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.
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.”
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.
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]
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.
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.
This story was named 2016 Diversity Story of the Year by the Associated Collegiate Press
This was originally published by the Vermont Cynic on Feb. 24, 2016. Its original format includes multimedia and photos. I recommend you read it on the website here.
For 73 years, UVM fraternity members danced in blackface and satin tuxedos during the longest running winter carnival in the country.
At its peak in the 1960s, this event, known as the Kake Walk, was held twice over a February weekend in the Patrick Gym in order to fit all 8,000 spectators, according to ticket sales reports.
The concept of the Kake Walk originated with slaves on northern plantations who performed in outrageous ways for their owners. The “most comical” slave won a piece of cake, sociologist James Loewen stated in the book “The University of Vermont: The First 200 Years.”
The Kake Walk began in 1893 to replace a canceled military ball at a time when Jim Crow laws were rampant and minstrel shows were becoming more popular in Vermont, Loewen wrote.
In the years following the Kake Walk’s end, it wasn’t talked about, Ken McGuckin, who walked in 1965, said.
“It was blacklisted – you couldn’t say the words on campus,” McGuckin said.
Current SGA president Jason Maulucci said some students aren’t aware the Kake Walk existed, or that it was an institutional part of UVM.
“It’s so important that we are reminded of what our past was, so that we know that we should never repeat that past,” Maulucci said.
A Family Tradition
I remember my father used to take us on Sunday afternoon,” John Maley ‘65 said. “We’d go ‘Let’s go for a ride Daddy,’ when there were eight kids in the family, we’d all pile in the car and we’d look at all the snow sculptures and we’d decide which one was the best.”
These sculptures were part of a larger, annual campus-wide Winter Carnival, which included fraternity skits, the Kake Walk and musical performances throughout the weekend.
John Maley said his family was more involved in the Kake Walk than just judging the ice sculptures; both his parents, Donald Maley ‘41 and Rita Maley ‘39, were involved in Greek life during their time at UVM and the Kake Walk.
When Donald Maley was a senior in 1941, he served as chairman of the Kake Walk program committee, according to a Feb 21, 1941 Cynic article.
“I knew about the Kake Walk since I was a little kid…my parents were a part of it,” John Maley said.
When John Maley came to UVM he pledged Delta Psi, he said.
He attended UVM during the “genesis” of the civil rights movement, something he said deeply affected the student body’s view of the Kake Walk.
“Watching TV there were hoses, mowing these civil rights people down,” he said, “and we thought, holy shit we gotta start thinking about all this.”
One of John Maley’s fraternity brothers, African American student Bob Nurse ‘64, gave a “fairly impassioned,” speech about how the Kake Walk impacted his black peers, he said.
Nurse told them that while the Kake Walk didn’t upset him because he understood the excitement as a UVM student, his black friends at home couldn’t believe it was happening.
An ‘Overwhelmed Minority
One of the first records of any objection to the Kake Walk came from Constance Motley, who at the time was working under Thurgood Marshall as a member of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, according to her Sept. 29, 2005 obituary in the New York Times.
In 1950, Motley sent a letter to then-UVM President William Carlson expressing her disapproval of the Kake Walk.
“It is difficult for us to conceive of any group of enlightened Americans in this day and age sponsoring and presenting such shows,” she stated.
Motley was the first black woman to serve in the New York State Senate, and helped pen legal briefs in the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education, according to the article.
Some of the most commonly held stereotypes of African Americans were formed during minstrel shows, Motley stated.
By the time Kake Walk came to an end, the ratio of white students to black students at UVM was 500 to 1, political science professor Garrison Nelson, judge of the 1969 Kake Walk, said.
“[The University] said, ‘Well, the blacks aren’t complaining,’” Nelson said. “Well there’s only seven [black students], they weren’t going to complain,; they’re already feeling like an overwhelmed minority.
Students were pivotal in ending the Kake Walk, said Wanda Heading-Grant, vice president of Human Resources, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
“I am hopeful that the current generation of students, at UVM and at other schools, will play an equally important role in helping create a society that is free of the painful effects of racial discrimination and insensitivity,” Heading-Grant said.
