Lawsuit: UVM Mishandled Rape Allegation Against Basketball Star Anthony Lamb | Education | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Lawsuit: UVM Mishandled Rape Allegation Against Basketball Star Anthony Lamb

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Published December 7, 2022 at 7:54 p.m.
Updated December 13, 2022 at 1:39 p.m.

Students march past graffiti criticizing UVM in 2021 - FILE: COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Students march past graffiti criticizing UVM in 2021
Updated on December 9, 2022.

Former University of Vermont men’s basketball star and current NBA player Anthony Lamb has been accused in a civil lawsuit of raping a fellow UVM student-athlete in 2019.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Burlington, accuses school officials of mishandling reports of sexual assault and interfering with due process for victims. It lays out in detail allegations that athletic director Jeff Schulman and other employees “steered” Lamb’s accuser, Kendall Ware, away from filing a formal complaint under the university’s Title IX procedures and misled her about the available remedies, as well as the potential consequences for Lamb.

Schulman personally met with Ware several times while the Title IX process played out, despite the fact that he had no role in adjudicating Title IX complaints. Ware, a member of the school’s swim team, “did not feel like Schulman expressed any concern about her assault, and he was clearly focused on not losing his prize asset Lamb,” the suit alleges.

Ware’s case is one of many in which UVM has failed to adequately respond to reports of sexual assault on campus, the complaint alleges. Ware is joined in the lawsuit by two other plaintiffs who also claim they were sexually assaulted in two separate incidents while they were UVM students.

Lamb’s agent did not respond to Seven Days’ request for comment on Wednesday evening. In a statement to SFGate on Thursday, Lamb denied that he assaulted Ware. “The allegations made against me in 2019 that have recently resurfaced are patently false," the statement says. "I have always been fully cooperative regarding the alleged incident, and have welcomed any investigation into the matter. Simply put, I have never committed sexual assault.”

The Warriors also issued a statement to SFGate on Thursday indicating that the team did not plan to take immediate action in light of the suit. "Prior to signing Anthony in September, we did our due diligence with the NBA and his prior teams, as we do with all players,” the statement reads. “If any new information comes to light, we will certainly evaluate it and act accordingly."

Seven Days does not typically identify alleged victims of sexual assault without their permission. The newspaper is naming Lamb’s alleged victim, Ware, because she has previously spoken publicly about the incident.
Golden State Warriors forward Anthony Lamb during a game on November 29 - AP PHOTO/TONY GUTIERREZ
  • AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
  • Golden State Warriors forward Anthony Lamb during a game on November 29
The lawsuit accuses UVM and several university officials of violating the three students’ constitutional right to equal protection, federal Title IX protections against discrimination on the basis of sex and the Vermont Public Accommodations Act, among other claims.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages. One of their attorneys, Karen Truszkowski, who works for a firm in Lansing, Mich., declined to comment.

In recent years, UVM students have staged protests about the university’s handling of sexual violence and maintained an Instagram account that circulates mostly-anonymous stories of sexual assault on campus. The wave of student activism prompted UVM to have a consultant review its policies and procedures around Title IX in 2021.

In a statement to Seven Days on Wednesday, a UVM spokesperson said university officials “were sorry to learn of the individual situations that each of these plaintiffs recounted and we want all survivors to know that they are heard, supported, and respected.” The statement continued: “We stand behind our strong procedures and protocols, and the support provided by the dedicated individuals who perform this work with the highest degree of professionalism, integrity, and care. Even though an independent review last year found that UVM met or exceeded all benchmarks around sexual misconduct response, we have implemented numerous changes to our protocols.”

Lamb, who signed with the NBA's Golden State Warriors in October, is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. Until the suit was filed, the only public allegation against Lamb was contained in an anonymous social media post from 2021 that claimed he had assaulted unnamed UVM students.

Shortly after the Warriors signed Lamb, general manager Bob Myers briefly addressed the allegation at a press conference. Myers noted that Lamb, a 24-year-old forward, had not been charged with a crime.

