The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

No one is allowed to complain about Vermont—except for me

No+one+is+allowed+to+complain+about+Vermont%E2%80%94except+for+me
Molly Parker

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but drinking Yerba Mate, wearing Carhartt and listening to Noah Kahan don’t make you a Vermonter. 

I’m from Richmond, Vermont. I’ve lived in this state for eight years, and while I truly do love it, I understand why many long-term Vermont residents, usually called Vermonters, would get away from here if given the chance.

I often witness out-of-state UVM students echoing the issues I know well, like “it’s boring,” and “there are too many homeless people,” all while wearing Vermont like a costume and having chosen to be here in the first place.

There is a serious disconnect between what people expect from Vermont and what the state actually is. 

Depictions of my state on TikTok and Instagram show a paradise of rolling hills and ski seasons, where all the maple syrup is real and everywhere you go is saturated with small-town charm. 

Those videos don’t show the rate of firearm homicides in Vermont, up 185% from 2021 to 2022, and seemingly on the rise, according to a Dec. 15, 2023 AP News article

Nor do they show the rate of heroin use among young people in the state, among the highest in the country, according to a Nov. 28, 2023 statement released by the VT Department of Health.

I often see videos panning over Church Street, quickly diverting from showing the homeless population attempting to keep warm during the brutal winters, all while UVM students obliviously walk past, bundled in their North Face puffers and Carhartt hats. 

Vermont has the second highest rate of homelessness in the United States, as well as a continued housing crisis, especially in the Burlington area. A significant reason for this is the yearly influx of UVM students needing to be housed, the number of which keeps rising, according to a March 7, 2023 WCAX article.

Knowing all this, imagine how it feels to watch those out-of-state UVM students, whose very presence contributes to the homelessness issue, complain about the number of homeless people in Vermont. 

It’s difficult to find actual Vermonters talking about their negative experiences online, and that’s partially our own fault. We are a famously private state—we’re extremely wary of any “flatlanders,” as we call them, and have spent decades working to keep outside influence at bay. 

We refuse to allow any billboards to block the horizon, a law established in the 1968 State Billboard Act, and we managed to go without a Target until 2018, according to an Oct. 23, 2018 Burlington Free Press article.

There is still another force at play, though. Our overly positive reputation is not entirely created by Vermonters, it has also been deliberately crafted by those whose interests lie in keeping Vermont profitable. These include the tourism industry and UVM itself. 

UVM has been asked several times to cap its growth until Burlington housing can catch up, to no avail, according to WCAX. Not only does this leave upperclassmen without affordable off-campus housing, but it also affects Burlington residents not associated with UVM. 

While out-of-state enrollment is a driving force in the housing crisis, I don’t blame the students for it. They were accepted, and that responsibility lies on UVM. The administration needs to take accountability for the negative impact their decisions are having.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to see a bit more understanding of the role out-of-state students play in the Burlington housing market before they go around judging it.

Ultimately, it isn’t your drink of choice, your participation in snow sports or your music choices that make you a Vermonter—the Vermont spirit is a lot more elusive than that. 

The nice thing about living somewhere rural and forgotten by the rest of the country is that we learn to rely on one another. We get our eggs from our neighbors and always pull over to help out a car stuck in the ditch.

Every day I notice out-of-state students getting closer to understanding what makes us who we are. I love Vermont for what it really is, and I’m happy to see others falling in love with it too. 

That is the first step to becoming a Vermonter.

 

 

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About the Contributor
Molly Parker, Illustrations Editor
(She/her) Molly Parker is a senior studio art and anthropology double major from Hopedale, Mass. She had been a member of the illustrations team since the spring of 2020 before becoming editor of the section in the spring of 2023. Molly also creates prints and zines that she displays in the Burlington area as well as her hometown. Apart from illustrating and creating art, she loves watching horror movies, cooking and crocheting. Email [email protected] to get in contact with Molly.