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Kafka on Ice


Published December 8, 1999 at 1:00 a.m.

So here's where we stand on the UVM Hockey Pucks Hazing Scandal. Better sit down for this one, because it's positively a Kafkaesque example of a university's tortuous bureaucratic and totalitarian response to a potentially embarrassing situation.

The head honchos at the University of Vermont have concluded the investigation —they won't say by whom — of allegations of misconduct by members of the men's hockey team —they won't say what kind of misconduct and they won't name players — which concluded "team and departmental rules were violated" —but they won't say which rules. As a result, they say "sanctions" will be imposed — but they won't say what sort of sanctions and they also won't say against whom the sanctions have been levied.

There. That takes care of that. This hazing scandal case is now officially closed — closed tighter than a Budweiser frog's butt. But is it really over?

State representative and university trustee Doran Metzger told Seven Days he thinks the way UVM has handled the Hockey Pucks Hazing Scandal is "a disgrace." "I'd hoped they'd be as forthcoming as possible," he said. Perception is often reality, noted the 1997 graduate of Groovy UV, and in this case the perception of a cover-up is, unfortunately, widespread.

Metzger will likely learn more about the university’s little problem with the hockey pucks this weekend when the university’s board of trustees meets. Tom Gustafson, vice-president for university operations, told Seven Days, “We will give trustees information on a need-to-know basis.” Don’t plan on attending that potentially colorful part of the trustee pow-wow, because Gustafson assured us it will be handled behind closed doors in executive session.

Part of Metzger’s need-to-know stems from the fact he anticipates getting quite a few questions from colleagues when the legislature reconvenes on January 4. Metzger, the Republican Boy Wonder of Milton, has been a big supporter of increased state funding for Groovy UV. The university currently receives about $30 million annually out the state’s general fund.

You can buy a whole lot of ice skates for $30 million. In fact, Gov. Howard Brush Dean III wants to boost UVM’s state funding once again in the upcoming budget he’ll submit to the gang under the golden dome. As for the Hockey Sticks Misbehaving Scandal, Ho-Ho’s press secretary, Sweet Sue Allen, said, “The governor has not been briefed and doesn’t really have a comment on it at this point.”

What Ho-Ho don’t know can’t hurt him, right?

Republican State Senator and Essex County prosecutor Vince Illuzzi told Seven Days UVM should not "unilaterally" handle an investigation that may involve criminal acts. "It is incumbent upon UVM to notify the Burlington Police Department and the state's attorney's office to allow an independent review of the factual allegations." It's the right thing for UVM to do, he said, "not only as the state university, but also as a good neighbor." Such an investigation by outside agencies, said Illuzzi, may well conclude there was no misconduct "beyond the pale." Fine.

Then again, it may not. But at this point we may never know, and that's what irks many folks — the big, Kafkaesque cover-up.

Last week, you'll recall WCAX Sports Director J.J. Cioffi was willing to give Groovy UV the benefit of the doubt. Let's not jump to any conclusions, he cautioned. "You've got to have a little faith in UVM," said J.J.

This week Cioffi's faith is a bit shaken.

"I was disappointed they weren't more forth- coming" he said. "I haven't had one person come up to me and say UVM was right. Not one person's come up to me in defense of UVM."

Hockey Coach Mike Gilligan told the press that what the players did wasn't that "serious." According to whose standards?" asks J.J., and "How do we know?"

And the veteran sports broadcaster doesn't expect the story to go away soon. That's because the local press will have to "take attendance" at the remaining hockey games to see who is not dressed and therefore possibly being punished for off-ice misconduct. "We're not going to beat a dead horse," said Ciotti, "but it lingers."

In fact, inquiring minds from here to the Statehouse will want to know more about the Hockey Pucks Hazing Scandal of 1999. And they’ll want to know why UVM’s athletic elite gets treated like a special class of people — above reproach. Oh, this one will linger, kind of like a bad fart that just won’t leave the room.

Also on Campus — Plenty of concern and speculation these days among UVM staff over the pending university downsizing. According to the minutes of the recent staff council meeting, UVM is planning on a five-year, $25 million downsizing to increase pay and benefits for the remaining university employees. Look for the administration to push for “early retirement” and “incentive buy-out planning.”

Also, security concerns have prompted a call for university staff and faculty to wear ID badges. As it is, campus buildings are wide open to all comers, and purses and wallets have a way of disappearing.

Say It Ain't So? — Last week's news that multinational corporations have their sights set on gobbling up Ben & Jerry's has caused a few people to dig in their heels. Next Monday at noon, VPIRG is sponsoring a rally outside Ben & Jerry's shop in downtown Burlington. The rallying cry will be along the lines of "Let's Keep Ben & Jerry's out of the hands of the multinationals!" No word on free ice cream cones.

Also, in cyberspace, someone's launched a Web site at savebenjerry.com, CO rally opposition to a sale. The statement on the home page by an anonymous "Chubby Hubby" reads in part: "Unfortunately, today, gigantic multinational companies are trying to take advantage of Ben & Jerry's humble stock price. They want to skin the company alive and use its gentle lambskin brand identity to fool unsuspecting consumers into purchasing their soulless, profit-driven products.