“We can only, at times, look at what the law has done and follow the leadership of the NBA,” Myers said. “If the NBA had said, ‘This is not something we would recommend or do,’ or, ‘There’s an ongoing investigation,’ we would not have moved forward.”

In a subsequent story, the San Francisco Chronicle cited an unnamed “league source” who claimed the NBA had investigated and “found nothing” that specifically implicated Lamb.

The civil complaint alleges that Lamb raped Ware at his house in September 2019 following a party with other members of the men’s basketball team. Ware and Lamb had dated earlier in the year but were no longer together, according to the complaint.

In 2020, Ware spoke to the Burlington Free Press about what happened and UVM’s response. But the newspaper did not identify Lamb as her assailant because, she told the newspaper at the time, she didn’t want the story “to become all about him.”

“At this point, I’m more upset and unhappy with how the school handled things,” Ware told the Free Press. The unnamed accused athlete, now identified as Lamb, declined to comment to the Free Press at the time.

Ware was one of seven women who sued the NCAA in federal court in Michigan in 2020, alleging the organization failed to protect them from sexual assaults by male college athletes at several schools. That lawsuit was subsequently withdrawn.

The new civil suit against UVM describes Ware as deeply distressed in the days after the assault. She contacted a suicide hotline and broke down crying during a weightlifting session with her swim teammates. The incident “ran on a constant loop in her mind,” but she “was terrified of reporting Lamb.”

“In such a small state, to many, Lamb was a bona fide celebrity both on and off campus. Ware was afraid of the repercussions of reporting him to the school authorities, let alone to the police,” the complaint states.

On October 15, 2019, a little more than a month after Lamb allegedly raped her, Ware requested a formal Title IX investigation through the university’s campus victim advocate. The same day, Ware told her coaches about her decision.

The complaint describes Ware’s account of what happened next. Ware’s coaches informed her that she would need to speak with Krista Balogh, the athletics department's associate athletic director for external relations and communication — even though, the complaint states, the university has no policy that would require Ware to do so. Ware met with Balogh and Schulman in Schulman’s office, “where she was again required to explain that she had been raped at a party and was filing a Title IX complaint.”

As she left the meeting, the complaint states, Ware saw UVM men’s basketball coach John Becker sitting in the waiting room.

Ware alleges the campus victim advocate had told her that she had two options: pursue a formal investigation or file a police report. Later that week, a Title IX investigator for UVM, Katherine Spence, told Ware she actually had a third option: an informal resolution process that would take less time but could not result in consequences for Lamb beyond mandatory counseling. Ware reiterated that she wanted to pursue the formal investigation, because she felt that was “the only way she could get what she sought: punishment proportionate to the wrong; justice for herself; and protection for fellow female students,” the complaint reads.

But school officials later tried to change Ware’s mind, and they gave her conflicting information about the possible outcomes of each resolution route.

In a conversation with Ware’s mother, Balogh, the athletic department employee, impressed upon her that the formal investigation would result in Lamb’s “immediate and indefinite suspension,” and that he would be banned from using the campus gym. Balogh added that such a punishment would be “unfair” to Lamb’s teammates.

Upon learning this, Ware grew anxious that the campus community would blame her for causing UVM’s star basketball player to miss games.

“This was apparently exactly the reaction Balogh wanted,” the complaint reads.

Torn between wanting tougher sanctions for Lamb and fearing that she would be ostracized for coming forward about her assault, Ware chose to stick with the informal proceedings.

Meanwhile, UVM continued to promote Lamb with a glowing athlete profile published on the university website, titled “Can, Will, Must.”

On November 19, with Lamb's senior basketball season under way, Ware and Lamb signed a resolution agreement that resolved the investigation “without making any finding as to whether he violated UVM Policy.” The written agreement stipulated that Lamb had to refrain from contacting Ware, using campus athletic facilities during certain hours and attending a UVM sports “celebration event.” He also had to complete a “healthy masculine identity program.” Eventually, Ware read a victim impact statement to Lamb over Zoom.

