SGA president Petrillo presents UVM Board of Trustees

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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.

SGA promotes innovation through new fund

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

All Stories, Diversity and Identity, Stories by Beat, Stories by publication, Student Government, Vermont Cynic

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

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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.

Johnson speaks at Burlington rally

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Aug. 31, 2016. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer for the Vermont Cynic.

Third-party presidential candidate Gary Johnson brought his campaign to Ver- mont last week.

Johnson, a Libertarian, spoke to a large crowd at the Sheraton Hotel in South Burl- ington Aug. 24 and presented himself as the viable middle ground in the upcoming presi- dential election.

“Our platform is social toler- ance and fiscal responsibility,” he said, before moving on to his thoughts on education, the na- tional debt and state of the jus- tice system.

Johnson said the way the national debt is growing desta- bilizes the economy. If elect- ed president, Johnson said he would impose a flat tax and do away with corporate and income taxes.

He believes that the high rates of incarceration in the criminal justice system is a product of the government criminalizing too many activi- ties that label a minor offender a lifelong criminal, he said. For this reason, he said he believes marijuana should be legalized.

Johnson said he would en- act comprehensive immigration reform, ensure that women had the right to healthcare and abor- tions if they choose.

He told the audience he un- derstands both fiscal responsi- bility and social inclusivity.

Johnson also said his presidential platform rests on his ability to reach voters in both parties.

At least a dozen UVM stu- dents attended the event.

Though he doesn’t see him- self as a Republican, first-year John Cialek said he supported libertarian-leaning Rand Paul in the GOP primary.

Cialek said he was happy with many of the topics and solutions Johnson addressed. “A lot of what he was saying really resonated with me,” he

Former Massachusetts Gov.Bill Weld, Johnson’s running mate, said this election is different because of party polarization.

Johnson differs from Clinton and Trump because he is able to compromise and put forth ideas that are appealing and beneficial to both parties, Weld said.
Johnson reiterated that he needed the opportunity to de- bate in order to have a shot at the presidency.

“If you get 15 percent in five major polls, you are in the debates,” Weld said.

Those are the rules accord- ing to the Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes each event, according to their website.

However, Johnson is polling below 15 percent in all of those five polls, averaging 10 percent, effectively disqualifying him for the time being.

The Commission will make their final calculations before the first debate Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in New York.

Child care providers say new regulations will be costly

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger .

Efforts at child care reform have been greeted with ambivalence by some providers who are concerned the changes are too steep.
New regulations for child care providers, written by the Child Development Division within the state’s Department for Children and Families, are scheduled to go into effect Sept 1. They spell out more specifically what is required.

“It is definitely more words, but sometimes it takes more words to be clear,” said Reeva Murphy, deputy DCF commissioner.

The new regulations were based upon extensive national research and discussions that began in 2012, she said.

However, as child care professionals begin to navigate the changing field in order to comply, some feel the new regulations do more harm than good.

The new requirements have distressed child care providers such as Tracy Patnoe.

Patnoe, who has been a provider for 17 years, has a facility in Morrisville with five classrooms, five full-time teachers and 39 children, she said.

Old regulations from 2001 required full-time teachers working alone in a classroom to have an associate degree in child development or a minimum of 12 college credits in early childhood development.

The new regulations will increase these requirements, Patnoe said. Each staffer will be required, at minimum, to have either completed 21 college credits in early education or obtained an associate degree in a related field, a childhood apprenticeship certificate or a child care certificate from Community College of Vermont.

Her five teachers, some in child care for more than 20 years, would be deemed unqualified to teach. They would have to go back to school, or Patnoe would have to hire new professionals, she said.

Murphy, of DCF, said these guidelines are for entry-level teachers. The hope was that as the teacher’s professional development grew, so would their level of qualification.

There are incentives to gain these qualifications, Murphy said. Scholarships are available through colleges and the state that help those in child care gain more qualifications and ensure high-quality care.

Patnoe also pointed to new regulations require 24 months of experience in child care in order to work at a center, describing it as a Catch-22 making it difficult for those who want to start a career.

