Former UVM Employee Sues for Equal Pay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See UVM’s full official statement at the bottom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Coverage of the 2016 Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections in Vermont

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
said.

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.

NEW LAW WILL LIMIT PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PAINKILLERS

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 8, 2016.

BURLINGTON — A new law signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Wednesday limits the amount of opiates that can be prescribed for minor procedures.

Prescription painkillers can trigger long-term dependency, and the governor and lawmakers hope the new law will prevent patients from becoming addicted.

Harry Chen, the commissioner of Department of Health, said the number of pills that can be prescribed under the new law will be determined through the rule-making process and will involve discussions with providers and pharmacists.

The law also mandates education for providers and patients on how to safely use and dispose of opioid prescriptions.

Shumlin says he hopes that regulating prescribed doses of painkillers will prevent patients from becoming addicted. Nationwide, opioids such as OxyContin are being prescribed at extremely high rates, the governor said.

OxyContin was first marketed as a groundbreaking painkiller that was not addictive even though there was scientific evidence that patients could get hooked on the drug, Shumlin said.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin pleaded guilty to charges of misleading consumers about the effects of the drug.

Since then, 165,000 Americans have died from opioid addiction, Shumlin said.

“People are pulling on [my] shirt sleeve or jacket sleeve with tears in their eyes saying I lost my son to FDA approved painkillers,” he said.

Addicts have told Shumlin that they began using heroin after prescription opioids became unavailable. The regulation of pharmaceutical opiates, he says, will help to break the dependency that leads to heroin use and addiction.

Many members of the medical community oppose the new law. Doctors say the government should not be involved in the practice of medicine.

But Chen, a former emergency room physician, said there are inconsistencies in the way opioids are prescribed that must be addressed.

He pointed out that some providers write prescriptions for four pills, while others give 50 pills for pain after the same surgery.

Shumlin said while the state is committed to making painkillers accessible to patients who are in chronic pain, the number of prescriptions issued to chronic pain sufferers exceeds the number of prescriptions handed out.

The law also classifies pharmacists as healthcare providers, a change that many pharmacists and Vermont pharmacy students lobbied for at the Statehouse for earlier this year. The change allows pharmacists to charge for consultations with patients, according to James Marmar, Executive Director of Vermont Pharmacist Sponsors.

MINTER PLANS TO OFFER FREE TUITION TO STATE COLLEGES

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

WINOOSKI — One candidate for governor is proposing free college tuition for some Vermonters.

Sue Minter, a Democratic candidate for governor, says her initiative, “Vermont Promise,” would give Vermont high school students the opportunity to attend the Community College of Vermont or Vermont Technical College for free for the first two years. After that, students would be able to continue their schooling for half the current cost of tuition.

Minter made the campaign announcement Tuesday at a press conference at the Community College of Vermont headquarters in Winooski.

The former secretary of VTrans said her goal is to increase the percentage of Vermont high school students who attend post-secondary programs. Currently, 60 percent of graduates go on to pursue some kind of college degree; Minter hopes to boost that number to 75 percent.

Vermont Promise is “a last dollar” plan. That means the state will cover tuition costs that are not paid for by grants or scholarships, Minter’s campaign manager Molly Ritner said.

In order to qualify, candidates must have graduated from high school within a year of applying with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Each qualifying student must also work with a volunteer mentor who will help students navigate the process of applying to schools and filing for financial aid.

The plan will cost $6 million in the first year and $12 million annually after that. Vermont Promise would be funded by an increase in the bank franchise fee and would impose a new corporate income tax on the state’s largest banks. Minter says the biggest banks in New Hampshire and New York pay a corporate income tax, while those in Vermont do not.

“In my plan, banks pay their fair share, and students get their fair shake,” she said.

Vermont is in the top five states for rates of high school graduation, but has one of the lowest rates of continuation to post-secondary institutions, Minter said.

High school graduates who don’t go on to college have fewer opportunities in the job market, Minter says.

The lifetime earnings of workers who hold bachelor’s degrees earn $625,000 more over their lifetimes than their peers who don’t attend college.

Vermont Promise will also help small businesses find qualified workers, Minter said.

Minter’s plan is modeled after a Tennessee program that is funded through an endowment.

Former Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Tim Donovan, who was in attendance, said that Minter is the first of the gubernatorial candidates to make access to higher education a centerpiece of the 2016 campaign.

BURLINGTON PONDERS RELAXING RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger.org on June 3, 2016.

BURLINGTON — The mayor and a city councilor are pushing a change in the city charter that would relax Burlington’s residency requirement for department heads.
A resolution sponsored Mayor Miro Weinberger and City Councilor Joan Shannon, D-Southern District, would require that department heads own a home in Chittenden County, but would not require residency in Burlington.

It would also give the mayor a vote on whether to grant hardship exemptions for their appointees.

At their meeting Thursday, the Charter Change Committee punted on the resolution, saying they needed more time to debate the change before a vote. The measure will be discussed again the committee’s next meeting on June 22.

The Burlington charter now states that department heads must be registered to vote in Burlington. Department heads are given a year courtesy period, after which the city council can grant them a hardship exemption to live outside the city.

The idea is that if a qualified candidate has a home nearby, then they should not have to uproot their lives in order to serve, Shannon said.

The resolution comes out of inconsistent decisions about residency in the past, she said.

The debate cropped up again last month, when councilors voted to confirm Noelle MacKay, Weinberger’s pick to lead the Community and Economic Development Office, and granted her a hardship exemption to remain in her Shelburne home.

Shannon said she believes it is better to have a clear policy in place, “rather than a whim of the council on any given day.”

Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, who voted against MacKay’s nomination and against granting her a hardship exemption, said he disagrees with Shannon. If someone is serving the city of Burlington, they should live here, especially if they lead a city department, he said.

Shannon said that sometimes the most qualified candidate may not be the one living in Burlington, and that this resolution provides clarity.

“We should give an exemption to everyone or no one,” Shannon said.

COUNCILORS CONSIDER DROPPING POLITICAL PARTIES ON BURLINGTON BALLOT

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 3, 2016. Photo by Morgan True for VTDigger.

BURLINGTON — City councilors are mulling whether to let voters decide if a candidate’s party affiliation should continue to be included on the ballot in municipal elections.

A resolution passed last year directed the Charter Change Committee to consider drafting a charter change that would do away with the current party designation system. At a meeting Thursday night, councilors postponed a decision on the measure, but again debated its merits.

If the committee and the full council approves a change to the city’s charter, it would set up a vote for next Town Meeting Day on whether to keep party affiliation on the ballot for municipal elections.

Burlington has already done away with party designations for school board candidates following a charter change vote in 1990.

Councilor Adam Roof, I-Ward 8, who sponsored last year’s resolution, said the public should vote on whether they feel that the city still needs the designation system, and said he believes there are times when “the party-backed system gets in the way of governance.”

Younger voters are less beholden to the existing political parties and are interested in candidates who are “individual thinkers,” said Roof, who, as an independent, is not affiliated with a political party.

Councilor Joan Shannon, D-Southern District, said that if there was not a party assigned to a candidate, then some people would vote based on the perceived gender or ethnicity of a candidate’s name.

An important part of some voter’s decision is the values associated with a particular party and its platform, said Councilor Sara Gianonni, P-Ward 3.

Roof said their criticisms assume voters are uninformed about who they are choosing, and a government can’t work properly if decisions are made assuming the public is uninformed, he said.

While Roof said he sympathizes with councilors who feel the resolution would undercut their party identity, he said the change would not stop a candidate from running with support of their party. It would simply remove that information from the ballot, he said.

Roof also pointed out that the measure merely puts the questions to voters, and does not, on its own, end party designation on municipal ballots.

The decision to postpone a vote on the charter change was made in part to allow time for the city attorney’s office to investigate whether the move requires changing the city charter.

SHUMLIN SIGNS WORKER PROTECTION BILL

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger.org on June 3, 2016.

COLCHESTER — Almost a year after state social worker Lara Sobel was gunned down leaving work, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed two bills into law Thursday intended to protect social workers from assault.
The governor honored Sobel’s memory during a training day for Department of Children and Families employees in Colchester. Lawmakers and DCF officials and many of Vermont’s social workers were also in attendance.

“These laws are an acknowledgement that we all know there is nothing we can do to bring Lara back, but what we can do is honor her legacy to insure that we protect (social workers),” Shumlin said.

Sobel was allegedly shot by a woman who had lost custody of her child in a case that Sobel was involved in with. She was killed while leaving the state offices in Barre last August.

Sobel worked for DCF and was remembered for her commitment to children. Her death prompted discussions in the Legislature about how to protect social workers who are asked to intervene in tense, emotional and potentially dangerous family situations.