Junior Drew Cooper, who is black, sees a relation between both the Kake Walk and modern American appropriation of black culture.
“Everybody wants to be black, but nobody really wants to be black,” Cooper said.
Junior Addy Campbell, a member of ALANA, said the apparent lack of diversity in Vermont has an effect on the way people see race.
“In a place of overwhelming whiteness, it is very easy for white people to think that we don’t have problems with racism,” Campbell said. “This just isn’t true.”
Dissent in the 1950s
In the 1954 Kake Walk, Phi Sigma Delta “shattered” the long-standing tradition of wearing blackface by donning purple makeup, their fraternity color, according to a Feb. 25, 1954 Cynic article.
The fraternity made the decision to forgo blackface because two of its members, LeRoy Williams, Jr. ‘57 and Richard Dennis ‘57 were black, Williams said.
“Sadly, our fraternity received a considerable uneasy backlash from this momentous decision,” he said.
In 1957, the morning of Friday night’s event, LeRoy Williams took his date, Joyce Austin, to the Rest Haven Motel, where they were denied service “because [they] were negroes,” Williams said.
Following this incident, nearly 400 students met to protest the actions of the hotel employees, according to a March 7, 1957 Cynic article.
The opposition resulted in the creation of the UVM Council on Human Relations, which supported an anti-discrimination bill in Vermont, according to a March 14, 1957 Cynic article.
In 1957, Vermont passed a statute prohibiting private establishments that catered to the general public from discriminating on the basis of race.
Williams said he also received support from the surrounding community.
“I must have received over 50 letters from Vermonters welcoming me and my girlfriend into their homes, should I or my family ever need a place to stay,” he said.
Williams said that despite the implications, he never felt there were any racist overtones from students who wanted to retain blackface at Kake Walk.
It was probably the “hypnotic adherence to tradition” that made it difficult for people to realize how blackface may have impacted minorities on campus, he said.
Williams said he sees a relation between the “tradition” argument for blackface at Kake Walk and current arguments in support of athletic teams with Native American names or symbols.
“Tradition can be the enemy of common sense and progress,” he said.
Joyce Williams, LeRoy’s girlfriend at the time they were denied service at the motel, was his high school sweetheart, and eventually his wife. They were married in 1958, the year after his graduation.
LeRoy and Joyce Williams have four children and 10 grandchildren.
Joyce died in 2013.
Switching to Green Face
Larry Roth ‘66 and Norm Coleman ‘65 represented Alpha Epsilon Pi as partners in the 1965 Kake Walk, and developed a friendship that has lasted over 50 years in the process.
“Whatever we did together, it’s built a foundation,” Roth said.
Walkers would begin training four times a week, as early as nine months prior to the event, Roth said.
Training “was all handed down verbally,” he said.
Participants would return from winter break earlier than other students to work out two to three times a day in cold fraternity houses, Coleman said.
“There was really a lot of pressure,” he said.
They were expected to dance in synchronization, their hands and feet lining up perfectly with their partner’s, Coleman said.
“We finished each workout [by] running a mile and a half on the track in total unison so we looked like the same person from the side,” Roth said.
While the rest of the school participated in a “four-day, fairly serious party,” Roth said the walkers performed in front of thousands of students, faculty and alumni.
Coleman said there was a certain admiration for the walkers.
“The walkers were held in sort of special regard in that they knew we would do the weekend differently,” Coleman said. “Our job was to bring home the cake.”
Roth said he could recall times even after graduating, when someone would pay for his drink at a bar after a day of skiing simply because he performed in the Kake Walk.
Alumni would flood Burlington every year for the Winter Carnival Kake Walk, Coleman and Roth said.
Another brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi, Warren Kaplan ‘65, said the winter weekend was pivotal to UVM.
“The Kake Walk was an institution at UVM,” Kaplan said. “It was legendary.”
“The day after Kake Walk, the hotels would fill up for the next year,” Coleman said.