The new rules would cost her organization more than $40,000 a year because the hourly rate for each teacher would increase $2, Patnoe said. That does not include payroll costs or health insurance, she said.

Patnoe said she will need to find funding to either provide education for her staff to meet the qualifications or hire new staffers — at a higher rate — who meet the requirements.

“Where is this money going to come from? It will fall on the backs of parents who are already paying more than they can,” said Patnoe. She owns Mud City Kids Childcare in Morrisville.

The high cost of child care is one of the reasons given for creating the regulations. On average, a Vermont parent spends 28 to 40 percent of earnings on child care, according to the advocacy campaign Let’s Grow Kids.

Robyn Freedner-Maguire, campaign director for Let’s Grow Kids, said that although the regulations have prompted essential conversation, they also place financial burdens on child care providers. She said more money is needed from the state.

“We need more than regulations,” she said. “We need investments.”

The regulations are the first in more than a decade for center-based child care and in more than two decades for home-based child care. They are part of a larger statewide discussion on how to improve the child care system.

Campaigns such as Let’s Grow Kids have rallied lawmakers, parents and providers to speak about sustainable changes. In addition, a blue ribbon commission formed in 2015 has been conducting qualitative and quantitative research on achieving high-quality affordable child care in Vermont.

The commission will make a recommendation on the next steps in November.

Lawyer: Injuries from wet cement bring settlement

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A Bennington man recently won a $450,000 settlement for skin injuries he suffered from coming in contact with wet cement, according to his lawyer.

The lawyer, David Silver, of Bennington-based BarrSternberg Moss Silver & Munson, wouldn’t identify the client or the company allegedly involved. He said the man wanted to educate the public about the risks of working with wet Portland cement.

In November 2014 the man was helping his son-in-law put in a new floor in a crawlspace, according to Silver. There wasn’t room to stand up, so the man got on his knees to spread the wet concrete.

The son-in-law was then given a receipt by the delivery person. On the bottom of the receipt was a warning that the product could cause skin irritation. Hours later, third-degree burns covered the man’s kneecaps, leaving him with scars and medical bills, said Silver.

The man decided to sue, and Silver said the concrete company’s insurers agreed to settle. If a product is potentially dangerous, a business must tell the consumer, Silver said.

Portland cement is in almost every form of concrete. When wet, Portland cement can damage the skin because it is caustic and abrasive and absorbs moisture, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA says the effects can range from mild and brief to severe and chronic.

Burns may not be felt immediately, according to OSHA. That’s the most dangerous part, said Silver, who warned that the effects are not evident until hours after contact.

According to OSHA, if skin comes into contact with wet cement, it should be washed with cool water and acidic soap immediately. Skin softeners such as Vaseline should not be used.

Silver identified the lawyers he said represented the concrete company; they did not return VTDigger’s calls or emails.

Arraignments held for four murder suspects found in California

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BURLINGTON — Four people charged with the murder of a Milton resident all pleaded not guilty at their arraignments Monday.

Erik Averill, 21, Jordan Paul, 21, Myia Barber, 22, and Allison Gee, 25, face second-degree murder charges in connection with the beating of Amos Beede, 38, in May in Burlington.

A fifth suspect, Amber Dennis, 29, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment last month.

All five are being held without bail. If found guilty, each would face 20 years to life in prison.

Beede was a transgender man who was well-known in the Burlington homeless community. He was at a homeless camp on Pine Street when the attack occurred. Witnesses told police Beede was part of a dispute between two homeless camps in the Barge Canal area just before he was killed.

In the days and hours preceding his death, Beede told police he felt he was in danger. The five suspects were said by witnesses to have kicked and beaten Beede.

The four who were arraigned Monday were brought back to Vermont early this month from San Diego, where they drove shortly after the beating. Each of the four told police in California that they played some role in the beating that led to Beede’s death, according to court documents.

