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UVM’s Response to the Protests from May 3 Demanding Accountability

TW: Sexual Assault

On April 25th, a UVM student, {by the name of Athena Hendrick} fed up with the treatment they had received over the past year posted to their Instagram detailing the traumatic experience they had the following year which had been ignored by the University. They detailed the actions they had taken after their assault {by Austin Wieland} on February 1st of 2020. All of these actions only leading to the case being closed in August because “not enough evidence was found.” Since its original posting, the photo has been shared hundreds of times and received over 3.5k likes as well as given many victims the courage to come forward. These stories revealed that the perpetrator in {Athena’s or their} case was a repeat offender of sexual violence against women in the UVM community.


Denim day on April 28th added fuel to the fire and many supporters across the uvm community came forward to share their stories and support for survivors of sexual violence. This lead to the creation of a list of demands for the university by Caroline Shelley, the founder of UVM’s student lead Title IX advisory committee, along with support from the President and Vice President of SGA, other members of her committee, and the Student Union which was presented to University Administrators demanding that perpetrators of sexual assault be held accountable. This list was supported by a petition created by Shelley demanding that the University do more for survivors of sexual violence. As of today, the petition has received the most support of any UVM petition receiving over 10,000 signatures and counting!


The list of demands is extensive and can be found on the @uvmixac Instagram page. The UVM Student Title IX action committee was founded last fall by Caroline Shelley a member of SGA and member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at UVM. She was reached out to by the Deputy Title IX Coordinator for AAEO Taryn Moran after publishing an op-ed piece for the UVM Cynic last fall. 


After the walkout on Monday and hours of Protesting by UVM students, the demands of the students were heard by the administration. On Tuesday the University President and other members of the administration crashed Shelley’s committee meeting on Tuesday determined to meet all the demands made by UVM’s students. Shelley said about this, “I am glad they responded, but the amount that it took is completely unacceptable.” She also followed with assuring that her committee would be meeting with the UVM administration over the summer and into the fall to hold the administration accountable for meeting student demands and encourages others to do the same. 


One key demand is the addition of 3-4 more compass victims advocates through the WAGE center starting next fall. There is currently only one advocate to serve the 11,000 undergrad students at our university which is entirely unacceptable. According to Shelley, the SGA has been working for the past three years to at least get one more campus victims advocate for our university and has been unsuccessful until now. Furthermore, according to Shelley, the Universities CAPS counselors have no formal training in sexual assault victim support. And they are the primary channel victims are sent to for support. Their training on sexual assault victim support is another demand that the University has promised will be satisfied by the fall semester.


If you or a loved one have been a victim of sexual assault please know you are not alone. It is up to you if you should choose to come forward about your experience. Please know that there are people who will support you if you should choose to do so. The UVM Title IX office consists of administration, investigators, and lawyers who are trained and specialize in helping victims of sexual violence. Hold the university accountable for following through on their promise to help victims and hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable. 


Change cannot happen without holding those who intend to implement it accountable. 


People and Organizations you can follow to support survivors of sexual violence:


@uvmixac - Founded by Caroline Shelley it is the Student Title IX Advisory Committee’s Instagram, whose purpose is to advocate for the structural change to UVM’s Title IX AAEO Office 

@explaintheasterisk - Founded by Syd Ovitt @sydovitt a campaign founded with the goal “to pass legislation that would require colleges and universities to explicitly indicate when a student has been dismissed/suspended on the grounds of: sexual misconduct, dating or domestic violence, or stalking” (Explain the Asterisk)

@uvmcodie- Committee on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity through the UVM Student Government Association. They provide updates, resources, and information

@uvmus- UVM Union of Students 


Resources at UVM:

Campus Victims Advocate: Judy Rickstad, 802-656-9637 (confidential)

Women’s Center (WAGE): advocate@uvm.edu, 802-656-7892

UVM Title IX Intake and Outreach Coordinator: 802-656-3369, email: Taryn.Moran@uvm.edu 

Student Health Center: 802-656-3350 (confidential)

UVM LiveSafe App: download at www.udm.edu/emergency

UVM CAPS: 802-656-7892 (confidential)

Men’s Outreach Coordinator: Keith Smith 802-656-3340

(source: @uvmcodie)


Sources for this article:

Caroline Shelley

Athena Hendrick’s Instagram @anetha156

UVM Title IX Student Advisory Committee

Explain the Asterisk UVM

@uvmcodie - UVM SGA CODIE (Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity) 

https://www.uvm.edu/aaeo/title-9-sexual-misconduct website

Alex Coleman is a Sophomore at UVM majoring in English with a minor in Public communications. She also serves as the Chief Learning Officer for Kappa Alpha Theta. She has always had a passion for writing with the hopes of one day becoming an author.
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