The new laws allocated $1 million to provide trained law enforcement security at DCF facilities, in the hopes of improving safety. In addition, another provision creates an enhanced penalty for assaulting a social worker, placing it in “the same category as the protection that police responders and medical responders have right now,” Shumlin said.

Social worker Trissy Casanova, a colleague of Sobel’s, was a major advocate for the bills. Casanova testified multiple times in front of lawmakers stressing the importance of protecting social workers over the past year, showing “real compassion,” Shumlin said.

Casanova has worked at DCF for thirteen years. She said most of her colleagues have been threatened, stalked or assaulted throughout the years, but they continue to serve, she said.

Casanova said the bills show that lawmakers are paying attention to the important role of social workers and the need to ensure their safety.

“Our voices were heard, and it feels so good,” she said.

DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz said the new laws are part of an ongoing process to affirm the contributions of social workers in Vermont and acknowledge the risks they face regularly. He urged those present to continue working to improve the lives of social workers.

“Lets keep moving forward,” he said.

NEW LICENSE LAW CORRECTS ‘FINANCIAL INJUSTICE,’ GOVERNOR SAYS

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on May 31, 2016.

BURLINGTON — Vermont has become the third state to enact changes in its laws to help low-income drivers regain their licenses after a suspension.
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a law Tuesday that will give amnesty to some Vermonters with suspended licenses.

The law will expunge tickets at no cost for those who have a noncriminal license suspension from before 1990. Those who have had their license suspended due to an unpaid traffic ticket dating from between 1991 and 2012 will be able to pay off their fines for $30.

The hope is to “correct a financial injustice” that lingers over those who cannot pay the high cost of lifting a license suspension, Shumlin said at the signing, where he was joined by lawmakers and state officials outside the Costello courthouse.

The suspension makes it difficult to complete daily tasks such as driving to work or a meeting, he said.

Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, sponsored the bill. “Justice wasn’t being served. There was enormous challenges and barriers to their everyday lives,” she said of low-income drivers.

In addition, many of the estimated 50,000 Vermonters who have suspended licenses and cannot afford to pay fines still drive illegally, Shumlin said.

In 2015, Vermonters flocked to two “driver restoration days,” when they could pay off old tickets for $20 to bring their licenses back into good standing.

Discussions began in early September surrounding what legislative work could be done to lift suspensions at less cost, after seeing the turnout for the restoration days. That work resulted in the passage of H.571, the law Shumlin signed Tuesday.

The law is not without opposition. When the bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee in March, Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset, voted against it, saying it would be unfair to those who were “paying their bills.”

During the signing, Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan said others have asked whether this is simply “giving an unfair handout.”

He responded by telling of a man who was waiting in line during one of the driver restoration days.

Donovan said that when the man was asked by a member of the press if he thought he was receiving a handout, the man responded, “You never know when you are going to need a second chance.”

Shumlin addressed criticism that the law would put unsafe drivers back on the road by saying it will actually give many the opportunity to drive safely. Once licenses are no longer suspended, there will be a lower rate of driving without licences, allowing for more insured and legal drivers on the roads, he said.

Motor Vehicles Commissioner Robert Ide said the law does not provide amnesty to people with criminal traffic violations, only those with noncriminal offenses.

Although the DMV believes it is important to address safety hazards on the road, such as speeding, not wearing seatbelts and using technology or impairing substances while driving, there needs to be a way to aid those who have noncriminal offenses, he said.

Donovan said Vermont follows Washington and California in implementing a law to ease costs for people with suspended licenses.

TRUMP RALLY IN BURLINGTON MET WITH STUDENT OPPOSITION

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Jan. 9, 2016. Photo by Ryan Thornton for the Vermont Cynic.

Before Donald Trump took the stage at his Burlington campaign rally, a voice boomed over a loudspeaker in the Flynn Theater: “If there is a protester beside you, please throw your hands over your head and start chanting ‘Trump’.”

After the voice faded out, The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t Always Get What You Want” rang through the theater as the crowd awaited the presidential hopeful with Trump posters and cheers.
“Mr. Trump believes in the First Amendment, just as much as the Second,” the voice over the loudspeaker said.

The Jan. 7 rally was a private event paid for by Trump, it continued, so protesters had been asked to remain outside.

Outside, a crowd gathered, divided by fences on either side of Main Street.

One side protested his appearance, while the other cheered in anticipation.

“Take your hate out of our state!” hundreds on the City Hall side of Main Street chanted, prompted by a sign made by junior Rosie Contompasis with the words written on it.

Contompasis explained that she was here because she felt she felt she needed to stand up to someone she thinks threatens her country.

“Trump is the embodiment of hatred and bigotry, [and] that is not an American value,” she said.

On the other side, Trump supporters waiting in line to enter the theater responded to protesters.

They chanted, “USA, USA, USA! Trump, Trump, Trump!”

For many, the day began nearly 12 hours earlier.

Trump supporters, Sanders supporters and those who without a political motive stood side-by-side in a line that extended along Saint Paul Street and into the South End.

Near the front of the line stood UVM senior Colleen Cataldo, holding a Bernie Sanders for president sign.

“Bernie has grown up here as a politician, I think Trump is here to kind of undermine Bernie, but I am hoping that we will stay strong as a state, and support Bernie all the way,” she said.

Cataldo said she has been a Sanders fan for as long as she can remember.

“I sold blueberries to raise money for his campaign once,” she said.

Though Sanders and Trump are both candidates for change, they differ in what kind of change they will try to enact as president, Cataldo said.

“Bernie’s change is progressive, while Trump’s is regressive,” she said.

The best part of the event was standing in line meeting and talking with people, Cataldo said.

Sophomore Ethan Baldwin waited in line with his two sisters, his mother and friend.

“I am here because my sister, [Abby], told me to come,” he said, with a smile on his face.

Baldwin’s sister, Abby, said she was there to hear Trump speak, and possibly hear something she had not heard before.
“There is a lot out there – but I want to get a chance to hear him for myself,” she said.

The first in the line was Mark Conrad, a Burlington resident who arrived at 4:30 a.m. in hopes of seeing UVM students protest, he said.

“I am a Bernie supporter, but I am here to see the spectacle that surrounds Donald Trump,” Conrad said.

He was surprised to see that no students were there early in the morning, he said.

A crowd to protest Trump did not begin to gather until 3 p.m.
In the meantime, many stopped to take pictures of a collection of Bernie Sanders paintings by local artist Dug Nap, displayed in the window of local art store Frog Hollow.

One passerby who took a picture was UVM alumna Taylor Hannan and her mother and grandmother, who had just come from the Flynn to see the event and its proceedings unravel.

“It was very interesting to see the dynamic, here is definitely a variety of different people there – they’re not all Trump fans,” she said.

Everyone stood together in line – suits and sweatpants, those in Trump T-shirts and those in Bernie T-shirts, old and the young alike.

Martin Deslauriers, wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap, awaited the presidential hopeful in that line.
He said there was one reason why he supported Trump and one reason why he was in that line: “America.”

Inside the theater, those waiting on line since the early morning began to trickle in slowly starting at 5 p.m.
By 7 p.m., the scheduled start time of the rally, the Flynn Theater, which seats over 1,400 people was nearly half full.

Senior SGA senator Dylan Letendre arrived at 4 p.m. to see the Republican frontrunner, but left to watch the event online
“The event had started and we were too far from the door, we would not have made it in at all,” he said.

Donald Trump was greeted by excitement as he appeared on the stage, arriving thirty minutes after he was introduced by members of his campaign.

“Vermont – where the air is so nice and clean,” he said.
Trump’s speech consisted of foreign policy critique, an analysis of his opponents and the medial coverage of his campaign and himself.

He mentioned various infamous moments of his campaign, such as the controversial wall he said he will build between Mexico and the United States.

“I am going to build a wall … and who is going to pay for the wall?” he asked the audience.

“Mexico,” they responded.

He laughed. “No one can build a wall like me,” he said.
At this remark a woman shouted over the balcony of the theater:“You racist fucking asshole!”

Protesters followed her lead and began shouting.

“Throw ‘em out into the cold,” Trump told Flynn security.
Protesters began shouting in small numbers every few minutes, many chanting Bernie Sanders’ name.

“Bernie has our backs,” one group began chanting.
The chance to run against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders would be a “dream come true,” Trump said. “I would love to run against Bernie Sanders.”

BERNIE VOLUNTEERS STORM DORMS

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Dec. 9, 2015. Photo by Oliver Pomazi for the Vermont Cynic.

Reslife is reaching out to campaign offices to inform them of UVM’s solicitation policy.

