Students crash welcoming
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 20:04
Protestors gave future students and their families a taste of UVM activism at two Admitted Students Days this April.
Tossed fliers rained on hundreds of prospective students and their parents April 16 when activists crashed a packed Ira Allen Chapel of an Admitted Students Day assembly.
Nearly a dozen students flowed single-file through a door at the front of the chapel to stage a “mic check” during President Bramley’s opening remarks.
A call-and-response statement lasting about two minutes captivated the audience and exposed many to a side of UVM they may not have been expecting.
Under fire during the demonstration was Bill Ruprecht, UVM Board of Trustees member and the CEO of Sotheby’s International, who received harsh criticism in recent months for his efforts to de-unionize employees of the one of the world’s largest auctioneers.
“Before you go in debt at one of the most expensive state universities in the country, demand that Bill Ruprecht settle up with his workers or step down from the Board of Trustees,” the student activists shouted.
“It’s like the ’60s,” Bramley said on the chapel’s sound system, failing to overpower the thunderous sound of a dozen unified voices.
Toward the end of the demonstration, a banner reading, “Ruprecht: Settle up or Step Down” was draped over the balcony, and informational brochures about the trustee were tossed from above.
The students joined together in a chant as they proceeded to an exit across the room. The crowd offered them an underwhelming round of applause.
“Workers rights, students rights: same struggle, same fight,” the students chanted in unison.
A video of the rally appeared on Youtube shortly after the event capturing the student’s entire performance.
At the Admitted Students Day held April 20, a troupe of students tried to gain access to the building for a similar demonstration, but was thwarted by admissions officers stationed at every point of entry.
Bramley beat the students to their punch line by informing the crowd about the controversy surrounding Ruprecht and letting them know that they would encounter the students as they left.
“You guys are fine outside, and President Bramley said it is noble what you are doing,” an admissions officer said to the students who congregated at the steps of the chapel.
A mother, who had stepped outside for a cigarette, engaged with the students in friendly discussion as they waited for the assembly to conclude.
“They just warned us about you,” she said. “At UVM, they are afraid of you? In my state — the state of Bernie Sanders?”
Bramley addressed the students directly as he left the assembly.
“People were scared last time,” he told them. “Don’t scare them — no one looks scary though. You all look good.”
One of the students, who refused to provide her name, said she was not enchanted by Bramley’s comments.
“It’s very infuriating to watch him walk by on his high horse,” she said.
As prospective students and their parents trickled out of the chapel, the students clutched their homemade posters denouncing Ruprecht and initiated a “mic check” that was out of sync and failed to capture the attention of many of the visitors.
Bramley still held the students’ resolve in high esteem.
“I’m actually proud of seeing that because free speech is what our country is built on and what a university needs to be built on,” he said. “And sometimes it’s irritating and uncomfortable, but at the same time that’s who we are.”
The students are not associated with any official organization, and instead said their common interests prompted them to band together.