Larry Miller ‘66, also a brother of Alpha Epsilon Pi , said “it was a big economic event for the whole Burlington.”
Miller played in the band at the Kake Walk in 1963 and 1964, he said.
There was a lot of pressure on the musicians, as they had to play the event’s signature song, “Cotton Babes,” perfectly for each pair of walkers, Miller said.
“Cotton Babes” became a symbol of Kake Walk weekend, as stated in a Feb. 21, 1930 Cynic article.
“Strains of ‘Cotton Babes’ ringing out into the night will remind devotees of the ancient classic that [is the] Kake Walk,” the article stated.
Coleman and Roth walked in 1965, when the University decided to shift to “dark green and gold face,” according to a 1965 UVM announcement.
“I think people realized [wearing blackface] wasn’t a nice thing to do,” Coleman said.
When UVM ended the Kake Walk in 1969, Roth was working on a village water supply project in South Africa for the Peace Corps.
Due to a lack of electricity in the region, Roth needed to book phone calls weeks in advance and take a truck into the capital to make them, he said.
“Norm got married and I couldn’t go,” he said, “and I had to book a time to call him and congratulate him.”
One day he received a letter that simply read “It’s over,” he said.
“I was very upset,” he said, “but I understood the turmoil and ferment on campus.”
Coleman said he was also saddened by the decision, but now understands the offensive nature of the event.
“It was such a major focal point for all those years,” he said. “I think we all wondered what UVM was going to replace it with… I guess they never quite have.”
Kaplan said he understood it was time for it to end, but was sad the tradition was over.
“Everyone loved it — everyone busted their ass to do this thing,” he said. “You look back and think that it’s such a shame that they got rid of it.”
Coleman and Roth currently serve on the board of directors of the International Cancer Expert Corps, which Coleman described as “Peace Corps for people later in life.”
The organization’s goal is to aid cancer patients in low- and middle-income nations through a network of cancer professionals, according to ICEC’s website.
Student Leader Helps Bring End
Brooks McCabe ‘70 was president of the Student Association, the predecessor to the current SGA, when the Kake Walk committee decided to do away with the tradition.
“[The committee] understood the importance of the event,” McCabe said. “They also understood the implications of how it was structured and the history.
Neither the University nor the students wanted the event to be offensive to the campus community, he said.
It was a huge decision for both the Student Association and the Kake Walk committee, McCabe said.
He described then-President Lyman Rowell as old school, though not in a negative way.
“He had a hard time appreciating the significance of the issue, but never stood in the way of it,” McCabe said.
Rowell made himself very accessible in order to understand the issue, he said.
Alfred Rollins, Jr., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the time, was more proactive and better understood the racial implications of the Kake Walk, as well as the need to address the issue in a “dramatic fashion,” McCabe said.
Beyond the campus, the Burlington community had a hard time dealing with the removal of Kake Walk, according to McCabe.
However, Gov. Dean Davis supported the decision to end the event, which helped bring closure to Vermonters, he said.
McCabe named physiology professor Lawrence McCrory as another major player in the Kake Walk’s removal. McCrory was able to communicate with those who either didn’t fully understand why the Kake Walk was ended or who disagreed with the decision entirely, he said.
“He was someone with the stature and the intellect and the ability to present these difficult issues in a way that was more easily understood,” McCabe said.
To further illustrate issues of race at UVM, McCabe wrote a recurring column in The Vermont Cynic called “Whitey Wake Up! To A Racist Vermont.”
“Whitey — do you still think there is no racism in Vermont— much less on campus? Open your eyes! It’s all around you! Ask a few real questions and see how many answers you get,” McCabe wrote in a Feb. 4, 1971 column.
On Feb. 18, 1971, McCabe wrote that “a university can provide a subtle means of perpetuating racism.”
“Racism in America is a white problem,” he stated. “As a white, you are responsible for the racism in your institutions.”
The decision to end Kake Walk was not made in haste, McCabe said.
“It was not something that just happened in the dark of night,” he said. “It was a full and free discussion, and I think at the end of the day, the students, student leadership and directors of Kake Walk … began to see that it was something that needed to be addressed.