“Here’s the plan: we are going to try and get as many people as possible to get involved in the campaign,” Shane McKibbins, the Burlington volunteer coordinator for the Sanders campaign said, addressing the students before they began Dec. 2.

Rafael Rodriguez, associate director for Assessment and Strategic Initiatives for ResLife, said Reslife is reaching out to local campaign offices to inform them of the solicitation policy according to a Dec. 7 email.

Students showed support for Bernie Sanders by gathering in the Greenhouse lobby to canvass for his campaign.

Following a post made on the University of Vermont Students for Bernie Sanders Facebook page Nov. 30, a group of students met to knock on students’ doors and ask them to volunteer for Sander’s campaign in New Hampshire.

“The goal will be canvassing in the dorms to spread the word about opportunities to get involved with the campaign,” the post stated.

Door-to-door canvassing in residence halls is not allowed, according to the University’s solicitation policy.

“No resident, UVM student organization or other individual or group is permitted to engage in any door-to-door canvassing activities, such as solicitation or campaigning, in the student living areas of residence halls,” the policy states.

“Our solicitation policy does prohibit activities, such as political campaigning, in the Residence Halls,” Rodriguez wrote in the email.

First-year Margaux Higgins, a member of UVM Students for Bernie Sanders, said she did not know canvassing in the dorms is against UVM’s solicitation policy.

The students met in the University Heights South lobby and were briefed on how to proceed in the canvassing process by McKibbins.

The goal of the “dorm storm” was to get volunteers for local campaigning and the New Hampshire Democratic primary, McKibbins said.

The “dorm storm,” was not intended to impose political ideologies, but rather to give information to those who wanted it, he said.

“You want to introduce yourselves, let them know you are here and see if they are supportive of Bernie. If they are not supportive, we are just going to move on,” McKibbins said.

“We are not here to convince anyone because that would be not cool under school rules,” he said.

NEW SUNSET ON TAX LOOPHOLE MAY CAUSE SHUTDOWN OF GREEK HOUSES

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 21, 2015.

Come January 2017, the Greek system at UVM will have to come up with approximately $30,000 a year in order to account for the property tax, said Jonathan Wolff, the association’s legal counsel.

Greek houses have been property tax free for more than 100 years.

Junior Hayden Audy, head of recruitment for UVM’s Alpha Gamma Rho chapter, said he remembers being told that the fraternity may not be able to keep the house with this expense.

“All of the sudden everything changes… your home is ephemeral,” Audy said.

Greek life has been on cam- pus for over 175 years, according to the UVM Fraternity and Sorority website.

In 1906, the state of Vermont passed a law that gave Greek houses tax exempt status because of their philanthropic and academic nature, said Tim King, president of the Greek life alumni association.

Grace Coolidge, the 30th first lady of the United States and member of the University of Vermont class of 1902, was a member of UVM’s Pi Beta Phi Female Fraternity, which later became UVM’s Pi Beta Phi Sorority, according to the White House Historical Association.

In 1931, Coolidge had the Pi Beta Phi house built.

“No one has ever lived in the house but Pi Phi, it is a historical legacy,” said Rachel Hurwitz, president of UVM Pi Beta Phi.

Hurwitz said that the property tax will likely cause the house to shift hands for the first time in its 80-year legacy.

“If this sunset [property tax] comes to pass, which it probably will, we cannot ask any more of our members than we already do, and we will lose our house,” she said.

If this happens, the homes will most likely be bought by either the University of Vermont Greek housing could be taxed or Champlain College, both tax exempt, Wolff said.

The 200 students living in the homes would be displaced and forced into the Burlington housing market, as most are juniors and seniors, he said.

Hurwitz said she feels Greek students are an easy way to get money because they are a group of young people. UVM Greek life raised a total of $140,000

for charity and gave 21,000 hours of community service in the past year, she said.

“It almost feels like we’re being targeted because of our age,” she said. “They think we’re not going to know how to fight to stop it.”

Vermont Senator Tim Ashe said the property tax is simply a way to maintain equity among all property holders and students.

Ashe is a Chittenden County representative who served as the chair of Senate Finance at the time of that the tax was initially proposed in 2014, according to the Vermont State Government website.

He stressed that the tax  is not intended to punish  Greek life, but to create equality between students and other taxpayers.

“If two students live [in] side-by-side buildings, one with a set of Greek letters and one without, one pays property taxes as part of rent and the other does not,” Ashe said.

This means that other students must pay taxes in their rent, while Greek students do not.

Ashe said he was not alone in thinking this — the bill passed the house and the senate with large bipartisan votes.

Greek students provide the community and charities with funds and services in a way other taxpayers do not, King said.

“Each member is required with their membership to complete a certain number of philanthropic hours and maintain a certain GPA,” he said.

According to Hurwitz, taxing Greek houses would add an additional .06 percent to the multibillion dollar Vermont budget.

“The money we raise is ultimately more than the money they would get from us,” she said. ”That just seems like such a loss to the Burlington community for such a small gain.”

Coverage of Burlington, Vermont

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.

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 lbuckton@burlingtonvt.gov.

BURLINGTON LIBRARY DIRECTOR IS LEAVING FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE JOB

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 29, 2016.

BURLINGTON — The Fletcher Free Library is losing its director after four years during which she focused on implementing the most current trends in library sciences.

Rubi Simon told Mayor Miro Weinberger of her resignation June 20. Her last day will be Aug. 26, and she will become director of the Howe Public Library in Hanover, New Hampshire, in September.

Simon said the decision to resign was difficult but that she was drawn to the new position by the compensation and professional opportunity it offered.
“Rubi is a visionary leader who built upon the successful traditions of our 140-year-old library and infused the library with new energy, ideas and programs at a key moment in Fletcher Free’s evolution,” Weinberger said in a news release.

As hallmarks of her tenure, Simon pointed to her creation of a teen service program to engage teens in the library and her work to get staff excited about working in library services.

“Libraries are in a major transition,” she said. “We are about literacy and information, and ensuring that all have access to this.”

Simon said she has helped bring Fletcher Free Library up to date by using cutting-edge technology, expanding services and using a strategic planning process.

Hanover City Manager Julia Griffin said Simon was chosen for her forward thinking in library trends and her ability to get along well with staff and library trustees. “She is a bright, talented, energetic professional, and we are happy to have her,” Griffin said.

Weinberger said he will establish a committee for a national search for a new director.

VERMONT MAYORS REITERATE NEED FOR GUN CONTROL

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BURLINGTON — A bipartisan coalition of mayors is asking lawmakers to put more stringent gun control measures in place.

After the nation’s largest mass shooting in history earlier this month killed 50 and injured 49 others in Orlando, President Barack Obama called on local and state government officials to act.

On Tuesday, the Vermont Mayors Coalition, which began promoting gun control measures in January 2013 not long after a shooting of kindergartners at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, reiterated the need for stricter state policies aimed at preventing gun violence.

Mayors Miro Weinberger of Burlington, Seth Leonard of Winooski, John Hollar of Montpelier and Thom Lauzon of Barre met at Burlington Police Department Headquarters Tuesday to formally announce their renewed call for local and state action.

“We cannot expect Congress to do anything about this anytime soon, but (local governments) must,” Weinberger said.

The mayors want the state to adopt universal background check policies similar to those adopted by 20 other states. The proposal would close a loophole that allows half of all gun purchases to be made without background checks. In addition, the mayors are pushing for a notification system for local law enforcement when people who are prohibited from owning guns attempt to buy firearms. They also want a report on the efficacy of a new state law, S.141, which requires that individuals who have been found by the court to be a threat to themselves or others be reported to the National Criminal Background Check System database.

Prior to the the law’s implementation in 2015, there were fewer than 1,000 people reported within the state to a national system called the national instant background check, according to a news release.

Weinberger said earlier this year Lauzon requested confirmation that the measure was being enforced. Despite repeated calls to the Vermont Monitoring Cooperative, the department in charge of enforcement, there has been no response, the press release states.

“Implementation (of the law) has been slow and less than transparent,” Lauzon said.

Lauzon said the coalition convened early last week after the Orlando tragedy to begin a dialogue on the action the coalition should take collectively. Opinions vary on how to control guns between each of the members, allowing room for this discussion, he said.

“There is so much room for compromise,” Lauzon said.

Lauzon suggested the same cooperative approach be used in a statewide discussion about the issue and he says he will be public discussion on the topic, he said.

Even on the local level, Weinberger said, gun control measures have been lenient. In Burlington, a person can walk into a bar with a gun, he said. His attempt to get the Legislature to approve a local ordinance that would have blocked firearms from bars failed last year.

“Burlington is known for its progressive values,” he said, “This is not an example of us trying to push the boundaries.”

