Athletes “embarrassed” about recent sexual misconduct cases ensured that the University of Vermont name wasn’t prominent during last weekend’s New England track and field championships.
The Burlington Free Press reported that about 25 Catamounts used black tape to cover up the word “Vermont” on their team uniforms and sweatshirts.
"The past four years we’ve been told we are competing for the university and their values," senior hurdler Cameron McLaughlin told the Free Press Monday. "Yet we’re not sharing the same values if we are against all these things and they are doing nothing to change them.
"We decided to do it at New Englands to get the word out and raise attention to how terrible a job UVM athletics and the administration has been doing."
The protest stems from an on-campus push for the university in Burlington to change how it handles sexual assault cases. A May 3 walkout was the result of a social media movement that saw Vermont students share their experiences with sexual violence.
Among the student demands that the university reportedly agreed to were that Vermont sports teams must attend sexual violence, harassment or healthy relationship training at least once per semester.
Vermont director of athletics Jeff Schulman released a statement four days after the walkout, saying in part that, “Over the past week, there have been many important conversations and much self-reflection among a highly motivated group of UVM student-athletes, coaches, staff and administrators who stand in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. We are committed to ensuring a UVM Athletics community in which all feel safe, valued, respected and that is free of sexual misconduct in any form. Each of us has an important role to play in promoting societal shift and dismantling the systems and structures that can lead to sexual assault.
“Sexual misconduct in any form is unacceptable and is not tolerated by the UVM Athletic Department. Our policies and expectations are clear, and they are communicated regularly through University policy, the Athletics Code of Conduct and a variety of training and educational programs. At no time is athletic status, gender, or sport a factor in determining responsibility or an appropriate sanction. The Athletic Department has treated, and will continue to treat, every allegation with the utmost of seriousness.”
The statement wasn’t enough for the Vermont track athletes who participated in the uniform protest.
"It seems like (Schulman's) saying it to put a Band-Aid on it and not really fixing the problem," said Vermont sprinter Sonia John, who wore a teal ribbon on her arm during competition to raise sexual abuse awareness. "(Schulman's) the head of the department and he’s let things go already. What are you going to do different now?"
"I’d like to see our athletic department take an initiative to support survivors instead of only responding to demands after months of people being frustrated," pole vaulter Sofia Wittmann added. "I am glad they responded well to student demands but the environment needs to change as well.
"Just holding a seminar that they were asked to hold isn’t going to change the team cultures and environment that the athletic department has created."