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Get the Zamboni UVM Must Clean Ice! 

Inside Track

University of Vermont President Judith Ramaley’s blockbuster announcement Friday night canceling the remainder of the men’s ice hockey season — four months after hazing allegations were presented to UVM officials — was proof positive of the university’s commitment to protecting incompetent administrators at the expense of student dignity and safety.

Should heads roll?

Hockey Coach Mike Gilligan: This isn’t about his 16 years of faithful, talented service behind the bench — this is about the fact that he no longer has any credibility with his players either as a coach or as an educator.

Gilligan says he twice personally warned the team about hazing. And twice the team completely disregarded his warning. They simply did not take him seriously.

How does a coaching staff get so out of touch with the players? Gilligan and his assistant coaches apparently knew as much about the hockey team’s wild, outrageous, illegal behavior as the Sisters of Mercy — absolutely nothing! Hello? Anybody home?

Yes, the students are responsible for their actions. They have been punished. And some will be punished further, no doubt, by Vermont’s criminal justice system. Further sanctions will likely be brought by UVM from the few hockey pucks that stick around in the post-Elephant Walk Era. Under UVM’s student code of conduct, lying during a university investigation merits expulsion. Some will likely have to return to face criminal charges for furnishing alcohol to minors, and perhaps even lewd and lascivious conduct, a felony.

But the fact remains, what Coach Gilligan told “the kids” went in one ear and out the other. The players’ disrespect for the coach is obvious. Gilligan must go, not next year or in a couple years, but right now.

Athletic Director Rick Farnham: Mr. Farnham is Gilligan’s boss. It was Farnham who had the responsibility for investigating the hazing allegations raised by former freshman goalie Corey LaTulippe. Farnham issued a memo to athletic department staff, coaches and student-athletes declaring a “zero-based tolerance” policy on hazing.

But when asked to define “zero tolerance” at a press conference two weeks ago, Farnham stumbled badly. He talked the talk on hazing, but didn’t walk the walk.

Farnham was responsible for the first investigation of hazing on the hockey team. An investigation is supposed to ascertain the truth. Farnham’s investigation failed miserably. He was unable to get the pucks to tell the truth. Farnham could have put the genie back in the bottle in September before LaTulippe filed his lawsuit. He didn’t. He blew it.

Farnham must go!

Vice-President for Student Affairs Dean Batt: Administrator Batt made the crucial decision not to apply the UVM student judicial code to the outrageous conduct of the hockey pucks. He claims it was because the hazing activities occurred off-campus.

That was an absolute cop-out and an attempt to cover up the scandal and diminish its serious nature.

To suggest that the violations of the UVM Hazing Policy occurred on one night at an off-campus apartment is ludicrous. As the referee in the chain of command, he made a big-time wrong call at a critical moment in this game.

Vice President Dean Batt must go!

President Judith Ramaley: Vermont’s state university needs a president who sets an effective leadership tone. Unfortunately, the current president needs to be educated in the area of hazing. When the head of the UVM police force inquired of the administration about reports of the hockey hazing, the administration gave him the brush-off. That is inexcusable.

President Ramaley must go!

Nobody died this year on the men’s hockey team from hazing. But around the country students have been dying. Just a few years ago, it happened at UVM.

In November 1992, a UVM fraternity led its freshman pledges down to Rock Point one November night. They built a bonfire and they got drunk. One, Jonathan McNamara, didn’t make it back to school that night.

As his father, Robert McNamara, a former teacher at Vergennes Union High School, later put it to a legislative committee, “They were putting out the bonfire. Jon slipped and fell off the cliff onto the rocks 80 feet below. It took over an hour for medical attention to reach him due to the remoteness of the spot. He was later pronounced dead at the Medical Center; the same hospital that brought him into the world wrote his final epitaph on his death certificate. Death caused by extreme trauma to the head and thorax region. The next day the Free Press reported that the fraternity said that hazing was not a factor in my son’s death.”

Was it hazing?

You bet it was, said McNamara. The alcohol abuse, the location. Putting freshmen at such risk on a cliffside on a dark November night? You bet it was hazing, that moronic and sometimes fatal rite of passage that infects student culture.

Does Vermont need a hazing law?

You bet it does. That’s because a law, said Mr. McNamara, “lets groups, organizations, clubs and fraternities know that there are certain things that you cannot do to people. It eradicates the notion that hazing is OK and a part of student life.”

And a law will let UVM’s presidents, vice-presidents, athletic directors and coaches of the future know, too. Because so far, the powers that be at Groovy UV just haven’t gotten the message.

Nobody died this year on the UVM men’s hockey team. We’re lucky, actually. UVM can still prevent the next hazing scandal.

Now it’s time for the Zamboni to do a clean sweep of the people in power who’ve allowed this ugly incident to forever stain the Gutterson ice. Vermont is in the national spotlight now on the issue of hazing. How the UVM trustees handle this will define the message Vermont sends to the nation.

