UVM Basketball Silences Social Media Comments After Sexual Assault Allegations

This Saturday morning, the University of Vermont men’s basketball team attempts to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, providing itself with a national platform in the weeks ahead. A win brings a significant boost of attention for the school from college basketball fans and media across the country, particularly on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. But, those looking to interact with the men’s basketball team’s social media platforms will notice that they can’t. This is because comments and replies have been disabled for several weeks. 

As part of the university’s response to a series of sexual assault allegations including multiple allegations involving players on the UVM Basketball team, resulting in contentious social media reactions regarding the university’s failure to protect survivors, the school deleted these comments from its pages and disabled all comments and replies.

These allegations are nothing new and span nearly two years. The Rake Vermont has compiled a timeline to provide the context of university and student actions in response to allegations against players on the UVM men’s basketball team. 

Content warning: discussions of sexual assault, sexual violence, and rape. 

🗓 April 2020: Seven women sue the NCAA, stating that their respective schools failed to protect them from male collegiate athletes, despite having an obligation to do so. In the filing, “Jane Doe 3” is noted as a swimmer at an America East institution, the league Vermont competes in for athletics. It details how Jane Doe 3 was misled by the athletic department and Title IX office officials throughout the reporting process, and how she feared retaliation if the player was suspended. 

🗓 September 2020: University of Vermont swimmer Kendall Ware comes forward as Jane Doe 3 to The Burlington Free Press. Ware states that the school mishandled the investigation after she filed a complaint with the school. Even though UVM officials stated that there would be consequences for her rapists via an “informal resolution”, Ware says UVM did not provide clarity around her choices and she was pressured into a path that resulted in no consequences for the perpetrator. This included conversations with Vermont Director of Athletics Jeff Schulman and Vermont Associate Athletic Directors Kathy Osmers Rahill and Krista Balogh. Ware states that Balogh told her a formal resolution, which would result in suspension, “wouldn’t be fair” to the team or “the community that comes out to watch him play.” 

🗓 October 2020: Other UVM women athletes speak up in support of Ware, stating that the school has a culture problem that values the men’s basketball team above other athletes and students and that women athletes no longer feel safe with Schulman and Balogh in roles of power within the department. Later that month, the department ignored student-athlete concerns and questions from UVM’s student-run newspaper The Vermont Cynic

🗓 November 2020: Vermont’s athletics department announces the creation of SheRoars, a gender inclusion and equality initiative which strives to “empower all women to stand up for themselves and others, while championing the recognition and celebration of all women leaders in sport, on and off the field.” It does not address Ware’s allegations. The initiative has been inactive since June 2021. 

🗓 April/May 2021: An Instagram account called “UVM Empowering Survivors” (@shareyourstoryuvm) is created. Survivors of sexual violence or abuse in the UVM community share their experiences. It includes multiple allegations against the UVM men’s basketball team and other sports in its first few days of posts. 

🗓 May 2021: Thousands of students march and protest UVM’s handling of sexual violence on campus as a whole. On May 7, UVM releases a statement via athletic director Schulman regarding the protests. Schulman also states there was no preferential treatment for athletes in sexual misconduct cases. This contradicts Ware’s account, as Krista Balogh told Ware and her mother a suspension of her rapist “wouldn’t be fair.” Seven days later, Schulman, through UVM’s spokesperson Enrique Corredera, responds to further questioning by The Burlington Free Press, after previously leaving repeated requests for further clarification on how the athletic department supports athletes who have been sexually assaulted unanswered. Schulman says the department offers general support and resources to athletes “on a broad range of issues.” It contradicts Ware, who previously stated Schulman told her she was wrong to assume her rapist accepted some responsibility for the situation.

🗓 October 2021: More allegations against the men’s basketball team and other UVM athletics teams are posted on the Instagram account @shareyourstoryuvm. At this point, there are over 10 allegations against the men’s basketball team members. 

🗓 February 2022: The UVM men’s basketball team wins the America East regular season title amidst continued allegations against recent players, and the team’s official Instagram account is flooded with comments regarding the allegations against the team and the school’s lack of response. In turn, the school turns off social media replies for Vermont’s men’s basketball Instagram and Twitter accounts, along with UVM Athletics and the university’s Instagram accounts. Together, the University and athletics department then publish a statement it would soon delete due to the overwhelmingly negative response it received, stating that social media comments and allegations are not helpful. UVM administrators then send an email to students, faculty and staff stating they regret their earlier statements. These official comments once again spur students to protest and renew calls for changes in how UVM handles reporting of sexual misconduct cases and for justice for those like Kendall Ware. This includes calling for the firing of Vermont men’s basketball head coach John Becker. Vermont has kept social media comments across men’s basketball platforms disabled since.

🗓 March 2022: USA TODAY publishes an article about Ware’s case and the role athletic departments play in Title IX investigations of sexual assault. In it, Schulman defends his department’s position to provide “personal support” while stating he does not believe there is a conflict of interest in having a senior athletic department official (Osmers Rahill) serve as a member of the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (AAEO). Legal experts cited in the piece disagree with Schulman’s assessment, noting it’s difficult to maintain neutrality in such roles. Ware, who still competes on the swim team, and a fellow UVM women’s athlete are quoted saying there has been little change within the athletic department. Schulman, in what has become his MO, also did not answer follow-up questions from USA TODAY about what specifically needs to change within the athletic department.

The  UVM Empowering Survivors Instagram account has over 400 survivor stories and counting.

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