The Aftermath of the Kake Walk
Jeffrey Blais ‘71 walked for the Acacia fraternity in the final Kake Walk of 1969.
“I remember going and watching [the Kake Walk] as a freshman and just thinking how marvelous it was,” Blais said.
Blais said he was chosen by his fraternity to train for the 1969 show, though no one knew that it would be the last one at the time.
“It was a very arduous training program for someone who wasn’t in terribly good shape,” he said.
Blais said he doesn’t recall any opposition to the Kake Walk in 1968, but it “became very controversial” during its final year.
The last Kake Walk was accompanied by complaints from minority students, but participants attempted to dismiss opposition by citing the long-standing tradition of the event, he said.
To protest the racist nature of the event, Phi Gamma Delta performed without any makeup at the last Kake Walk, which Blais congratulated them for.
In the aftermath of the 1969 Winter Carnival, Blais said ending the Kake Walk “was a real learning experience for the whole community.”
People began to question what they were doing, and why, he said.
The black community at UVM was exceptionally small at the time, Blais said, but they were a leading voice protesting the Kake Walk.
“There was a forceful voice that this had to stop,” he said.
In February 1970, Blais served as the assistant treasurer for the new winter weekend, a film and music festival that would replace the Winter Carnival. The next year, he served as the treasurer of the event.
Blais said these weekends were “not raging successes like Kake Walk always was.”
While the 1970 film festival did better than expected, it was not financially successful, Blais said.
He said he was grateful the University supported it as an alternative to the Kake Walk, despite losing money on it.
“The Kake Walk was very lucrative,” he said. “It paid for itself.”
Blais said while he was sure the University was concerned about reduced revenue, they were “adamant” that the new winter weekend take place.
“We were not going to revert — we just couldn’t,” he said.
The Final Kake Walk
Professor Garrison Nelson remembers speaking with one student who argued that the walking segment of the Kake Walk, called “Wokin’ fo’ de Kake,” celebrated the athletic ability of blacks, he said.
“I said, ‘Wokin’ fo’ de Kake’ does not celebrate the intellectual achievements of the blacks,” Nelson said.
The vernacular used during Kake Walk was a “textbook example of racism,” James Loewen wrote, as it specifically distinguished between black and white speech by portraying the former as uneducated.
Junior Drew Cooper said the Kake Walk drew on inaccurate and harmful stereotypes of black people.
“The Kake Walk is especially insidious in that it’s a caricature of a caricature,” Cooper said. “White people dressed as black people based on stereotypes envisioned by white people.”
John Gennari, current associate professor of English and director of the ALANA U.S. Ethnic Studies Program, said the Kake Walk resulted from Vermont’s history of minstrel shows in the 19th century.
“There’s always been this dynamic of whites looking to black culture for entertainment,” Gennari said.
However, in 1969, it was clear that the Kake Walk “had run its course,” Nelson said.
“Martin Luther King had been murdered,” he said. “Civil rights really had taken a hold.”
The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, in a letter to the Burlington Free Press Oct. 30, 1969, stated “it [would] enter no walkers in the annual Kake Walking competition.”
“The Brotherhood empathizes with the feelings of the black community,” they wrote. “[The Kake Walk] is a degrading activity not fit for any winter weekend or celebration, particularly at this period in our nation’s history.”
The following day, the would-be directors of the 1970 Kake Walk officially declared it was cancelled that year, according to their statement at an Oct. 31, 1969 press conference.
“In these sensitive times it is possible to interpret this tradition [of the Kake Walk] as being racist in nature and humiliating to the black people of this nation,” the directors said at a press conference.
“No social practices should be permitted to breed intolerance,” President Rowell said.
Following the decision, “the alums went ballistic,” Nelson said.
“The alums were saying, ‘We won’t give you any money, we want Kake Walk,’” he said.
In a letter sent to Rowell Nov. 12, 1969, Leo Spear ‘49 wrote, “If the University proposes to permit the militant minority to direct the path of this University then, in my opinion, an unrestricted gift will be supporting something in which I don’t concur.”
