Letter to the editor: UVM’s violence culture exposed


Dear editor,

“If you could rape someone, who would it be?” That was the question which appeared on a survey circulated by members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity at the University of Vermont recently, which went viral on the Internet.

UVM has once again lived up to its reputation as a place where wealthy kids from the northeast, who can’t get into Ivy League schools, can come play in the snow for four years.

But why was this a surprise to anyone familiar with UVM’s culture of violence, which dates back at least 20 years? 

Who could ever forget the 1999 “elephant walk” in which freshman members of the ice hockey team were forced to wear women’s underwear, drink warm beer and liquor until they vomited and parade around like circus elephants holding each other’s genitals?

Back in the early ‘90s, alcohol was a contributing factor in the deaths of four UVM students in five years. For all too many UVM students their motto is: “You can’t believe how drunk I got last night.” 

More recently, four officers of another UVM fraternity were charged with violating the state’s new hazing law enacted after the 1999 UVM ice hockey scandal. 

UVM’s affinity for violence was reaffirmed by the announcement that it had entered into a partnership with the U.S. government-owned Sandia National Laboratories, known best for the fact that it designs, builds and tests nuclear weapons.

Although Sandia’s research at UVM will not involve weapons of mass destruction, no one seems to care whether UVM is being used by Sandia to help legitimize its real business, instruments of death. UVM will receive $9 million from Sandia. Money still speaks. 

Like most universities in the U.S., UVM has an active ROTC program whose aim is to train professional killers to support the American empire’s policy of full spectrum dominance. Many ROTC students have four-year scholarships. 

Upon graduation, they agree to go anywhere in the world to which they are assigned by Uncle Sam to kill the name of the State. Ironically, UVM also has a premier medical school committed to saving lives rather then destroying them.

And then there is the case of Maj. Gen. Michael Dubie, head of the Vermont National Guard. For his role in sending young Vermonters to faraway places such as Afghanistan and Iraq to kill or be killed on behalf of the empire, Gen. Dubie was awarded an honorary UVM doctorate degree by the Board of Trustees.

The most exasperating aspect of UVM’s culture of violence is the indifference expressed toward it by the UVM Board of Trustees, administration, faculty and students. 

Neither Dubie’s honorary degree nor the Sandia Corporation were ever discussed by the UVM Faculty Senate. At most reputable universities, honorary degress have to be approved by the faculty’s governing body. Not so at UVM.

The real issue facing UVM is not the Sigma Phi Epsilon rape survey question, but rather, how many unreported rapes have there been at UVM over the past 20 years as a result of the University’s benign neglect of its culture of violence?



Thomas H. Naylor

Dec. 26, 2011