Bramley locks his door

? Protestors condemning the University’s decision to maintain a contract with WVMT radio station planned to confront President Bramley in his office. ? But they weren’t expecting his door to be locked. ? Formerly known as the “Voice of the Catamounts,” WVMT came under fire from the student group Gender Equity Now Coalition and the Faculty Women’s Caucus because it also airs Rush Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated radio show. ? Limbaugh made derogatory comments about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke Feb. 29, saying that testifying in Congress for free, mandated contraceptives made her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” ? Limbaugh has since apologized for his remarks, but some students and faculty members did not think that was enough. ? Nearly two-dozen students and community members gathered outside Waterman Building March 28 to voice their opposition to Bramley’s move, which they see as condoning hate speech. ? “This is not an issue about free speech, this is an issue about hate speech,” said first-year Melissa Amaya, eliciting jeers from the crowd. ? The students congregated to call upon the University to issue an ultimatum to WVMT that they drop Limbaugh, or UVM will drop them. ? A letter addressed to Bramley outlining this sentiment was prepared and read aloud to the crowd by sophomore Annika Nillson. ? “If UVM wants to call itself a University with a commitment to social justice, it’s time to start acting like one,” the letter stated. ? Following a reading of the letter, the students proceeding inside Waterman to hand-deliver it to Bramley. ? However upon encountering a locked Executive office, the letter was slipped under the door and the students bellowed a few call-and-response chants before disbanding. ? “Hey, hey, mister, mister – get your hate speech off my sister!” the crowd chanted. ? The Faculty Women’s Caucus proposed that the University sever its ties with WVMT at a Faculty Senate meeting that took place March 12. ? “The Faculty Senate requests that the administration explore severing its relationship with WVMT and by so doing, send a clear message that Rush Limbaugh is not the ‘Voice of the Catamounts’ and that UVM holds itself to higher standards of acceptable language,” a motion stated. ? In his email, Bramley stated that ending UVM’s contract with WVMT was not a “sound response” for three reasons. ? ?      Listeners contacting WVMT directly would have a larger impact. ?      The University holds the responsibility to protect freedom of speech. ?      The University is obligated to broadcast its games locally as a participant in the America East and Hockey East conferences. ? Professor Charlotte Mehrtens, who proposed the motion, said in an email that there is a clear association between the University and a station that markets itself as “the Voice” of UVM. ? “UVM has a choice of which companies to do business with,” her email stated. “We can elect to sever relationships with companies that do not represent our values.” ? WVMT owner and manager Paul S. Goldman disputed that there was any affiliation between Rush Limbaugh’s program and the University. ? “In no way does what Rush say represent us or the station, let alone UVM,” he said. “The reality is that he has the most listened to talk show in the country; if people want to affect change they should convince people not to listen to him.” ? He said that WVMT received zero complaints the day that Limbaugh’s comments were made. ? “[Which] leads me to believe that not one of the people who want us sanctioned ever listens to our show,” he said. ? Both Goldman and Vice President of University Relations Tom Gustafson specified that WVMT is not considered the “Voice” of UVM, but the voice of the two athletic teams whose games WVMT broadcasts. ? Gustafson said that given UVM’s membership in the athletic conferences, he believes the University has an obligation to have relationships with local media venues to broadcast UVM sporting events. ? And because there are already scheduling conflicts with the other local station 101.3 ESPN, which broadcasts men’s basketball, Gustafson said there wasn’t really another option. ? “Frankly, there aren’t a lot of stations clamoring to air our games,” he said. ? For its part, WVMT has aired UVM sports for over 40 years and is contractually obligated to pay UVM approximately $80,000 over the next four years for broadcasting rights, a Burlington Free Press article stated. ? Beth Mintz, a leader in the Faculty Women’s Caucus and professor, said she believed free speech was a “crucial component,” but Limbaugh’s comments deeply conflicted with UVM’s values. ? “His remarks about women perpetuate gender stereotypes of the worst kind and contribute to an environment that denigrates women in an assortment of ways,” she stated in an email. ? In response, the University will address these concerns in two ways, Bramley said. ? “WVMT will not be permitted to use the term ‘Voice of the Catamounts’ or in any way imply that UVM explicitly or implicitly endorses the station’s programming … beyond sports broadcasts,” he said. ? UVM is considering the insertion of a brief statement before each game’s broadcast with that particular message, Bramley said. ? In addition, he said UVM will continue its efforts to “encourage dialogue” on campus and to raise awareness of issues like gender-based violence and discrimination. ? Professor Robert H. Rodgers agreed with the University’s decision, saying that free speech should be “defended at every turn,” and noted that some good came out of the Limbaugh debacle. ? “We all may be more alert to how we speak and potentially to whom,” he said. ? But Mehrtens said she still believes the rationale for the decision is flawed. ? She countered that UVM has standards that must be abided by, pointing out that UVM had shut down the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity this year because it had violated these very values. ? “[These are] values that as a community we abide by,” she said. “The same is true here. I believe we can apply the same values to our business relationships.” ?