“We concurred in the thinking that it is a general social weekend and the decision of what should take place was appropriately the students’ decision,” Rowell stated in his response to Spear.
One alumnus sent a letter to Walter Bruska, then-vice president of University Development,about the decision to end Kake Walk.
“I think many alumni, particular those who are most active, will feel badly that the unique winter event has been thrown out,” Phil Robinson ‘48 said in a letter to the Alumni Council.
In the Nov. 11, 1969 issue of the Cynic, Brenda Eastman wrote a letter stating her opposition to the decision based on previous Kake Walk poll results.
When asked whether the walking portion should be removed from the weekend, 1,221 students strongly disagreed, while 437 strongly agreed. 947 students strongly disagreed that Kake Walk is a racist activity, while 316 strongly agreed, she said.
The Student Association supported the decision to “put Kake Walk to sudden, unnegotiated death,” Eastman said.
The Kake Walk wasn’t a low-budget event. According to financial records, the final event in 1969 cost the University roughly $36,000. Adjusted for inflation in 2015, that’s about a quarter of a million dollars, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator.
The University even hosted Janis Joplin and Smokey Robinson as the main performers at the final Winter Weekend in 1969. She died in October 1970.
Some alumni sent letters to the Vermont Cynic expressing their unhappiness with the decision.
“Congratulations! The super sensitive students of the hallowed halls have succeeded in destroying one of the few things which brought attention to the University of Vermont,” Peter Coleman ‘66 stated.
However, others spoke up in support of the end of the performance. Ken Wibecan wrote a column in the Oct. 25, 1969 Vermont Freeman, which was reprinted in the Nov. 4, 1969 issue of the Cynic.
“White Kake Walk defenders would do well to stop lying to themselves about the origin of their tradition,” Wibecan stated. “It was conceived out of prejudiced, bigoted minds and as such it must be completely destroyed or the sore that has been created will continue to fester.”
Some alumni commended the administration for bringing the event to a close.
“Where human rights and human dignity are concerned there can be no compromise,” Walter Delano ‘50 stated in a Nov. 3, 1969 letter to Rowell.
‘Over my dead body’
The 1970 music and film festival that replaced Kake Walk was met with some opposition.
After Friday night’s judging of sculptures, the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity carved walkers as an addition to their ice sculpture, according to a Feb. 20, 1970 Cynic article.
The next evening, two members of Alpha Gamma Rho kake-walked onto the gymnasium floor to receive the trophy for snow sculptures, according to the article.
“Cotton Babes,” was played at the Alpha Gamma Rho and Kappa Alpha Theta houses that night, according to the article.
On the Sunday evening of the weekend, roughly 800 students gathered in Simpson Dining Hall to watch an impromptu Kake Walk, performed by members of multiple fraternities, according to another Feb. 20, 1970 Cynic article.
During the event, eight to 10 black students from St. Michael’s College in nearby Colchester entered the UVM dining hall in protest Garrison Nelson said.
“If there’s going to be any walking tonight, it’ll be over my dead body,” they said, according to the Cynic article.
Greeks Oppose Revival
Over the next eight years, there was much speculation over whether or not Kake Walk would return, Nelson said.
In an open letter to President Lattie Coor Feb. 24, 1977, Brian Pluff, president of the Greek Coordinating Council at the time, and Marjorie Read, president of the Panhellenic Council, stated their overwhelming opposition to a revival of the Kake Walk.
Nelson also said that when Coor became president of UVM in 1976, he made it clear that “there are three K’s in Kake Walk and it’s not coming back.”
English professor John Gennari also said the spelling was deliberate.
“It was Kake Walk with three ‘K’s’ to look like the KKK,” Gennari said. “At that time, [the KKK] was a perfectly acceptable organization that was thought of as doing good work in controlling the threat of black men doing activity such as deflowering white women.”
Robin Katz, former outreach librarian for the UVM Libraries’ Center for Digital Initiatives, said she felt it was important to examine UVM’s history and helped teach a class in the summer of 2011 titled “Curating the Kake Walk.”