Between 80 percent to 90 percent of Vermonters support universal background checks, according to Hollar.

Seth Leonard, who owns three guns, said the firearm control measures would not infringe on the rights of gun owners, but would protect the public.

“This isn’t about gun owners vs. non gun owners,” he said. “It’s an issue that should not be divisive on any level.”

BURLINGTON WELCOMES LEADERS FROM ITS NICARAGUAN SISTER CITY

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 22, 2016.

BURLINGTON — In more than 30 years of cultural exchanges with its sister city in Nicaragua, Burlington has shared firefighting gear, Little League teams and academic work. This week, the Queen City will share its urban agricultural model.

Mayor Miro Weinberger welcomed Mayor Reynaldo Francis and Vice Mayor Anicia Matamoros, of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, at City Hall on Wednesday, three days after the leaders’ arrival in Burlington.

The trip allows Francis and Matamoros to take a look at Burlington’s sustainable community gardening practices in the hopes of implementing similar agricultural structures in Puerto Cabezas, a city of about 60,000.

Puerto Cabezas has been planning to make agricultural changes in its community, according to a news release from the city of Burlington. It will encourage women to produce vegetables for sale and for their families’ use by giving them seeds. During their stay in Burlington, the visiting leaders are learning what a sustainable urban farming model can result in.

“In Puerto Cabezas, (we) have the land, (we) have the resources, so it’s a matter of how to use these lands and resources in ways we are learning from being here,” Francis said through a translator.

He said the unemployment rate in Nicaragua is 90 percent and that this new development will create agricultural job opportunities.

Burlington
Mayor Reynaldo Francis, of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, gives Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger a gift Wednesday while Puerto Cabezas Vice Mayor Anicia Matamoros holds Burlington’s gift to their city. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer/VTDigger

The 30-year relationship between the two cities was forged in 1984 by then-Mayor Bernie Sanders to promote peace during a time of war. It flourished under his successor, Peter Clavelle. The relationship has included exchanges of goods, culture and ideas.

This six-day visit to Burlington is Francis’ first. He was 17 when the relationship between the two cities began, he recalled Wednesday.

Matamoros said she felt blessed to be in Burlington. In Nicaragua the No. 2 official must be of the opposite gender to create a balance in government, she said.

Clavelle, who also attended the welcoming event, said he hopes the visit will prompt new energy within the relationship. He urged members of the Burlington community to reinvigorate the relationship by getting involved.

“The door is open. … You are hearing an invitation as well as an expression of need,” Clavelle said.

He said Burlington will, in exchange, receive new knowledge from a well of open hearts and minds. “We always get out more than we give,” he said.

Out of Burlington’s nine sister cities, Puerto Cabezas has had the most active partnership, Clavelle said.

In the tradition of exchange, the two cities gave each other pieces of local art Wednesday.

WINOOSKI CITY MANAGER STEPS DOWN

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 21, 2016.

WINOOSKI – After seven years of service, Winooski city manager is leaving the position for a new role in Chittenden County.

Katherine Decarreau known as “Deac,” announced her resignation from her position as city manager. She is taking a job as the executive director of finance and operations at the Chittenden Central Supervisory Union.

Decarreau said that it was simply time to move on.

A lifetime resident of Winooski, Decarreau became city manager in 2009.

Decarreau said her work with the city is intense work and has recently become tiring for her. She is looking forward to overseeing operations and finances and for the school district, she said.

“Every question you get [as city manager] has two years’ worth of history that you are going to create, and it’s sometimes nice to change up those questions,“ she said.

Mayor Seth Leonard said that Decarreau will be missed. Her tenure as city manager has allowed Winooski to move forward not only providing the city with structural and financial organization, but also a foundation for strong civic engagement models for the city, he said.

Leonard said he found out about the resignation eight days ago.

The Winooski city council will meet tonight to draft a plan to move forward. The council, which includes Leonard and four councilors will select the new manager. According to the city’s charter, the city manager may stay on for 60 days after official resignation at the city’s need. Leonard said the search for a new manager may take about six months.

The acting city manager is community services director Ray Coffey.

Leonard said he has no notion of who the new manager will be at this time, but they are open to a very wide range of options.

Winooski is the most diverse and densely populated city in Vermont. The candidate must be able to manage a growing population with only a certain amount of space, Leonard said.

Decarreau, who has been able to walk to work, said she has scoped bike routes for her new job. She will continue to live in the city. Leonard said that though he is sad to see her go, he wishes her the best at her new job.

MARINA PROPOSAL READY TO GO BEFORE BURLINGTON COUNCIL

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 20, 2016.

BURLINGTON — The Queen City is one step closer to making changes along the waterfront that could attract more boaters.

The Board of Finance voted unanimously last week to recommend the City Council approve the Burlington Harbor Marina project development agreement as proposed. The agreement outlines the construction of a marina with 160 boat slips and a park between the Coast Guard station and the fishing pier.

The $7 million project would combine public and private money, according to a news release from the mayor’s office. It is part of the public investments action plan, which established public works projects throughout the city, according to the city’s website.

The board discussed the agreement briefly before voting at its meeting June 13. Changes to the agreement were made before the meeting based on discussions and recommendations during private council executive meetings, said council President Jane Knodell, P-Central District.

The park and its parking lot along the marina would be paid for with $800,000 in public money, according to the agreement. The marina itself would be financed by two private developers, Chuck Deslauriers and Jack Wallace, who have committed $6.2 million to the project under a 40-year agreement with the city to use the marina’s space.

The public voted to put $500,000 in public funds toward the development of the marina in 2014. The additional $300,000 to be used is left over from various other projects in the public investment plan, according to the administration.

If the council approves the development agreement, the city can begin seeking the necessary permits from the Development Review Board and state and federal agencies.

Construction is expected to be finished sometime in 2018, according to the mayor’s office.

Burlington is the largest city on Lake Champlain but has the ninth-largest marina. That deters potential visitors during the summer, the mayor said. In addition to slips, the marina would have pump-out facilities and other services for boaters, and a wa­ter taxi stand.

The council is set to vote on the development agreement June 27 in Contois Hall at 7 p.m.

CITY MARKET SAYS SALES ARE DRIVING FURTHER EXPANSION PLANS

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by the VTDigger on June 17, 2016.

BURLINGTON — Onion River Co-op, which began in the 1970s as a small buying club, will extend its retail presence throughout Burlington by the end of next year if its plans to open a third City Market move forward.

The co-op recently said it is planning a store near Central Market on North Winooski Avenue that would be completed as early as the fall of 2017. It is already working on a second location, in the South End, that is to open in July 2017.

City Market’s director of community engagement, Allison Weinhagen, said the new locations would take some pressure off the downtown City Market, which has far outgrown its capacity for sales. The main South Winooski Avenue location, which has 12,000 square feet of retail space, was built to handle $20 million in yearly sales, she said. By the end of this year, the co-op will reach double that sales volume, she said.

The hope is that the South End location, which is to have 14,000 square feet of retail space, will absorb about 20 percent of the sales at the current location, allowing the co-op to provide better service, Weinhagen said.

“Growth is a natural process for success,” she said.

City Market opened in 1973 on Archibald Street and moved to a North Winooski Avenue storefront in 1989. The last major expansion was in 2002, when it moved into the current location.

That step left the organization struggling financially. Weinhagen said the lack of preparation for the financial results of the move won’t be repeated.

The co-op has long prepared and saved for this expansion and now has a financial adviser and an auditor who help make sure the finances are secure before major spending, she said.

“We will only make choices that are fiscally responsible for our members,” she said. The cost of the two new locations has not been finalized, she said.

The expansion into the Old North End is also seen as engaging a new customer base.

Surveys have shown that the demographics of City Market customers closely match those of Burlington, which means most people feel comfortable shopping there, Weinhagen said.

“But there is a mental block at North Avenue, where some people feel like this isn’t their store,” she said. “So we are hopeful that the Old North End store is their store.”

Few large or even medium-sized grocery stores carry fresh produce in the Old North End, said Teresa Mares, a Burlington anthropologist and assistant professor at the University of Vermont who has studied “food deserts” throughout Chittenden County. The co-op’s arrival will help make those foods accessible, she said.

Mares said that although the new store may affect some small businesses in the Old North End, the benefits of having a unionized, local and cooperative store far outweigh any other effects.

The co-op said in a news release that it has signed a tentative lease with the property firm Redstone for a space on North Winooski Avenue. The co-op has until Oct. 24 to decide whether to commit to the full term of the lease.

The cooperative is owned by 11,600 members and is run by a nine-member board of directors. The board elects the general manager, who is in charge of the rest of staffing, Weinhagen said.

Despite its growing size, the cooperative is committed to maintaining its identity as a community-owned and -driven organization, she said.

