Is UVM doing enough to fight gender violence? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is UVM doing enough to fight gender violence?

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In December 2011, a survey question asking students who they would rape surfaced at UVM's Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. The university investigation into what happened took nearly a year and eventually cleared the frat, instead finding that it was one student who was responsible.

"People still think we are the rape survey fraternity," said Christian Matthews, a former member of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

Matthews says he was never involved and has spent the last 15 months speaking out against gender violence and making sure men have the resources they need to keep similar incidents from happening again.

"If we don't talk about these issues to begin with, then incidents like this will keep happening. We need to actually go to men and talk to them before these things happen," Matthews said.

Matthews wants UVM to open a men's center to helps students explore issues of masculinity and societal pressures like drinking and sexual aggression.

"The university doesn't seem to think that helping men and maybe focusing on men is the issue that we need to work on, they just completely deny that," he said.

Annie Stevens is UVM's vice president for student life. She says the university has made significant progress in tackling a number of recommendations from the Gender Based Sexual Violence Task Force in the wake of the fraternity troubles. UVM is fully funding a Rape Culture Conference this spring and has hired a full-time investigator to review allegations of discrimination and sexual violence. Stevens says UVM is not ignoring the needs of men or the suggestion for a men's center.

"Not at all, not at all, we're not sidelining it, we are wanting to do that well. And so the university is not speed lightning with decisions, but I think we have really gotten some great foundational work happening," Stevens said.

Stevens says recommendations for a credit-bearing class that has students engaged in topics of sexual misconduct and assault and a physical men's center are larger hurdles.

"I am hoping that that we will have a men's program that will do everything a center will do. I guess my difference is that a center has a roof, I don't know that we would have a sustained roof over our head at that point, but we are going to have the beginnings of a very solid program," Stevens said.

UVM Student Government President Connor Daley says he has been pleased with the progress and credits fraternities and sororities for taking action to address gender violence.

"They have done a number of social justice diversity workshops specifically targeting that type of culture," Daley said.

Matthews says he's found a silver lining from the mess that rocked campus and shut down the frat he once called home.

"One good thing that has come out of it is that I have been able to try to help men now and help the women on our campus, help our whole campus community," Matthews said.

But he's clear there's more work to do.

The campus conference on rape is scheduled for April 11.

WCAX News reached out to UVM's Women's Center a number of times this week for its take on how things are going here on campus, but had not yet heard back when this story was published.

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