“It’s obviously a sensitive topic that will inspire strong feelings on various sides,” she said, “but it happened at UVM – maybe we could talk about that and think about it a little.”
ALANA student Addy Campbell also said the University shouldn’t forget its past.
“It is a shameful part of UVM’s history,” she said, “but it’s is an event that every student on this campus should know about.”
Junior Drew Cooper said there still remains a lack of diversity at UVM that makes faculty and administrators unable to truly see the complexity of the black experience. Not only has the Kake Walk influenced where UVM is today, but various forms of the event still exist in many institutions nationwide, Cooper said.
“It’s an insular community of privileged whites that only differ from their predecessors in that they appear to feel guilt over what used to occur here,” he said.
He said UVM and Vermont shouldn’t be looked at as “post-racial,” as it’s often perceived.
“UVM likes to masquerade as a progressive school,” he said, “but the reality is that the administration is predominantly run by white people who haven’t the slightest idea of how to handle issues of race.”
It took a while for UVM to expunge the tradition of the Kake Walk from their reputation, Nelson said.
“You can certainly see that in the statements of recent presidents who have made a point of championing the amount of diversity that’s on campus today,” he said. “I see that as a sort of belated response to the hangover of Kake Walk.”
Junior Kiana Gonzalez, a member of ALANA, said despite UVM’s past, she appreciates the progress the University has made in the name of social justice.
“We have so much to do as students to continue advocating for this topic,” Gonzalez said, “but I believe that UVM as a whole has definitely created, and will continue to create, a welcoming place for all identities.”
Heading-Grant said UVM has had a “bittersweet” history with diversity like other colleges and universities in the U.S.
“However, we have worked steadfastly and hard to move further away from a painful history of discrimination and bias seen during the Kake Walk era to one that today advances a positive climate of diversity and inclusivity through visible leadership, resources and institutional commitment,” she said.
Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Feb. 17, 2016. Photo by Ryan Thornton for the Vermont Cynic.
UVM is currently investigating the source of an email stating that an Auschwitz crematorium was a “hoax.”
UVM police and the Office of Equal Employment and Opportunity received multiple bias reports filed by students regarding a Feb. 10 email sent to a number of students, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Annie Stevens said.
The email presents various reasons as to why a particular crematorium at Auschwitz was created post-war.
“As pointed out by many revisionists before, the four holes in the roof of the morgue of Crematorium I at Auschwitz 1 camp do not ‘fit’ the original configuration of the building. In fact, they are centered over the current post-war modified configuration of the room,” the email stated.
Students across campus received the email, Hillel Director Matt Vogel said.
Vogel and Stevens are working alongside UVM Enterprise Technology Services and the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity to determine the source of the email, Stevens said.
The group or individual that sent the email is in no part a University affiliate, she said.
The email was signed by Bradley R. Smith, the founder of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust.
Smith has not responded to the Cynic’s request for comment.
The Hillel building on Colchester Avenue is pictured Feb. 15. Hillel represents Jewish students on campus.
It currently appears that the email was sent specifically to Jewish students, according to an email sent Feb. 12 to the Hillel listserv by Stevens and Vogel.
Following the initial incident, Vogel sent an email to the Hillel listserv Feb. 10 to offer support and guidance to UVM’s Jewish community.
The University denounced the original email and said it has no factual validity nor a place in an academic institution, Stevens said.
“We want to be clear that a communication such as this that perpetuates anti-Semitism by falsely proclaiming inaccurate historical events has no place at the University of Vermont,” according to the Feb. 12 statement from Stevens and Vogel.
Arielle Cheifetz, a first-year member of the Hillel community at UVM, said though the email was very unsettling, she is not surprised by anti-Semitic instances on college campuses.
“It’s different here compared to other Universities because 20 percent of the entire UVM population is Jewish,” she said.
While in high school, Cheifetz attended workshops preparing Jewish students going into college for possible anti-Semitic issues.
She said she feels that issues of anti-Semitism are not addressed enough at UVM.
(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.
She 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.