the Diversity Story of the Year include the Cynic entry and nine other papers. Publications from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, UNC Chapel Hill and Northwestern University are all finalists in the same category. The awards will be distributed next month at the annual Associated Collegiate Press convention in Washington D.C.

“Of course I’m happy about being nominated for such a prestigious award,” Neubauer said. “But it’s still a weird feeling. This article should be for the whole campus.”

Disclosure: Cory Dawson was editor-in-chief of the Vermont Cynic from Nov. 2014 to Nov, 2015.