Dennis did not go to California with the others and gave statements to police implicating the other suspects and declaring her own innocence. The four suspects arraigned Monday, however, gave statements to police saying Dennis participated in the attack on Beede.

Barber, Gee and Dennis are being held at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. Averill and Paul are being held at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St Albans.

Though police say there may have been some bias against Beede’s gender identity on the part of his alleged attackers, prosecutors said they have not found enough evidence to seek hate crime enhancements to the charges.

Firefighters union backs Dunne for governor

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BURLINGTON — Democrat Matt Dunne has picked up the endorsement of the Professional Firefighters of Vermont in the race for governor.

“We are standing with Matt because he has been standing with us,” said Bradley Reed, the union’s president, on Monday in front of the historic Ethan Allen Firehouse on Church Street.

Matt Dunne
Democrat Matt Dunne listens as firefighters announce their endorsement of him for governor Monday in Burlington. Photo courtesy of the Dunne campaign

Dunne, who has been a member of both the Vermont Senate and House, has a history of supporting and introducing legislation benefiting the Professional Firefighters of Vermont, Reed said.

Three weeks ago, union members met with the gubernatorial candidates and voted to collectively support Dunne, Reed said.

“He understands the importance of raising wages and working for economic justice for the middle class,” Reed said.

Reed said members face dangers every day that government must address and that Dunne has done so in the past. Firefighters have a high incidence of cancer, lung and infectious diseases, and heart emergencies, Reed said. In 2006, Dunne supported protection legislation for firefighters during cardiac emergencies, Reed said.

The Professional Firefighters of Vermont includes firefighters, EMTs and paramedics.

Dunne has been endorsed by various other unions, including the Vermont State Employees’ Association, the Teamsters and the Executive Committee of the Vermont AFL-CIO.

The firefighters union generally leans toward Democrats but had endorsed Republican Phil Scott for re-election as lieutenant governor in 2012 and 2014. He is now running for governor.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the AFL-CIO.)

Challenge to UVM’s sexual misconduct investigation is dropped

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on July 18, 2016.

BURLINGTON — A University of Vermont student has dropped a lawsuit against the school alleging he was not given due process in the investigation of a sexual misconduct complaint filed against him.

The unidentified student dropped the lawsuit after the university requested that it be dismissed, according to UVM.

“John Doe has dismissed his lawsuit requesting additional information. UVM has provided John Doe with no additional information,” UVM Director of Communications Enrique Correderas said in a statement.

The suit filed late last month in federal court claimed the man was not given enough information to defend himself in the investigation process. To protect his privacy, his lawyers filed under a pseudonym: John Doe.

The college’s probe was in the early stages, and the student had not been found responsible or not responsible for the alleged sexual misconduct.

Details of the sexual misconduct case are not publicly accessible because of regulations that govern student privacy.

The university said it will now complete the sexual misconduct investigation using its regular process.

In the lawsuit, John Doe claimed his rights were violated when he was not given information during the investigation.

“(UVM) has adopted a policy that violates the due process rights of those accused of sexual misconduct,” the suit stated.

Lawyers for John Doe did not respond to requests for comment.

The university said the protection of due process does not allow the accused to interfere with an investigation.

But his lawsuit stated that if the student was found responsible, his life would change drastically.

“If deemed responsible for the allegation, plaintiff may suffer severe reputational harm, difficulty continuing his education and securing employment in the future profession of his choice,” the complaint stated.

He argued he did not have enough information to properly explain his side of the story.

The University of Vermont moved to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming the use of federal court, in this case, was not appropriate. To complain to federal court, the university argued, the student must demonstrate having been injured or harmed. Legal injury includes the loss of rights or loss of reputation.

The university argued John Doe had not shown any harm.

“He has not been deprived of any interest in life, liberty or property, and any allegation that such an injury will occur is entirely speculative, especially at this early stage of the investigation,” UVM stated in its response to the lawsuit.

The suit also requested the university halt the investigation until the court ruled on whether John Doe’s rights were violated.

The university said it acted properly. “The university is confident that its sexual misconduct policy and procedures fully comply with federal law,” it said in the statement.

