Crime and Justice

Lawsuit claims UVM protected star basketball player after he raped a fellow student

An 80-page lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Burlington says the university mishandled a student’s sexual assault report against NBA player Anthony Lamb, who played at the time for the UVM men’s basketball team. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

A former University of Vermont athlete has filed a lawsuit accusing the school of mishandling her case after she reported that the now-NBA player Anthony Lamb raped her in 2019 when they were both students at the school.

Lamb was a star on the UVM men’s basketball team at the time. 

The 80-page federal lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Burlington names the university, its board of trustees, school officials and employees — including Jeff Schulman, the college’s athletic director — as defendants.

Lamb, who is a forward on the Golden State Warriors, is not listed as a defendant and has not been charged with a crime.

VTDigger does not typically name alleged victims of sexual assault and was unable to reach the plaintiff for comment Thursday. The former undergraduate student is bringing the case along with two others who allege in the filing that they were also raped while they were students at the school and that their complaints were mishandled.

The lawsuit states that the defendants’ “deliberate indifference to student-on-student harassment, sexual assault, and drugging created a discriminatory and sexually hostile environment in which female students faced a heightened risk of sexual assault and, once assaulted, lacked any meaningful avenue of redress.”

Seven Days first reported the lawsuit Wednesday night.

The student told her story publicly in 2020 to the Burlington Free Press, though she didn’t name Lamb in that article. In the lawsuit filed this week, lawyers allege that Schulman and others “steered” her away from seeking a formal complaint. 

“Defendants engaged in a pattern and practice designed to discourage and dissuade students who had been sexually assaulted and/or harassed from seeking assistance and protection,” the lawsuit states. “This was especially true if the perpetrator was a student-athlete.”

The student, it says, “did not feel like Schulman expressed any concern about her assault, and he was clearly focused on not losing his prize asset Lamb.”

Enrique Corredera, a spokesperson for the university, emailed a statement in response to VTDigger’s request to speak with university officials about the lawsuit. The school declined to make Schulman or an official in the Title IX office available for comment.

Title IX is a federal law that protects people from sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, such as colleges.

“We 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,” Corredera said in the statement. “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.” 

He added, “Meeting Title IX requirements is a given, but we strive to provide more for UVM students as part of our unwavering commitment to a safe and healthy campus.”

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages on behalf of the three plaintiffs. It alleges constitutional and Title IX violations by the college and the other defendants.

‘She had no choice’

Per the lawsuit, Lamb raped the female student at a party with the men’s basketball team at his house in September 2019. The two had previously dated for about six months, it says, though the student later came to view their relationship as abusive. 

The student was at first “terrified of reporting Lamb,” the lawsuit says, because he “was a bona fide celebrity both on and off campus.” 

The following month, the student went to Judy Rickstad, the campus victim’s advocate, to tell her she had been raped by Lamb, per court documents. Later that month, she asked Rickstad to pursue a formal investigation against Lamb. The allegations were then reported to UVM’s Title IX office.

That same day, the student met with her coaches to tell them she had been assaulted and would pursue a formal reporting process. Per the lawsuit, her coaches told her she needed to discuss the incident with Krista Balogh, the athletics department's associate athletic director for external relations and communications.

However, the students’ lawyers state, “on information and belief, there is no UVM policy or mandated reporting law that required a survivor to tell the Athletics Department Communications Director about their rape.” 

Corredera, the UVM spokesperson, declined to answer additional questions about the university’s Title IX procedures.

The student was brought to Balogh’s office and told to recount the alleged rape to Balogh, and then taken to Schulman’s office where she was asked to do so again, the lawsuit states. 

As she left the athletic department office, the student saw the UVM men’s basketball coach, John Becker, sitting in the waiting room. 

Court documents allege that the student subsequently received conflicting information from school officials about her options for moving forward with the investigation, and what consequences Lamb would face as a result. Katherine Spence, a Title IX investigator, told the student she could pursue an “informal resolution” process, which would take less time and result in “minimal consequences” for Lamb if he was found responsible, according to the lawsuit.  

But after the student reiterated to officials she wanted to pursue a formal process — in part because she wanted Lamb to face more serious consequences for raping her — she got follow-up messages from Spence urging her to reconsider her decision. 

“Spence outlined the potential pitfalls of the Formal Process, including severe sanctioning for Lamb that would ‘impact his ability to play basketball and/or remain at UVM, either temporarily or permanently,’” the student’s lawyers wrote. “It was then that (she) began to feel the school was pressuring her to change her mind.”

The next day, the student had another meeting with administrators during which Balogh and UVM's Title IX office intake and outreach coordinator, Taryn Moran, told the student that an informal resolution process could in fact result in “meaningful consequences” for Lamb, including game suspensions. 

As a result, the student dropped her previous request for a formal investigation in favor of an informal process, according to the lawsuit.