These multinational capitalists think the Ben & Jerry's following is ignorant enough to thoughtlessly continue supporting this brand after it has been stripped of its meaning. Say it ain't so!

Vermont's Top Cop — If you blinked you might have missed it — the appointment of a new top cop to head up the Vermont State Police. Without much Fanfare, Public Safety Commissioner Jim Walton released a three-paragraph press release announcing the selection of Capt. Tom Powlovich as the new director. Powlovich (Pa-low- vitch) received a promotion to lieutenant colonel and has quietly taken over the reins. The strapping 6'4" redhead replaces Col. John Sinclair, who retired with a golden parachute courtesy of U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy — an appointment as Vermont's new U.S. Marshal.

In choosing Sinclair's successor, the Commish adopted an employee-friendly approach. He contacted the president of the state police union and requested names of up to three candidates the troops in the field would like to work under. According to the union president, Sgt. Bill Harkness, Capt. Powlovich and Capt. Kerry Sleeper “were overwhelmingly the top two names that our membership thought would be the best possible choices to lead our organization into the 21st century.”

Lt. Col. Powlovich is just 42. A Massachusetts native with Polish-Irish roots, he signed up with the Vermont State Police when he was just a wee lad of 20.

“It’s a new generation of leadership,” said Walton. “We’re losing the gray beards fast.”

And Powlovich, who resides in Jericho with his wife and three kids, does support the union’s call for 60 new positions. The Vermont State Police are stretched pretty thin, in case you haven’t noticed. That’s why folks speed like hell on the Interstate, ‘cause they know you have a better chance of seeing an emu than seeing a green patrol car.

Speaking of emus, the meaty feathered critter that tied up traffic on the Richmond flats last week was put down by a bullet from a trooper’s .40-cal sidearm. Captain Sleeper declined to reveal the name of the trooper who fired the shot. Hey, who knows, maybe the animal rights protestors who recently demonstrated against the deer hunt at Shelburne Farms might develop an affection for emus.

The origin of the Interstate Emu remains a mystery. Emu farmer Phyllis Higgins of Northfield told Seven Days that no birds are missing from the local flocks. There are about 25 emu farmers in Vermont. The Interstate Emu could have come from New Hampshire. Can’t blame him for leaving.

Emu farmer Pat Goodall of Holland pointed out it’d be a good idea if police and fish and wildlife officials had some training in handling emu. There’s a certain way to catch them, said Goodall. Short of opening fire, she said, police could have phone numbers of emu farmers to call for assistance. The prehistoric birds have been around for 80 million years. Way before interstates.

And note that Friday afternoon, 3:30 to 6, Higgins will be giving a demo on pepperoni sausage emu at the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpeculiar. No, not the Interstate Emu.

Speaking of Cops — What a nasty, bitchy editorial in The Burlington Free Press Monday, spitting all over Burlington’s Queen of Cops — Chief Alana Ennis. Jeezum crow. The Freeps tried to blame Ennis for just about everything wrong in Burlington, from heroin to student parties. Hello?

The editorial even took a dig at our Cop Queen for “moonlighting.” As if she had a side job as a belly dancer in Swanton.

Chief Ennis “moonlighted” by teaching a two-weekend course at UVM’s graduate school of public administration on “controversial issues in policing.” Shocking.

The fact is, so far Alana Ennis has lived up to her billing as a top-shelf police administrator. The troops remain impressed with her leadership style and savvy. You’ve got to wonder if the Freeps editorial board has a problem with a woman doing a man’s job, and doing it well.

Election 2000 — Stop the presses! Sources say Republican National Committeeman Skip Vallee is telling folks he’s planning a run for lieutenant governor. Skip told us this week, however, “no decision has been made.” Gasoline Vallee, a staunch Ruth Dwyer supporter, said his candidacy is “under active consideration.”

Also, sources say Dean’s former Commerce Secretary, Bill Shouldice IV is looking at the lite-gov race, too. As a Republican. Very interesting.

Domestic Violence Update — The local media was out in force Monday for the arraignment of Carl Sears. He’s charged with murdering his estranged wife Saturday morning in the K-Mart parking lot. But Sears wasn’t the only domestic violence case in court Monday. Five people were arrested over the weekend, but the Sears case is the only one that resulted in death. Of the five, three involved men who allegedly assaulted their present or former wives. One involved a Winooski man who allegedly punched his 17-year-old son in the face and ribs. And the other case involved a Burlington woman who, after returning from a night at the bars, punched out her live-in boyfriend. He had a laceration under his eye and a bloody lip when police arrived. All five pleaded not guilty and were released on conditions. Last year, over 350 cases of domestic assault were prosecuted in Chittenden County. Hey, it’s a jungle out there.

Media Notes — WCAX reporter Mark Bosma has made the move from the station’s Rutland bureau to Burlington. He’ll fill the vacancy created by the departure of Dave Vance last week. Mark’s a graduate of CVU and UVM and, like the new director of the state police, he’s a redhead.


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