On June 10, the University of Vermont sent an email to John Doe stating that the office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity would begin an investigation after an allegation of sexual misconduct was made against him, according to the lawsuit.

University investigator Nick Stanton emailed Doe on June 17, asking for a decision as to whether Doe wanted to participate in the investigation through an interview by June 22, the lawsuit stated.

John Doe’s lawyers responded June 23 stating that he denied the allegations and would cooperate with the investigation. Additionally, his lawyers asked for copies of statements of the student who made the allegations as well as any other witnesses, the suit stated.

“In order to have a meaningful opportunity to respond to the allegations we need to know specifically what is being alleged. The credibility of the accuser is a critical factor in this matter. Without knowing what the accuser said, (John Doe) is unable to prepare a defense and respond to the allegations,” his lawyers wrote to UVM on June 24, according to the lawsuit.

UVM maintained that it followed national guidelines for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Our procedures for conducting Title IX sexual misconduct investigations conform to the guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education and best practices adopted across the country,” the university stated in a statement to VTDigger.

Vermonter leads a mission with heart

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on July 13, 2016.

GEORGIA — After a story broke that Vermonter Zachariah Fike, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, had reunited a Purple Heart with a veteran’s family, he received a call. It was from a man in Michigan who said his father had found a Purple Heart medal nearly 50 years ago. It sat in a candy jar and was played with by the man’s children and grandchildren.

The recipient of that Purple Heart was named Thomas Earle Hadley II. He was a pilot in the Korean War who died saving one of his fellow officers.

Fike tracked down his family. He found Hadley’s sister, Connie Bachman, in Massachusetts and returned the medal during a ceremony with her family in 2012. A few months later, Bachman’s daughter called Fike and said her mother was suffering from throat cancer and wanted to speak with him.

“You brought my brother back to life,” Fike recalled Bachman saying over the phone. “Now, I am no longer afraid to die.”

Two days later, Bachman died beside her family. She had told her family she felt her brother was there with her, Fike said Bachman’s daughter related.

Fike says it was then he knew he had found his passion: bringing Purple Heart soldiers to life again and honoring their lives and service by reuniting them with their medals.

“It is such a humbling experience to watch families be brought together as they are reunited with a Purple Heart. It is really bringing them together” that motivates him, he said.

Fike has just been named the Military Times Army soldier of the year. Over the past seven years, Fike has returned hundreds of medals to Purple Heart veterans or their families since he began his quest in 2012 through his nonprofit Purple Hearts Reunited.

Fike said his family has had a history of serving the country dating all the way back to the American Revolution. The military is in his blood, he said. Both of his parents were in the military. Fike served two tours in Afghanistan as an Army officer. After coming home from his first tour in 2009, he became a military collector.

“When a soldier comes home from war, they change,” he said. “They find something to keep busy.” Fike began going to antiques shops with a friend. He saw an old war helmet and didn’t think objects of such importance should be discarded in that way, he said.

For Christmas that year, Fike’s mother gave him a Purple Heart that she had purchased in an antiques store. Fike said that as soon as he opened it, he knew the medal did not belong to him.

“It was the one thing that should not be in a collection,” he said.

For the next three days, he searched for its owner, then he was deployed to Afghanistan. On Sept. 11, 2010, after Fike returned home as a wounded soldier, he picked up the search and found the family of his first Purple Heart soldier: Corrado Piccoli.

Purple Heart
A Purple Heart medal. U.S. Marine Corps photo

Now, Fike and his team hope to return 150 medals over the next year, a rate of one every three days.

He has volunteers across the country who help him with rescuing medals, researching veterans and returning the medals to their owners.

Half the medals the nonprofit acquired are donated, and half are bought by rescuers for up to $300 each.

Purple Hearts Reunited first has the medals framed by Village Frame Shoppe in St. Albans.

The medal then takes a journey home to be ceremonially returned, Fike said. The ceremony includes a history of the Purple Heart and anecdotes from the family of the veteran the medal honored.