NEIGHBORS: UVM OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING HAS MADE BURLINGTON UNAFFORDABLE

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

BURLINGTON — Keith and Penny Pillsbury have lived on University Terrace for 43 years. When they moved to the downtown Burlington neighborhood near the University of Vermont campus, the single family homes on their street were occupied by families and hospital guests.

Now only students live on University Terrace, and the Pillsburys complain that no one else can afford to live on their street.

Penny Pillsbury recalled one couple with promising careers and two children who were priced out of the neighborhood. The landlord kicked them out to renovate the apartment and so he could charge more for the rental unit. The couple offered to buy the house, but the landlord would not sell it to them, she said. After they realized they could not afford to continue renting, they moved out of state.

Nearly half the properties on University Terrace are now investment properties that are rented to UVM students who bring in more money for landlords over a longer period of time.

“What we have here is a street out of 22 residents only nine are longer term residents on the street and each year, on June 1st, we get all new neighbors,” Keith said.

The Pillsburys are part of Vermont Interfaith Action, a coalition of religious groups based in Burlington. On Monday, members of the coalition and local housing and community groups gathered at the Pillsburys’ house, which is located across the street from the UVM Davis Center, to talk about how the University of Vermont could help to ease the housing crisis in Burlington.

The city’s 2015 Housing Action Plan identifies the construction of new student housing as a step UVM could take to make housing for families more affordable in Burlington.

About 2,200 UVM students choose to live in downtown Burlington each year, according to the plan, and the size of the off-campus student population puts pressure on housing in the rest of the city. Students compete with residents for rentals, driving up rent.

Rita Markley, the director of the Committee on Temporary Shelter, which provides shelter for homeless residents, said many landlords want to make higher profits by renting to students who will pay more for smaller spaces, than a family with one or even two incomes.

Right now, 36 percent of Burlington renters put half or more of their income toward housing, said Erhard Mahnke, the director of the Vermont Affordable Housing coalition. The recommended maximum for housing is one-third of a renter’s income.

Mahnke said that UVM has made some progress to lower the density of students living downtown, but a lot more work needs to be done — and quickly.

The group identified ways that the university could encourage students to remain on campus, including a change that would allow college students 21 or older to drink alcohol on campus.

Lisa Kingsbury, the university’s planning relations manager, said the university houses 62 percent of the student population on campus and that number will increase to 63 percent once construction of new dorms is complete.

“We are doing more than most other public universities,” Kingsbury said.

In the past 12 years, the university has expanded housing at University Heights, the Redstone Lofts and converted an administrative building into dorms, she said. The three buildings have created 1,363 new beds, Kingsbury said.

Focus groups that UVM has conducted with students show that the university’s dry campus is not driving students off campus, Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury said the university recognizes that students who live off-campus are putting pressure on housing costs for the city and has participated in the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan to help address the issue.

The group agreed that off-campus housing is part of a larger rental crisis in Burlington.

“UVM students provide the city with so much vibrancy, we would just like to see more initiative to help with housing,” Markley said.

Markley also said residents want more accountability. Housing agreements between the city and the college have not been moved forward quickly enough, advocates said.

Under the 2015 Housing Plan, the city is to begin discussions with UVM in early 2016 on how to add an additional 900 beds by 2020.

Kingsbury said while no formal discussion or plan has begun at this time, UVM has looked at informal plans to develop 900 beds.

The dorms could be built by a non-affiliated, private developer not directly related to UVM, she said, that would market the housing to students, she said.

Markley said that in the past UVM has made agreements with the city to build more housing, but there has been no follow-through.

Vermont is the 13th most expensive state for renters according to a national report called “Out of Reach.” A two-bedroom apartment in Vermont on average costs $1,099. Vermont renters need to earn $21.13 an hour, or $43,947 a year to keep rental costs for a two-bedroom apartment at 30 percent of their income. The “housing wage” for that same two-bedroom rental in Burlington is $26.08 an hour.

BURLINGTON REMEMBERS THE LIFE AND KINDNESS OF AMOS BEEDE

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by the VTDigger on June 9, 2016.

BURLINGTON — In January, Amos Beede noticed Anne Heather sipping coffee alone at Panera Bread on Church Street. Beede didn’t know it, but she sat there feeling worthless after having recently become homeless, Heather recalled Wednesday.
Beede walked up to her, said hello and gave her his bagel. The two spoke for a while, Heather said. It was a small act but made her feel human again.

“He gave me more than any amount of money or jewels or anything. He gave me back a sense of meaning, a sense of worth, a sense of power that I thought I had lost,” Heather said, addressing the media after a memorial service for Beede, who died last month of injuries suffered in an attack at a homeless encampment.

More than 50 people — including the mayor, other city officials and Beede’s family — gathered Wednesday at Perkins Pier to remember him. Heather was one of many who spoke about how Beede had touched their lives. The event was hosted by the Pride Center of Vermont, an organization that promotes the health and safety of LGBTQ people in the state.

Amos Beede
Friends mourn the death of Amos Beede at a memorial gathering at Perkins Pier in Burlington. Photo by Kelsey Neubauer/VTDigger

Beede, 38, was a transgender man, and law enforcement officers have not ruled out his gender identity as a motivator in his death. He was an active member of the LGBTQ community and well-known to people at the Pride Center.

Beede lived in Milton but was a Church Street regular with strong ties to the city’s homeless community. He would frequently stay in Burlington’s homeless encampments, according to police, especially on weekends, when there is no bus service to Milton.

That was the case the night he was killed, when he was staying with friends in an encampment in the Barge Canal area off Pine Street.

Beede attended a concert May 21 at the Flynn Center with his girlfriend, Aunnah Guzman. After the show, Beede walked her home to her apartment. He was supposed to text Guzman when he reached the campsite, but she never heard from him, according to documents filed in Chittenden County Superior Court.

Later that night four people in their 20s who were staying in a nearby camp pulled Beede from the tent where he was sleeping and attacked him savagely with a plastic crate and their feet and fists, a witness told police, according to court documents.

Police said they identified Beede’s attackers as Erik Averill, 21, Jordan Paul, 21, Myia Barber, 22, and Allison Gee, 25. The four fled the day after the attack, according to police, and were later arrested in San Diego, California. Each faces a charge of second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 20 years to life. Police have not said when the four will be extradited to Vermont.

The attack was prompted by an escalating dispute between the two camps, according to police accounts and court documents.

Two days before he was attacked, Beede called police from the encampment to report yelling and screaming. Officers who responded reported a disturbance caused by someone urinating on one of the tents there.

Beede approached a Burlington police officer the next night to ask if he could take out a restraining order on someone he identified only as Erik — later determined to be Erik Averill, the documents show. But Beede refused to provide more information about the person unless the order could be granted immediately, according to police.

That same night, Beede also approached a different officer, saying someone in the camp was threatening to assault him. He said he did not have the person’s name but would call police if there were any issues, according to the documents.

After Beede’s death May 28, the Pride Center of Vermont and others in the community organized the memorial gathering, said Julia Berberan, a SafeSpace program coordinator at the center.

“The murder of Amos has helped shine a light on the number of ways we are failing our communities,” said Berberan.

Beede knew many people who lived in homeless camps in Burlington, according to friends. Joshua Baker, 42, and Gavin Walendy, 18, both of Burlington, were among those he had met at the camps, Baker said. Earlier this year, Beede paid for their wedding at City Hall before a justice of the peace. He was also the only attendant, Walendy said.

Beede had a fire for bettering the lives of those around him, said Tim Farr, 29, of Burlington.

Farr said he remembers Beede helping a group of 16 people register to vote. Beede wanted to make a change and a difference in Burlington, he said.

Farr said Beede also had many ideas on how to help the LGBTQ community in Burlington.

“The spirit of Amos will always live on, and it is up to us to keep that fire that was in his heart burning forever,” he said.

At the memorial, Beede’s friends gave his mother, Barbara Beede, a card they had made. The card included many origami cranes like the ones Beede had taught friends to make.

Berberan said this will not be the last time the community gathers to remember Beede and the impact he had on those around him.

VTDigger reporter Morgan True contributed to this story.

MINTER PLANS TO OFFER FREE TUITION TO STATE COLLEGES

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

WINOOSKI — One candidate for governor is proposing free college tuition for some Vermonters.

Sue Minter, a Democratic candidate for governor, says her initiative, “Vermont Promise,” would give Vermont high school students the opportunity to attend the Community College of Vermont or Vermont Technical College for free for the first two years. After that, students would be able to continue their schooling for half the current cost of tuition.

Minter made the campaign announcement Tuesday at a press conference at the Community College of Vermont headquarters in Winooski.

