Champlain Students Walk Out To Highlight Issues with Title IX on Campus

Over 30 students share their stories and present a list of demands for the college to take action.


Organizers Ava Warren and Alessia Hu on Champlain’s courtyard steps.

One-by-one, students climbed the Rozendaal Courtyard steps to share their stories of sexual violence. They were men and women and gender non-conforming, straight and LGBTQIA+. They inspired others to stand up and tell their stories. After each speaker, the crowd applauded.

The protest at Champlain College in Burlington stretched on for about three-and-a-half hours. Over 100 peers, staff, and faculty gathered throughout the courtyard, many of them skipping scheduled classes.

April was Sexual Assault Awareness month. An organization called Explain the Asterisk, originally created by a University of Vermont alumnus, named April 27 and 28 as days for Nationwide Walkouts Against Campus Sexual Violence. Since the era of #MeToo began, colleges across the nation have faced backlash for allegedly covering up instances of sexual assault and silencing survivors. 

Alessia Hu (‘24), a social work major, arranged Champlain’s walkout for April 28 after being involved with a UVM student-led campaign surrounding Title IX. UVM students hosted their walkout on April 27.

Hu enlisted another Champlain student, Raven Willow Duke (‘24), to create the poster for the walkout, attracting other students to get involved. This poster was hung around campus, put under doors, and posted on social media.

Ava Warren (December ‘22), another social work major, found out about the Walkout via Instagram. She helped Hu organize the event and became one of the main speakers at the Walkout.

Both in an interview with The Crossover and publicly in front of Champlain peers and faculty, Warren shared her own personal story regarding sexual misconduct with a UVM student. 

Warren said that last fall, she walked home from a Halloween party, alone. A male UVM student followed her into her apartment and raped her.

She went to Planned Parenthood the next morning. They told her that their next physician could see her on Monday. Next, she went to Urgent Care, whose staff helped her schedule an appointment at the UVM Medical Center. After waiting all day at the medical center, she received a rape kit. 

“I had two nurses and my incredible Hope Works advocate holding my hand while I was poked and prodded with needles and given shots and prophylaxis pills that I had to take for a month after this happened, that had terrible effects on my body,” Warren told the crowd of peers, faculty, and staff gathered before her.

After reaching out to Champlain’s Title IX office, she said she “received good support. I can’t say that I had a bad experience with Title IX. I can say that my rapist goes to UVM, so there wasn’t much that they could do in terms of taking care of my situation here.”

According to Warren, the only thing they could do was ban him from campus. 

Ava Warren hugs a friend in the crowd.

Warren also disclosed that she was supposed to graduate this May, but is instead graduating in December because of this incident.

“I never ended up getting any official accessibility help, and my grades are the worst they’ve been in my entire college career,” Warren said. “My brain is in an investigation right now. I shouldn’t have to be working with detectives during finals week.”

Upon arrival, students were asked to sign a petition supporting the list of demands. Tana Petrangelo (‘25), a social work major and one of the organizers, read the list of demands directed at Champlain’s Title IX office:

  1. Stop giving excuses for accused perpetrators; no circumstances whatsoever negate abusive behavior.
  2. Anyone with unresolved Title IXs should not be employed on campus.
  3. There needs to be more transparency about the Title IX process.
  4. Support group or affinity space that is welcoming to ALL survivors plus survivor-centered mental health support.
  5. The Vice President of Student Affairs needs to be voted on by students because this pertains to student safety and student life on campus.
  6. Our nurses in the health center need SANE training and certifications.
  7. Better safety planning – blue lights at 194, Boardman, walk safe program.
  8. Mandatory safe-sex education. Trauma-informed and interactive updated talk at orientation.
  9. Survivor-centered academic support.

Over the past few months, students have been expressing their frustrations with Title IX on social media. A post on an anonymous student-run Instagram page encouraged other students to begin sharing their stories. The post read: “Why does ch*mplain[sic] allow somebody with 10 Title IX’s to hold a position of power[?]”

In a previous story for The Crossover, Danelle Berube, Title IX coordinator and vice president of student affairs wrote in an email that “The Title IX Office is not aware of any scenario of ‘10 Title IX’ reports or violations.”

In a sit-down interview with The Crossover, the walkout organizers discussed Champlain’s methods of teaching people about consent and crossing boundaries.

“It’s the social cues around consent that a lot of people don’t get right, especially when you’re drinking, and maybe, like, experimenting with drugs, for the first time coming to college,” Petrangelo said. “Things are gonna get hazy, lines are gonna be blurred, and we just need to be clear about it.”

Champlain College is a dry campus, meaning consumption of alcohol or drugs is not allowed, even if a student is over the age of 21. 

“Substance use is like a coping thing for this sort of experience,” said Maiya Caterino (‘24), another organizer. “[Sexual abusers are] using these substances, not for themselves, but for their victims. They’re getting you drunk, they’re impairing your judgment, you know, and then they’re going for it right there.” 

Caterino added that because it’s a dry campus, Champlain students can feel as though they can’t get help.

“You can’t go talk to someone about this,” she said, expressing the response of some students, “because you’ll get in trouble if you do.”

Petrangelo also expressed the importance of teaching students about consenting in established relationships. Many of the sexual assault and misconduct stories focused on coercion in trusting relationships and learning about what that means after it happens.

According to RAINN’s Perpetrators of Sexual Violence Statistics, victims know their abuser in 80 percent of rape cases. In 33 percent of cases, rapes are carried out by the victim’s significant other.

DJ Miller tells their story while Sam Wilhoit holds a sign reading “Stop Silencing LGBTQ+ Voices.”

A student leader at the college, DJ Miller (‘22), enforced through their own story that sexual misconduct does not only happen in heterosexual settings and relationships, but is possible in any form of relationship. Miller was joined on stage with Sam Wilhoit (‘22), who held a sign reading “STOP SILENCING LGBTQ+ VOICES.”

In response to the walkout, Interim President Dave Finney released a statement to the Champlain community. 

“I recognize the leadership of our students in organizing this event, and the courage and bravery of the students who voiced their concerns and shared their stories,” Finney wrote.

He acknowledged the list of demands, saying that the Vice President of Student Affairs reached out to the organizers to ensure understanding of them.

“We want students to know that their voices are heard,” he wrote. “We are striving to turn what we learn into a plan for actions. We will communicate more about this as soon as possible.”

Finney noted that the college is working on revisiting college policies and “enhancing the communications, educational programming, resources, and support we provide to our students and community members.”

Title IX Coordinator Danelle Berube attended the event in its entirety. When The Crossover contacted her for an interview, she said she was only available to answer questions through email.

“Champlain students showed incredible strength, courage, and care for each other,” Berube wrote. “I wish the organizers had opted to meet with me or any member of the Title IX team prior to planning the event. I think the information we could have provided would have greatly assisted them in their efforts to advocate for meaningful change.”

Berube explained that the Title IX office is taking the organizers’ demands into consideration, and they have already been implementing new initiatives that will be in place in fall 2022. 

“The walkout underscored those needs, including increasing education and training, communicating differently about available resources, enhancing support for students, and making processes and policies easier to navigate,” Berube wrote. “The changes that we have been working towards go beyond what organizers are requesting.”