“It really brings them alive again,” he said.

Bringing Purple Hearts home is a lifestyle for Fike, he said. As CEO, he spends almost all his free time working on the nonprofit, he said. Fike works on active duty as a captain in the Vermont National Guard from 9 to 5, he said, and as the father of two children until they go to sleep.

Fike said that when his children go to bed, he begins his third life: reuniting Purple Hearts. In addition to being CEO, he has taken part in ceremonies around the country. One of Fike’s goals is to reunite the 100 World World I Purple Hearts the organization has with their families by April 6, 2017, the 100th anniversary of America’s entrance into that war.

Fike said he sometimes drives eight or nine hours on the weekends and sleeps in his car to save money for the nonprofit.

He said the group’s greatest challenge is funding. To return one medal from start to finish costs around $1,500. Last year, the group spent $50,000 just rescuing these medals. That was not including additional costs to reunite the medals with their families, he said.

“We need help,” he said.

The honor from Military Times is not the first time that Fike’s work has been featured nationally.

It has been on various National Public Radio programs, including the StoryCorps podcast in 2012 and WBUR’s show “Here and Now” in 2013.

In May, The Associated Press released a story on Purple Hearts Reunited.

Burlington school board offers pay-for-benefits tradeoff

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on July 7, 2016.

BURLINGTON — The Burlington School Board says it has proposed a way to meet a key goal of the teachers union in their stalled salary negotiations but it would require redirecting some money from benefits.

The board and the Burlington Education Association presented arguments for their respective positions before a neutral fact finder last week.

“I feel confident we put our best foot forward (in presenting facts) that will help us reach a compromise,” said Mark Porter, chair of the school board.

The union must look over the information in greater detail before commenting, BEA President Fran Brock said Friday.

In a news release, the board said it presented a hypothetical salary grid that would fall within the middle of the salary ranges for teachers in other Chittenden County school districts.

Educators in Burlington are now paid less than the middle level of teacher salaries in the county, according to Brock. A provision in the 2013 three-year contract promises to bring Burlington teachers’ salaries to that point in 2016, she said.

The union has said the district is breaking that promise, while the board has pointed to turnover among board members and said the union’s expectations are unsustainable.

A board statement says this model is unsustainable because it makes Burlington dependent on other school districts’ salary decisions and does not allow the board to allocate money in the most effective way.

“While we want to be regionally competitive, we cannot be locked into an agreement that forces us to ignore and account for other key contextual factors, including the ability of our community to pay, legislative mandates and other needs of the district,” the board said.

The union is requesting a 5.7 percent salary increase and a continuation of medical and academic benefits.

The board wants teachers to pay more of the cost of their health insurance premiums. Burlington educators currently pay 15 percent, but the board wants 19 percent in the upcoming contract. The average Vermont professional pays 20 percent of his or her health insurance premiums, according to Stephanie Seguino, vice chair of the school board.

Porter said the proposed 5.7 percent pay increase would bring salaries far above the midlevel mark, and at a cost to students. The board wants to increase salaries about 1.8 percent.

“The board remains committed to providing regionally competitive compensation, but the associated salary increases will only be affordable if some of the dollars used to fund other generous benefits are reallocated to help pay for them,” he said in the news release last week.

The board said it told the fact finder that the union’s proposed salary increase in conjunction with benefits the district is currently covering would require moving money away from student programming.

Burlington teacher salary increases in the recent past have exceeded inflation, the board said.

The teachers’ current contract expires Aug. 31. In February, a mediator was designated to end a deadlock in negotiations. But a March 23 session with the mediator was unsuccessful, the board said in its release.

Brock said if the board does not increase salaries substantially, the district will lose good teachers. “If we want quality schools, we need quality teachers,” she said.

In the past year, the Burlington School District lost teachers to both the Community College of Vermont and South Burlington due to pay rates, Brock said.

But Porter said that with more than half of Burlington students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch based on their families’ income, such increases would be unsustainable for the city.

Other places, with different demographics, are able to pay more, Porter said.

