BURLINGTON, Vt. — The outgoing president of the University of Vermont has apologized for the school’s involvement in eugenics research in the 1920s and 1930s that helped lead to sterilizations.
President Thomas Sullivan released a statement on Friday, calling it “unethical and regrettable.”
Last year the university decided to remove a former school president’s name from the school library because of his support of the Eugenics Survey of Vermont and its leader, a UVM professor.
Under the eugenics movement, some Vermonters of mixed French Canadian and Native American heritage, as well as poor, rural whites, were placed on a state-sanctioned list of “mental defectives” and degenerates and sent to state institutions. Some had surgery after Vermont in 1931 became one of more than two dozen states to pass a law allowing voluntary sterilizations for “human betterment.”
Sullivan, who became president in 2012 and is leaving to finish a book, said he believed it was appropriate to state unequivocally that “the Eugenics Survey of Vermont (1925-1936), supported by UVM on its campus, contributed to the stereotyping, persecution, and in some cases, state-sponsored sterilization of members of certain groups,” he wrote.
“We recognize and deeply regret this profoundly sad chapter in Vermont and UVM’s history,” Sullivan wrote.
Messages were left for two Abenaki chiefs.
UVM’s new president Suresh Garimella is expected to take office on July 1.
The Associated Press