In early 2020, Ware met with Schulman, the athletic director, to explain her frustration with the process and the conflicting information she’d been given by UVM officials. During this exchange, the complaint alleges, Ware told Schulman that she felt the resolution agreement had proven that Lamb accepted responsibility for raping her. According to the complaint, Schulman told her: “You’re wrong.”

Around this time, UVM hung a poster in the campus gym that prominently featured Lamb, which Ware had to walk past whenever she used the fitness center. The poster still hangs there, according to the complaint.

Ware’s case has raised questions about why athletics department officials were involved at all. In a story about the case earlier this year, USA Today interviewed experts who described the arrangement as a “huge conflict of interest.”

Relationships between coaches, administrators and student athletes can be “very tight,” Schulman told the outlet, “but that’s not about trying to insert ourselves or sort of unduly influence the process in any way.”

On Wednesday, UVM spokesperson Enrique Corredera declined to say whether current university protocol allows UVM athletics staff to weigh in on aspects of the Title IX process in cases involving student-athletes. “We are otherwise not addressing questions that relate to specific allegations in the lawsuit,” he wrote in an email. The university did not make Schulman available for comment.

The other two plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege systemic failings in UVM’s responses to their reports of sexual assault. In March 2019, one plaintiff, then a first-year student at UVM, went to an off-campus party attended by members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. At the party, the plaintiff drank a small amount of  juice from a Gatorade cooler. Within minutes, she became incoherent and disoriented. At that point, the complaint alleges, a member of the frat approached her and began to forcibly kiss and grope her.

She remembered attempting to leave the party; another person who was present that night later told her that she’d fallen in the snow outside and had been too incapacitated to stand on her own.

The next morning, she awoke in her bed with her clothes and shoes on, “shaking violently, with a powerful headache, covered in bruises and caked in dirt, and feeling a distinct physical sensation that something had roughly touched her vagina the night prior,” the complaint reads.

The plaintiff, who believed she had been drugged at the party, did not tell university officials what happened to her until January 2020, after nearly a year of mental anguish that caused her to withdraw from the university. The UVM official in whom she confided, Joseph Russell, an assistant dean of students and a deputy Title IX coordinator at UVM, allegedly told her that he would alert the Title IX office and that someone would be in touch with her within the week. No one contacted her within the week, or for the remainder of the year.

The plaintiff later found out that the Title IX Office had learned of her assault and took no action.

In November 2020, a third plaintiff attended a party at her neighbor’s apartment, where she met a member of the UVM club tennis team. After drinking heavily, the two ended up at her place. At some point, she blacked out. When she regained consciousness, the club tennis player was having sex with her.

For months afterward, she struggled with intense depression and a fear of walking alone at night. Then, in April 2021, she saw an Instagram post by another UVM student about being raped by a fellow student. The post’s author reported that the university “conducted a flawed investigation,” according to the complaint, and had not found the assailant responsible. After reading the post, the complaint reads, the plaintiff realized that the same student had also raped her.

The plaintiff eventually detailed her experience in her own Instagram post. After that, the complaint states, Taryn Moran, UVM’s Title IX office intake and outreach coordinator, sent her an email with “boilerplate text” outlining the school’s policies and her options for reporting the assault. Citing the office’s previous response to a report about her alleged assailant, the plaintiff informed Moran that she was not interested in working with the Title IX Office.

“I'm sure you can understand my frustration over knowing that this could have been prevented if he had been found responsible and expelled the first time around,” she told Moran.

On October 29, 2021, the two plaintiffs spoke at a UVM Board of Trustees meeting about their experiences. Both “found the Board of Trustees apathetic and the presentation incredibly traumatic,” the complaint states.

As a result of UVM’s inadequate handling of these incidents, the complaint contends, Ware and the other two plaintiffs have suffered profound mental and physical distress that has interfered with their academic and personal lives.