The former secretary of VTrans said her goal is to increase the percentage of Vermont high school students who attend post-secondary programs. Currently, 60 percent of graduates go on to pursue some kind of college degree; Minter hopes to boost that number to 75 percent.

Vermont Promise is “a last dollar” plan. That means the state will cover tuition costs that are not paid for by grants or scholarships, Minter’s campaign manager Molly Ritner said.

In order to qualify, candidates must have graduated from high school within a year of applying with a GPA of 2.5 or higher. Each qualifying student must also work with a volunteer mentor who will help students navigate the process of applying to schools and filing for financial aid.

The plan will cost $6 million in the first year and $12 million annually after that. Vermont Promise would be funded by an increase in the bank franchise fee and would impose a new corporate income tax on the state’s largest banks. Minter says the biggest banks in New Hampshire and New York pay a corporate income tax, while those in Vermont do not.

“In my plan, banks pay their fair share, and students get their fair shake,” she said.

Vermont is in the top five states for rates of high school graduation, but has one of the lowest rates of continuation to post-secondary institutions, Minter said.

High school graduates who don’t go on to college have fewer opportunities in the job market, Minter says.

The lifetime earnings of workers who hold bachelor’s degrees earn $625,000 more over their lifetimes than their peers who don’t attend college.

Vermont Promise will also help small businesses find qualified workers, Minter said.

Minter’s plan is modeled after a Tennessee program that is funded through an endowment.

Former Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Tim Donovan, who was in attendance, said that Minter is the first of the gubernatorial candidates to make access to higher education a centerpiece of the 2016 campaign.

BURLINGTON PONDERS RELAXING RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger.org on June 3, 2016.

BURLINGTON — The mayor and a city councilor are pushing a change in the city charter that would relax Burlington’s residency requirement for department heads.
A resolution sponsored Mayor Miro Weinberger and City Councilor Joan Shannon, D-Southern District, would require that department heads own a home in Chittenden County, but would not require residency in Burlington.

It would also give the mayor a vote on whether to grant hardship exemptions for their appointees.

At their meeting Thursday, the Charter Change Committee punted on the resolution, saying they needed more time to debate the change before a vote. The measure will be discussed again the committee’s next meeting on June 22.

The Burlington charter now states that department heads must be registered to vote in Burlington. Department heads are given a year courtesy period, after which the city council can grant them a hardship exemption to live outside the city.

The idea is that if a qualified candidate has a home nearby, then they should not have to uproot their lives in order to serve, Shannon said.

The resolution comes out of inconsistent decisions about residency in the past, she said.

The debate cropped up again last month, when councilors voted to confirm Noelle MacKay, Weinberger’s pick to lead the Community and Economic Development Office, and granted her a hardship exemption to remain in her Shelburne home.

Shannon said she believes it is better to have a clear policy in place, “rather than a whim of the council on any given day.”

Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, who voted against MacKay’s nomination and against granting her a hardship exemption, said he disagrees with Shannon. If someone is serving the city of Burlington, they should live here, especially if they lead a city department, he said.

Shannon said that sometimes the most qualified candidate may not be the one living in Burlington, and that this resolution provides clarity.

“We should give an exemption to everyone or no one,” Shannon said.

COUNCILORS CONSIDER DROPPING POLITICAL PARTIES ON BURLINGTON BALLOT

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed by VTDigger on June 3, 2016. Photo by Morgan True for VTDigger.

BURLINGTON — City councilors are mulling whether to let voters decide if a candidate’s party affiliation should continue to be included on the ballot in municipal elections.

A resolution passed last year directed the Charter Change Committee to consider drafting a charter change that would do away with the current party designation system. At a meeting Thursday night, councilors postponed a decision on the measure, but again debated its merits.

If the committee and the full council approves a change to the city’s charter, it would set up a vote for next Town Meeting Day on whether to keep party affiliation on the ballot for municipal elections.

Burlington has already done away with party designations for school board candidates following a charter change vote in 1990.

Councilor Adam Roof, I-Ward 8, who sponsored last year’s resolution, said the public should vote on whether they feel that the city still needs the designation system, and said he believes there are times when “the party-backed system gets in the way of governance.”

Younger voters are less beholden to the existing political parties and are interested in candidates who are “individual thinkers,” said Roof, who, as an independent, is not affiliated with a political party.

Councilor Joan Shannon, D-Southern District, said that if there was not a party assigned to a candidate, then some people would vote based on the perceived gender or ethnicity of a candidate’s name.

An important part of some voter’s decision is the values associated with a particular party and its platform, said Councilor Sara Gianonni, P-Ward 3.

Roof said their criticisms assume voters are uninformed about who they are choosing, and a government can’t work properly if decisions are made assuming the public is uninformed, he said.

While Roof said he sympathizes with councilors who feel the resolution would undercut their party identity, he said the change would not stop a candidate from running with support of their party. It would simply remove that information from the ballot, he said.

Roof also pointed out that the measure merely puts the questions to voters, and does not, on its own, end party designation on municipal ballots.

The decision to postpone a vote on the charter change was made in part to allow time for the city attorney’s office to investigate whether the move requires changing the city charter.

TRUMP RALLY IN BURLINGTON MET WITH STUDENT OPPOSITION

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Jan. 9, 2016. Photo by Ryan Thornton for the Vermont Cynic.

Before Donald Trump took the stage at his Burlington campaign rally, a voice boomed over a loudspeaker in the Flynn Theater: “If there is a protester beside you, please throw your hands over your head and start chanting ‘Trump’.”

After the voice faded out, The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t Always Get What You Want” rang through the theater as the crowd awaited the presidential hopeful with Trump posters and cheers.
“Mr. Trump believes in the First Amendment, just as much as the Second,” the voice over the loudspeaker said.

The Jan. 7 rally was a private event paid for by Trump, it continued, so protesters had been asked to remain outside.

Outside, a crowd gathered, divided by fences on either side of Main Street.

One side protested his appearance, while the other cheered in anticipation.

“Take your hate out of our state!” hundreds on the City Hall side of Main Street chanted, prompted by a sign made by junior Rosie Contompasis with the words written on it.

Contompasis explained that she was here because she felt she felt she needed to stand up to someone she thinks threatens her country.

“Trump is the embodiment of hatred and bigotry, [and] that is not an American value,” she said.

On the other side, Trump supporters waiting in line to enter the theater responded to protesters.

They chanted, “USA, USA, USA! Trump, Trump, Trump!”

For many, the day began nearly 12 hours earlier.

Trump supporters, Sanders supporters and those who without a political motive stood side-by-side in a line that extended along Saint Paul Street and into the South End.

Near the front of the line stood UVM senior Colleen Cataldo, holding a Bernie Sanders for president sign.

“Bernie has grown up here as a politician, I think Trump is here to kind of undermine Bernie, but I am hoping that we will stay strong as a state, and support Bernie all the way,” she said.

Cataldo said she has been a Sanders fan for as long as she can remember.

“I sold blueberries to raise money for his campaign once,” she said.

Though Sanders and Trump are both candidates for change, they differ in what kind of change they will try to enact as president, Cataldo said.

“Bernie’s change is progressive, while Trump’s is regressive,” she said.

The best part of the event was standing in line meeting and talking with people, Cataldo said.

Sophomore Ethan Baldwin waited in line with his two sisters, his mother and friend.

“I am here because my sister, [Abby], told me to come,” he said, with a smile on his face.

Baldwin’s sister, Abby, said she was there to hear Trump speak, and possibly hear something she had not heard before.
“There is a lot out there – but I want to get a chance to hear him for myself,” she said.

The first in the line was Mark Conrad, a Burlington resident who arrived at 4:30 a.m. in hopes of seeing UVM students protest, he said.

“I am a Bernie supporter, but I am here to see the spectacle that surrounds Donald Trump,” Conrad said.

He was surprised to see that no students were there early in the morning, he said.

A crowd to protest Trump did not begin to gather until 3 p.m.
In the meantime, many stopped to take pictures of a collection of Bernie Sanders paintings by local artist Dug Nap, displayed in the window of local art store Frog Hollow.

One passerby who took a picture was UVM alumna Taylor Hannan and her mother and grandmother, who had just come from the Flynn to see the event and its proceedings unravel.

“It was very interesting to see the dynamic, here is definitely a variety of different people there – they’re not all Trump fans,” she said.

Everyone stood together in line – suits and sweatpants, those in Trump T-shirts and those in Bernie T-shirts, old and the young alike.

Martin Deslauriers, wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap, awaited the presidential hopeful in that line.
He said there was one reason why he supported Trump and one reason why he was in that line: “America.”