UVM went on to bring in a “consultant attorney” to serve as an impartial mediator in the investigation. But, the court documents state, when the student again recounted her accusations to the attorney, he expressed surprise, saying the informal process could not result in the consequences for Lamb that school administrators had outlined.

The student’s mother called the university to complain about how her daughter’s situation had been handled, according to the lawsuit, and Balogh told her that if Lamb were suspended, it would “have a negative impact on the community,” which was looking forward to seeing him play, and would be “unfair” to Lamb's teammates.

Concerned about the social consequences she could face on campus if she was responsible for Lamb not being able to play basketball, the student chose to continue with the informal process. 

Court documents go on to describe a “two-week pressure campaign” by Balogh, Schulman and other school officials to make sure the student remained committed to an informal resolution process. In mid-November 2019, “feeling like she had no choice,” the student signed a “resolution agreement” in writing, per the lawsuit. Lamb also signed the agreement. 

In the agreement, the lawsuit states, Lamb was prohibited from contacting the student, using athletic facilities “for certain limited hours” and attending some events, including a “UVM sports celebration.” He was also required to complete a “healthy masculine identity program.”

The agreement “allowed him to escape any meaningful consequences for his actions,” the court filing claims, adding that UVM gave Lamb multiple awards at the celebration he was barred from. 

The student ultimately was allowed to give a statement to Lamb over video in January 2020, in which she said that the rape negatively impacted her mental health, including continued effects of trauma. She also addressed feeling pressure to choose the informal process, telling Lamb that UVM “play(ed) a tug-of-war game with my emotions and decisions, pulling me towards the way that protected their best interest: you,” according to the lawsuit.

Minutes after hanging up the video call while at the Title IX office, court documents state, Balogh told the student that her sports team “‘wouldn't be at UVM’ without UVM's basketball team, implying that (she) should be grateful for everything Lamb and his team had done for her and her team.”

Several days later, the student got word from a friend that UVM had published an advertisement featuring a picture of Lamb with the phrase, “lead by example.” It aired on televisions throughout campus and the homepage of the student portal.

The student and others asked UVM to take the advertisement down, but Balogh allegedly said that “given the process chosen,” she couldn’t do anything about it. UVM also placed a poster featuring Lamb in the school’s gym, court documents say, and the student still has to walk by it whenever she uses the facilities, as recently as this week.

The student also met with Schulman in early 2020 about the episode, the lawsuit states. She told him she believed the informal resolution proved that Lamb had accepted responsibility for raping her, and the athletic director’s response, it says, was blunt. 

“You’re wrong,” he allegedly told her. 

Lamb was drafted to play for the Golden State Warriors this fall, and the team has said it was aware there were allegations of sexual misconduct against Lamb when it signed him. The team’s general manager, Bob Myers, told reporters at the time that he wasn’t aware of any criminal charges filed against Lamb, and said that, “we can only, at times, look at what the law has done and also follow the leadership of the NBA.”

“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,” Myers said.

The agency that represents Lamb did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Two other plaintiffs named in the lawsuit also allege UVM failed to properly handle their own complaints. One of the plaintiffs said she was raped in her dorm room as a first-year student after attending a party at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity in March 2019.

She went on to develop severe anxiety and depression, the suit states, and took a leave of absence from the university. About a year later, she emailed Joseph Russell, UVM’s assistant dean of students for retention and a deputy Title IX coordinator, who said he would pass her information along to the university’s Title IX office that week. But the plaintiff never heard back from that office for the rest of 2020, the lawsuit states.

After posting about the incident and the school’s lack of response on her personal Instagram account the following year, the plaintiff heard back from Moran, who sent “a boilerplate email summarizing UVM's Title IX procedure,” the lawsuit states. 

The second plaintiff received a near-identical email from Moran after also posting about her own experience on Instagram, according to the lawsuit. That plaintiff alleges she was raped at a party in November 2020 by a member of the club tennis team. 

She went on to withdraw from her master’s program in August 2021. She later emailed two professors she knew closely — who were both aware she had raised concerns with the university’s handling of sexual assault cases — seeking help with her job search, but never heard back from them. The lawsuit states that this amounts to retaliation by the university against the student.

Last October, both plaintiffs gave “incredibly traumatic” presentations at a UVM Board of Trustees meeting about their rape experiences, according to the lawsuit, and found the board to be “apathetic.”

The lawsuit accuses UVM of failing to promptly investigate accused assailants, turning “a blind eye” to organizations that hold social events that are dangerous environments for female students and mishandling the cases of sexual assault survivors.

“This has created a culture on campus where students are left to fend for themselves,” it states. “Students did not and do not trust the Title IX Office for good reason.”

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Shaun Robinson

About Shaun

Shaun Robinson is a Report for America corps member with a special focus on issues of importance to Franklin and Grand Isle counties. He is a journalism graduate of Boston University, with a minor in political science. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Cape Cod Times.

Email: srobinson@vtdigger.org

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