Athletics Department ignores student athlete concerns at meeting


Members of UVM Athletics and the community discuss changes to sports at UVM in light of COVID-19 Oct. 13 over teams.

The UVM Athletics Department continues to receive high praise from community members despite student outcry over their alleged mishandling of a sexual assault investigation and racial justice activism from student-athletes. 

Community members commented on the department’s “resilience” and “commitment” in reintegrating student-athletes into their programs during the COVID-19 pandemic at an Oct. 13 virtual meeting with department panelists, including Athletics Director Jeff Schulman. 

The virtual meeting, held over Microsoft Teams, was hosted by the UVM Alumni Association to “provide an update on the status of the Athletic Department,” according to an Oct. 9 invitation email. Students, alumni, parents and other community members were invited. 

However, during the meeting, neither Schulman nor any of the other panelists responded to the Cynic’s requests for comments regarding student accusations that the department mishandled the sexual assault investigation of UVM Senior Kendall Ware, a student-athlete on the swimming and diving team. 

The meeting also did not mention the concerns of the Student-Athlete of Color Affinity Group, a student organization that promotes “awareness, change, and action for racial injustice for all minorities,” according to the UVM Athletics Inclusive Excellence Committee website. 

Instead, Schulman discussed the financial status of the department, giving updates on new renovations made to the Gutterson ice rink and continuing construction of the Multi-purpose Center. 

Ware, along with other student-athletes, accused the Athletics Department of using a corrupt system that gives preferential treatment to male athletes over female athletes, according to an Oct. 13 Cynic article.

“We felt like our Athletic Department didn’t care about us,” said UVM sophomore Sofia Wittmann, a student-athlete on UVM Women’s Track and Field. “We felt that we’re supposed to have this really strong support system through athletics and they did not do their job to protect a female varsity athlete.”

UVM Spokesperson Enrique Corredera sent a statement in an Oct.13 email to the Cynic regarding Ware’s sexual assault investigation. 

“Sexual misconduct is taken with utmost seriousness by the university and everyone in the UVM Athletic Department,” Corredera stated. “At no time or in any manner is athletic status, gender or sport a factor in determining responsibility [in a sexual assault investigation].” 

The Student-Athlete of Color Affinity group wrote a letter to the University with a list of demands regarding racial justice for Black students after a Black Lives Matter flag was raised in front of Patrick Gym Sept. 12.

“We raised the flag to make sure that anyone who walks in the gym would have no doubts as to the values of UVM Athletics,” the letter stated. 

Though Schulman said he was proud of UVM’s student-athletes for being politically active, he did not go into specifics.

“The social issues and the social justice conversations that we’ve had in our department have been really powerful,” he said. He did not respond to the Cynic’s request for specifics in the chat. 

Over the course of the meeting, comments praising the Athletics Department from community members filled the chat.

“Thanks for getting the students and student-athletes back on campus,” stated parent Randy Buffenbarger. “Thanks Team UVM! Great job!” 

Community member Jen Bouquot also complimented the Athletics Department. 

“Thank you for everything you are doing to keep everyone safe,” Bouquot stated. 

Schulman also said that the Athletics Department will be taking a financial hit due to the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“With not having spectators at games, not having facility rentals, NCAA revenue being down and marketing revenue being down, the need has never been greater for our department and our student-athletes,” he said. 

However, UVM Men’s Hockey has hired two new coaches with a combined salary of over $150,000 despite COVID-related financial hits and a University-wide hiring freeze and budgetary shortfalls. 

A new scoreboard has also been added to the Gutterson hockey rink, Schulman said. 

The construction of the new multi-purpose center has also resumed in the early part of May, Schulman said. 

“The Board of Trustees and President Suresh Garimella have been extremely supportive of this project,” Schulman said. “We are committed to seeing this project through.”


Editor’s note: This article was updated at 1:43 p.m. on 10/23/20.