Editorial Board: UVM should be investigated for handling of reports of sexual violence

Over the last week, an overwhelming number of survivors of sexual assault and misconduct have come forward, condemning the University of Vermont’s handling of investigations into their experiences.

The Editorial Board of the Vermont Cynic stands with survivors and calls on the federal Department of Education to formally investigate UVM’s Title IX office and its handling of sexual misconduct investigations.

The federal Department of Education is the agency that supervises and governs Title IX across the U.S. Specifically, their Office of Civil Rights has the jurisdiction to investigate claims of mishandlings and has in the past, according to their website.

Most recently, in 2017, the OCR opened an investigation into the University, when an individual filed a complaint that UVM failed to respond and investigate sexual violence perpetrated against them in a timely and equitable fashion, according to a copy of the OCR’s response to the complainant.

UVM has a responsibility to protect its students and to ensure their safety. Right now, these survivors’ voices radiate that women are not safe on UVM’s campus.

More than two dozen people have shared their experiences at UVM, all echoing similar sentiments: UVM is not doing enough.

While we don’t have an idea just yet how to fix the Title IX system at UVM, it’s clear that the current system is not working.

UVM has one Victim’s Advocate. One person is never enough to provide ample resources to survivors of sexual violence.

UVM Administrators consistently point to services like HOPE Works or CAPS as other avenues for survivors, which sure, are general resources, but why aren’t there more dedicated resources for survivors at UVM?

Women between the ages of 18-24 are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other age group, according to RAINN. One instance of sexual misconduct is too many at UVM.

Statistics regarding sexual misconduct are notoriously hard to capture, which is why we need to hear and listen to these survivor’s stories.

Promises from UVM that they will internally look into this matter are not enough.

An independent look at this serious issue is needed, one that UVM won’t be able to use to internally justify their clear failures.

The requests being made by survivors and their allies at UVM are not unreasonable, they are offering UVM the chance to do the bare minimum.

The Editorial Board of the Cynic reflects these demands and calls on UVM to meet the demands from survivors below.

  • We demand that UVM conduct an independent investigation into the UVM’s AAEO Title IX Office, including the Title IX Coordinator, Deputy IX Coordinator, Title IX Intake and Outreach Coordinator and all investigators to restore the UVM student body’s trust in the office.
  • We demand that the UVM administration hires between three to four more Campus Victims’ Advocates, to serve as confidential counselors to all undergraduate student survivors of sexual misconduct effective fall 2021.
  • We demand that UVM establish a Sexual Violence Response Team as a part of the University’s Student Health Services Department. The Sexual Violence Response Team must include five employees including a Director, an Assistant Director and three to four Campus Victims Advocates effective fall 2021.
  • We demand that UVM create a 24/7, 365 days-a-year hotline specifically for student survivors of sexual violence and harassment.
  • We demand that every counselor employed through CAPS undergo annual training on how to support survivors of sexual abuse, violence and harassment.
  • We demand that the Vice Provost for Student Affairs and UVM Title IX Director review every survey response given by UVM students in the Student Title IX Advisory Committee Survey created by Explain the Asterisk founder and committee member Sydney Ovitt, in order to effectively understand the University’s systemic failure to support survivors of sexual violence on our campus thus far.

Use the following link to see the original list of demands from the Student Title IX Advisory Committee, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wBthWhNeHEUThrR8J8udeyI0DEoQlYcuL0sCfLg29JM/edit

You can find more information about reporting your experiences to the Department of Education’s OCR complaint system here https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html.

Share your experience via this link https://www.explaintheasterisk.org/surveys.

The editorials written by the editorial board reflect the opinion of the board. Previously the Cynic published Staff Editorials. 

The editorial board is composed of 

Sawyer Loftus, Editor-in-Chief. 

Alek Fleury, Managing Editor. 

Kate Vanni, Assistant Managing Editor. 

Gabby Felitto, Opinion Editor.