Inside the theater, those waiting on line since the early morning began to trickle in slowly starting at 5 p.m.
By 7 p.m., the scheduled start time of the rally, the Flynn Theater, which seats over 1,400 people was nearly half full.

Senior SGA senator Dylan Letendre arrived at 4 p.m. to see the Republican frontrunner, but left to watch the event online
“The event had started and we were too far from the door, we would not have made it in at all,” he said.

Donald Trump was greeted by excitement as he appeared on the stage, arriving thirty minutes after he was introduced by members of his campaign.

“Vermont – where the air is so nice and clean,” he said.
Trump’s speech consisted of foreign policy critique, an analysis of his opponents and the medial coverage of his campaign and himself.

He mentioned various infamous moments of his campaign, such as the controversial wall he said he will build between Mexico and the United States.

“I am going to build a wall … and who is going to pay for the wall?” he asked the audience.

“Mexico,” they responded.

He laughed. “No one can build a wall like me,” he said.
At this remark a woman shouted over the balcony of the theater:“You racist fucking asshole!”

Protesters followed her lead and began shouting.

“Throw ‘em out into the cold,” Trump told Flynn security.
Protesters began shouting in small numbers every few minutes, many chanting Bernie Sanders’ name.

“Bernie has our backs,” one group began chanting.
The chance to run against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders would be a “dream come true,” Trump said. “I would love to run against Bernie Sanders.”

NEW SUNSET ON TAX LOOPHOLE MAY CAUSE SHUTDOWN OF GREEK HOUSES

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 21, 2015.

Come January 2017, the Greek system at UVM will have to come up with approximately $30,000 a year in order to account for the property tax, said Jonathan Wolff, the association’s legal counsel.

Greek houses have been property tax free for more than 100 years.

Junior Hayden Audy, head of recruitment for UVM’s Alpha Gamma Rho chapter, said he remembers being told that the fraternity may not be able to keep the house with this expense.

“All of the sudden everything changes… your home is ephemeral,” Audy said.

Greek life has been on cam- pus for over 175 years, according to the UVM Fraternity and Sorority website.

In 1906, the state of Vermont passed a law that gave Greek houses tax exempt status because of their philanthropic and academic nature, said Tim King, president of the Greek life alumni association.

Grace Coolidge, the 30th first lady of the United States and member of the University of Vermont class of 1902, was a member of UVM’s Pi Beta Phi Female Fraternity, which later became UVM’s Pi Beta Phi Sorority, according to the White House Historical Association.

In 1931, Coolidge had the Pi Beta Phi house built.

“No one has ever lived in the house but Pi Phi, it is a historical legacy,” said Rachel Hurwitz, president of UVM Pi Beta Phi.

Hurwitz said that the property tax will likely cause the house to shift hands for the first time in its 80-year legacy.

“If this sunset [property tax] comes to pass, which it probably will, we cannot ask any more of our members than we already do, and we will lose our house,” she said.

If this happens, the homes will most likely be bought by either the University of Vermont Greek housing could be taxed or Champlain College, both tax exempt, Wolff said.

The 200 students living in the homes would be displaced and forced into the Burlington housing market, as most are juniors and seniors, he said.

Hurwitz said she feels Greek students are an easy way to get money because they are a group of young people. UVM Greek life raised a total of $140,000

for charity and gave 21,000 hours of community service in the past year, she said.

“It almost feels like we’re being targeted because of our age,” she said. “They think we’re not going to know how to fight to stop it.”

Vermont Senator Tim Ashe said the property tax is simply a way to maintain equity among all property holders and students.

Ashe is a Chittenden County representative who served as the chair of Senate Finance at the time of that the tax was initially proposed in 2014, according to the Vermont State Government website.

He stressed that the tax  is not intended to punish  Greek life, but to create equality between students and other taxpayers.

“If two students live [in] side-by-side buildings, one with a set of Greek letters and one without, one pays property taxes as part of rent and the other does not,” Ashe said.

This means that other students must pay taxes in their rent, while Greek students do not.

Ashe said he was not alone in thinking this — the bill passed the house and the senate with large bipartisan votes.

Greek students provide the community and charities with funds and services in a way other taxpayers do not, King said.

“Each member is required with their membership to complete a certain number of philanthropic hours and maintain a certain GPA,” he said.

According to Hurwitz, taxing Greek houses would add an additional .06 percent to the multibillion dollar Vermont budget.

“The money we raise is ultimately more than the money they would get from us,” she said. ”That just seems like such a loss to the Burlington community for such a small gain.”

LOCAL INVENTORS COME TO SHELBURNE FOR FAIRE

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The horse barn at Shelburne Farms welcomed local inventors Sept. 26 to 27, who came to show the Champlain area how their inventions will “make” for a better future.

This year’s Champlain Mini Maker Faire, partially sponsored by the UVM, was comprised of over 40 innovators of all ages from across New England.

Maker faires are part of an international movement aimed at providing awareness and exposure for local makers, crafters, inventors, scientists and  artists, according to the Champlain Maker Faire’s website.

Howard Drukerman, Champlain chapter president of the National Association of Rocketry, shows off his hat at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire on Sept. 27

Cole Wangsness — The Vermont Cynic: Howard Drukerman, Champlain chapter president of the National Association of Rocketry, shows off his hat at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire on Sept. 27

“A maker faire brings together families and individuals to celebrate the do-it-yourself mindset and showcase all kinds of incredible projects,” according to the website.

Students in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences exhibited their recent innovations such as an inexpensive prosthetic limb made from a 3D printing machine called the Fab Lab.

Since these limbs are cheap to make, they are  well-suited for a growing child that may need different sizes throughout childhood, senior Aaron Brunet said.

The prosthetic limb imitates a human limb in various ways including the tendons, Brunet said.

“The idea is we give them to local kids at the University of Vermont Medical Center,” he said.

It takes about 48 hours to print the prosthetics, Brunet said.

The creation of the prosthetics are part of a global network of volunteers, called E-Nable,  who use 3D printing to make cheap, accessible prosthetics, he said.

Just outside the barn, a rocket shooter launched dozens of homemade rockets, individualized in decor by children of all ages.

This rocket launcher was created by 11-year old, sixth grade inventor and entrepreneur Noah Schwartz.

Schwartz said he built the rocket launcher three years ago after seeing his friend build one.

Cole Wangsness — The Vermont Cynic: Model rockets on display at the fair.

Cole Wangsness — The Vermont Cynic: Model rockets on display at the fair.

Together, they built three, he said.

“The rocket will launch up 100 to 200 feet depending upon the air pressure,” Schwartz said.

In addition to this invention, Schwartz said he has started his own business.

Schwartz’s  company, called Noah’s Fizzy’s,  sells fizzy maple lemonade, he said.

He won the faire’s “Road Pitch Competition,” – a competition for the best business pitch, he said.

Along the edges of the faire, various rockets were displayed as part of the National Association of Rocketry booth.

Howard Drukerman, president of the Champlain Model Rocket Club said the interesting part about the rockets is the size of their engines.

“There are a variety of rockets, from very small ones all the way up very large in diameter and height,” he said.

COALITION AIMS TO RAMP UP HOUSING GROWTH IN CHITTENDEN COUNTY

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on June 27, 2017.

SOUTH BURLINGTON — A new collaborative initiative aims to help build 3,500 housing units in the next five years in Chittenden County, where communities and advocates have long expressed a need.
Members of local and state government as well as businesses and housing nonprofits gathered Monday to announce their Building Homes Together initiative.

“Every community (in Chittenden County) needs to up its game,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on Monday. “It requires different municipalities coming together.”

Dozens attended the event in South Burlington, including state officials and representatives of cities and towns across Chittenden County.

In addition to pursuing the housing goal, the coalition will assist with infrastructure to encourage developers to build in nonrural areas of the county, said Chris Donnelly, director of community relations for Champlain Housing Trust.

Over the past five years, Chittenden County has added on average 450 housing units a year. Meeting the coalition’s goal would require an increase of 250 units a year.

Champlain Housing Trust CEO Brenda Torpy said the idea is that 20 percent of the new units, or 700, come from nonprofit housing organizations.

For nonprofits to build that much housing, the county will need around $65 million to $70 million in capital from public sources and private investments with below-market interest, Donnelly said.

The initiative grew out of discussions involving Champlain Housing Trust, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and Housing Vermont on how to address countywide housing issues.

The organizations were quickly joined by local and state government officials, Donnelly said.

This is the first time a coalition of this sort has committed to combining private and public sectors to make this happen, he said.

“The coalition will allow for a collective effort to address a regional issue,” Weinberger said.