Brock also accused the board of withholding information. “Burlington prides itself on its transparency, and that is not something the board has shown throughout the process,” she said.

Porter said some budget breakdowns used for negotiation sessions remain private for the board just as some models remain private on the part of the union for negotiation purposes. But budget information is available online, Porter said.

The fact finder is required to issue a report within 30 days. Those findings are not binding but are meant to serve as a frame of reference when contract negotiations resume.

Construction workers dies at UVM residence hall project

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 30, 2016.

BURLINGTON — A construction worker died early Thursday at a project on the University of Vermont campus, apparently after falling from a significant height, the college said.

The worker, whose name has not been released, was taken to the UVM Medical Center, where he died a short time later.

Authorities are investigating what happened, the college said.

The man worked for Engelberth Construction, one of the companies building UVM’s new first-year residence hall, where the incident occurred about 6:40 a.m.

Construction at the site has been halted until authorities complete their site investigation.

The university said counseling will be made available to families, friends and co-workers. Students, faculty and staff in need of assistance are encouraged to contact the Counseling Center at 802-656-3340 or InvestEAP at 802-864-3270.

Future of youth center eyed with nostalgia, change in mind

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 30, 2016.

BURLINGTON — A previous generation of young Burlington residents found a haven and a creative outlet at 242 Main, a historically user-generated youth space that dates to the days when Bernie Sanders was mayor in the 1980s.

Now, with the facility losing its home in the bottom of Memorial Auditorium, the city is beginning discussions on how to move it into a new identity and a new generation. The youth center has to move by the end of December because of the auditorium’s maintenance needs.

The city began a public discussion on the teen center’s future at a meeting this month at Fletcher Free Library. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront manages the youth space, but the library is interested in taking over its content and financial programming in light of the center’s role in making information accessible to youth, said the library’s director, Rubi Simon.

Community members who used the space as teenagers and young adults in the 1980s and ’90s came to offer their opinions on its future.

The hub for Burlington youth was started in the ’80s when Sanders was mayor. His youth office, then led by Jane O’Meara Sanders, created the space to empower young people in Burlington creatively by giving them a safe space to go and to explore new ideas.

The space fostered a community of artists age 8 through 25, said City Council member Selene Colburn, P-East District, who used the space when she was a teenager. Those at the older end of that range would foster a safe space for the younger artists through informal mentorship, she said.

Over the next 10 years, the space would become known nationally as a venue for punk rock. But for Burlington’s youth at that time, it was much more, according to some who were involved.

Jessica Morley, a Burlington resident, said the safe and independent nature of the space allowed her to explore creatively. It kept her out of trouble, she said.

“I would have been dead without it,” Morley said.

But Matt Kimball, 30, of Burlington, who is 242 Main’s current booking manager, said the space is not the same now as it was. “The truth is there is nothing happening. … There are occasional shows, but that’s it,” he said.

In efforts to revitalize a youth-created space, the library has created a teen board with two students from every school, both public and private, in Burlington.

The hope is for the board to act similarly to the Mayor’s Youth Office in the ’80s, empowering youth to create the space and providing the resources to do it, Simon said.

Some who attended the meeting felt the space should operate in a more organic way, relying on students to come to it rather than reaching out to schools.

Recreation Superintendent Gary Rogers said any new space must be created for today’s youth and may differ from what arose in the 1980s and ’90s. “We need to reach out to the teens of 2016 and ask them what they want from a teen space …,” he said.

Liam Corcoran, 22, of Burlington, commented on the demographic change among the area’s youth. In the past 20 years, the ranks of local youth have become more ethnically diverse since many refugees and other new Americans have moved in.

Corcoran said the new space for 242 Main must accommodate this change. “There is a great need for a place where new Americans feel comfortable,” he said.

Simon said this meeting was the first of many in planning the next steps. The next will be scheduled for sometime in July, she said.

Simon, who is leaving the library in August for a new job, said people interested in becoming involved in a new teen space can contact teen coordinator Lisa Buckton at