Blame PollinaAnthony Pollina, a Statehouse regular, walks the hallways on behalf of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. (VPIRG). Dubbed “Cochise” by one wag back in the days of his black shoulder-length hair, Anthony, 46, has certainly been around the Vermont political scene for quite a long time, a persistent and faithful soldier of the Vermont Left.

As you know, the Vermont Left was once synonymous with the Vermont Democratic Party — the party of Phil Hoff, Madeleine Kunin and Patrick Leahy! The party that wore its civil rights and its women’s rights and its gay rights and its peace and justice allegiance on its sleeve. But things change.

For the last decade, the Age of Dean, the Left in the party had to share space with the Howard Dean Democrats, the so-called Blue Dogs. Landslide Dean quickly led the Vermont Democratic Party to the middle of the road. Yesterday’s “big spenders on social programs” are today’s “fiscal conservatives.” Miracles never cease.

But the miracle didn’t happen overnight. A crucial moment occurred 14 years ago that opened the door for the whole Age of Dean to happen. And Anthony Pollina was a key player.

In 1984, Pollina was the Democrat candidate for the U.S. House. Jim Jeffords was the incumbent. It was three years after the Sanderista Revolution in Burlington. The Left felt it was on the way up and moving forward, at least in the Green Mountains.

Pollina, of Middlesex, was an intelligent, soft-spoken and articulate candidate. But he said crazy things like, as Vermont’s congressman, he would not support a first-strike nuclear attack on the former Soviet Union. Peacenik!

Jeezum Jim portrayed St. Anti-War Anthony as a whacko-left-wing extremist, ignored him, and won in a huge landslide. Pollina got just 27 percent.

In January 1986, Pollina got together with the House Democratic Whip, Howard Dean, over something healthy and nourishing down at The Horn of the Moon Cafe. Since Anthony carried the party’s banner statewide in ‘84, Ho-Ho treated him with respect. So Dean told him he had bought a new home on the south side of Burlap. He couldn’t run for reelection in his Old North End district. (Progressive Rep. Terry Bouricius currently holds that seat. Thanks, Howie!)

Dr. Dean told Pollina he was thinking statewide, and he would certainly defer to Anthony if Anthony had designs on the best available shot — lieutenant governor. Republican Peter Smith held the post.

Pollina told Ho-Ho, who wasn’t even called Ho-Ho back then, he wasn’t interested.

Needless to say, it made Ho-Ho’s day.

Then, wouldn’t you know, a week later Smith announced he wouldn’t seek reelection. Instead, he ran for governor against Madeleine Kunin. Dean, straight-shooter that he is, ran into Anthony in the Statehouse and inquired if he wanted to change his mind in light of Smith’s decision.

Pollina said no. The rest is history. Howard Dean ran for lieutenant governor that year and defeated Republican Susan Auld.

Vermont voters haven’t been able to get rid of him since. As governor since 1991, Ho-Ho has never won a statewide election by less than a 15-point cushion. Such a charmer.

However, that could change. You see, Mr. Pollina tells Seven Days he is now “seriously considering” seeking the new Progressive Party nomination for governor.

Of the three Progressives currently in the running, Pollina is by far the best known and the most experienced politically. Richard Kemp of Burlington and Elizabeth Skarie of Williston are the other two. Either ring a bell?

Just imagine a three-way race between Dean, Republican Ruth Dwyer and Progressive Pollina? One of three publicly supports gay marriage. Can you guess which one?

The Vermont Left would have the opportunity to choose someone other than Howard Dean, again, and in the process shrink Dean’s popular vote to under 50 percent. That would toss the gubernatorial race into the legislature — a secret ballot. Anything might happen.


“Common Humanity” Update — The Religious Right finally showed up at the Statehouse Friday. Randall Terry, founder of the radical anti-abortion group, Operation Rescue, dropped into the House Judiciary Committee to oppose gay marriage legislation. Terry, of Binghamton, New York, was escorted by Rep. Nancy Sheltra of Derby. He wasn’t scheduled to testify, but introduced himself to committee members during a recess. Yours truly also caught an informal colloquy between Mr. Terry and Rep. Mike Vinton of Colchester, a retired state police lieutenant and proud member of the House Blue Dogs.

“Why should you,” asked Vinton, “why should the churches be able to come into this building and say we don’t accept [the supreme court decision on gay marriage]? You don’t have to accept it, but why do you have to come here and tell us you don’t accept it?”

Terry answered that the Vermont decision “cuts to the core of who makes the law.”

“The people make the law,” replied Vinton.

“No,” responded Terry, “God makes the law.”

“That’s what religious fanatics say,” answered Vinton, “but they don’t make the law,” he insisted.

Chairman Tom Little told us he’d prefer to hear from Vermonters, since “this is legislation for Vermont and by Vermont.”

Terry told Seven Days he was there because “Any contract that’s held here will have to be honored in other states because of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. Your Vermont contracts are valid in New York. Our New York contracts are valid in Vermont, so this will affect not only Vermonters but every single state in the union.”


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About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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