In Burlington, the cost of housing is frequently raised as an issue. National statistics recently said that 2.2 minimum wage jobs would be needed per household to affordably rent a two-bedroom apartment in the city. Earlier this month, some residents and advocates said part of the reason is that UVM students living off campus have driven up market prices.

But Weinberger said the county needs more than affordable housing. It also needs housing for seniors, environmentally friendly housing, and housing that allows for easy commuting throughout the area by bike or walking, he said.

South Burlington’s city manager, Kevin Dorn, said the need for rental housing has increased as demographics in Chittenden County have shifted to include greater numbers of young people. The coalition plans to address this need by assisting in the creation of housing spaces with both rental and permanent housing options, he said.

Businesses in Chittenden County want to see housing at different affordability levels in order to infuse new energy throughout the business community, Torpy said.

Each city or town has specific and different needs that must be met, Donnelly said.

Colchester Town Manager Dawn Francis said the town needs to change its sewer system if it is to accommodate more units.

Williston is looking to start a housing trust to aid with costs, Donnelly said as an example of individual communities’ needs. The coalition will look to bolster such efforts with small decisions that support each community, he said.

Members of the public interested in participating in the coalition can contact Donnelly at chris@champlainhousingtrust.org.

NEIGHBORS: UVM OFF-CAMPUS HOUSING HAS MADE BURLINGTON UNAFFORDABLE

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

BURLINGTON — Keith and Penny Pillsbury have lived on University Terrace for 43 years. When they moved to the downtown Burlington neighborhood near the University of Vermont campus, the single family homes on their street were occupied by families and hospital guests.

Now only students live on University Terrace, and the Pillsburys complain that no one else can afford to live on their street.

Penny Pillsbury recalled one couple with promising careers and two children who were priced out of the neighborhood. The landlord kicked them out to renovate the apartment and so he could charge more for the rental unit. The couple offered to buy the house, but the landlord would not sell it to them, she said. After they realized they could not afford to continue renting, they moved out of state.

Nearly half the properties on University Terrace are now investment properties that are rented to UVM students who bring in more money for landlords over a longer period of time.

“What we have here is a street out of 22 residents only nine are longer term residents on the street and each year, on June 1st, we get all new neighbors,” Keith said.

The Pillsburys are part of Vermont Interfaith Action, a coalition of religious groups based in Burlington. On Monday, members of the coalition and local housing and community groups gathered at the Pillsburys’ house, which is located across the street from the UVM Davis Center, to talk about how the University of Vermont could help to ease the housing crisis in Burlington.

The city’s 2015 Housing Action Plan identifies the construction of new student housing as a step UVM could take to make housing for families more affordable in Burlington.

About 2,200 UVM students choose to live in downtown Burlington each year, according to the plan, and the size of the off-campus student population puts pressure on housing in the rest of the city. Students compete with residents for rentals, driving up rent.

Rita Markley, the director of the Committee on Temporary Shelter, which provides shelter for homeless residents, said many landlords want to make higher profits by renting to students who will pay more for smaller spaces, than a family with one or even two incomes.

Right now, 36 percent of Burlington renters put half or more of their income toward housing, said Erhard Mahnke, the director of the Vermont Affordable Housing coalition. The recommended maximum for housing is one-third of a renter’s income.

Mahnke said that UVM has made some progress to lower the density of students living downtown, but a lot more work needs to be done — and quickly.

The group identified ways that the university could encourage students to remain on campus, including a change that would allow college students 21 or older to drink alcohol on campus.

Lisa Kingsbury, the university’s planning relations manager, said the university houses 62 percent of the student population on campus and that number will increase to 63 percent once construction of new dorms is complete.

“We are doing more than most other public universities,” Kingsbury said.

In the past 12 years, the university has expanded housing at University Heights, the Redstone Lofts and converted an administrative building into dorms, she said. The three buildings have created 1,363 new beds, Kingsbury said.

Focus groups that UVM has conducted with students show that the university’s dry campus is not driving students off campus, Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury said the university recognizes that students who live off-campus are putting pressure on housing costs for the city and has participated in the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan to help address the issue.

The group agreed that off-campus housing is part of a larger rental crisis in Burlington.

“UVM students provide the city with so much vibrancy, we would just like to see more initiative to help with housing,” Markley said.

Markley also said residents want more accountability. Housing agreements between the city and the college have not been moved forward quickly enough, advocates said.

Under the 2015 Housing Plan, the city is to begin discussions with UVM in early 2016 on how to add an additional 900 beds by 2020.

Kingsbury said while no formal discussion or plan has begun at this time, UVM has looked at informal plans to develop 900 beds.

The dorms could be built by a non-affiliated, private developer not directly related to UVM, she said, that would market the housing to students, she said.

Markley said that in the past UVM has made agreements with the city to build more housing, but there has been no follow-through.

Vermont is the 13th most expensive state for renters according to a national report called “Out of Reach.” A two-bedroom apartment in Vermont on average costs $1,099. Vermont renters need to earn $21.13 an hour, or $43,947 a year to keep rental costs for a two-bedroom apartment at 30 percent of their income. The “housing wage” for that same two-bedroom rental in Burlington is $26.08 an hour.

NEW SUNSET ON TAX LOOPHOLE MAY CAUSE SHUTDOWN OF GREEK HOUSES

BTVEnterprise and InvestigativeGreek LifePoliticsSelected storiesStories by BeatStories by publicationVermont Cynic

Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Oct. 21, 2015.

Come January 2017, the Greek system at UVM will have to come up with approximately $30,000 a year in order to account for the property tax, said Jonathan Wolff, the association’s legal counsel.

Greek houses have been property tax free for more than 100 years.

Junior Hayden Audy, head of recruitment for UVM’s Alpha Gamma Rho chapter, said he remembers being told that the fraternity may not be able to keep the house with this expense.

“All of the sudden everything changes… your home is ephemeral,” Audy said.

Greek life has been on cam- pus for over 175 years, according to the UVM Fraternity and Sorority website.

In 1906, the state of Vermont passed a law that gave Greek houses tax exempt status because of their philanthropic and academic nature, said Tim King, president of the Greek life alumni association.

Grace Coolidge, the 30th first lady of the United States and member of the University of Vermont class of 1902, was a member of UVM’s Pi Beta Phi Female Fraternity, which later became UVM’s Pi Beta Phi Sorority, according to the White House Historical Association.

In 1931, Coolidge had the Pi Beta Phi house built.

“No one has ever lived in the house but Pi Phi, it is a historical legacy,” said Rachel Hurwitz, president of UVM Pi Beta Phi.

Hurwitz said that the property tax will likely cause the house to shift hands for the first time in its 80-year legacy.

“If this sunset [property tax] comes to pass, which it probably will, we cannot ask any more of our members than we already do, and we will lose our house,” she said.

If this happens, the homes will most likely be bought by either the University of Vermont Greek housing could be taxed or Champlain College, both tax exempt, Wolff said.

The 200 students living in the homes would be displaced and forced into the Burlington housing market, as most are juniors and seniors, he said.

Hurwitz said she feels Greek students are an easy way to get money because they are a group of young people. UVM Greek life raised a total of $140,000

for charity and gave 21,000 hours of community service in the past year, she said.

“It almost feels like we’re being targeted because of our age,” she said. “They think we’re not going to know how to fight to stop it.”

Vermont Senator Tim Ashe said the property tax is simply a way to maintain equity among all property holders and students.

Ashe is a Chittenden County representative who served as the chair of Senate Finance at the time of that the tax was initially proposed in 2014, according to the Vermont State Government website.

He stressed that the tax  is not intended to punish  Greek life, but to create equality between students and other taxpayers.

“If two students live [in] side-by-side buildings, one with a set of Greek letters and one without, one pays property taxes as part of rent and the other does not,” Ashe said.

This means that other students must pay taxes in their rent, while Greek students do not.

Ashe said he was not alone in thinking this — the bill passed the house and the senate with large bipartisan votes.

Greek students provide the community and charities with funds and services in a way other taxpayers do not, King said.

“Each member is required with their membership to complete a certain number of philanthropic hours and maintain a certain GPA,” he said.

According to Hurwitz, taxing Greek houses would add an additional .06 percent to the multibillion dollar Vermont budget.

“The money we raise is ultimately more than the money they would get from us,” she said. ”That just seems like such a loss to the Burlington community for such a small gain.”

A Campus’ Story: Coverage of Issues of Diversity and Equity at UVM

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 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

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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.

EXPLORING RACE AT UVM: KAKE WALK: ALUMNI, STUDENTS AND FACULTY REFLECT ON A 73-YEAR TRADITION

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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.

ANTI-SEMITIC EMAIL INCITES BIAS REPORTS

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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.

UVM IS BEING SUED FOR EQUAL PAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See UVM’s full official statement at the bottom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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