Dodd, SGA cancel Vike-A-Thon due to misconduct allegations


Photo courtesy of Quentin Corpuel

Principal Robert Dodd and SGA members canceled Vike-A-Thon after they heard about allegations regarding misconduct at the event in prior years.

By Lily Freeman

Principal Robert Dodd and the SGA canceled this year’s Vike-A-Thon after students said they faced bullying, harassment and sexual assault at the event in prior years. Dodd said that recent reporting from The Black & White brought the claims to his attention.

“I was deeply concerned and upset when I read about students that were allegedly harmed,” Dodd said. “If one student was unsafe at one of our events, then I’m concerned. That weighs heavily on me.”

At Vike-A-Thon, an annual rave-style charity fundraiser, many Whitman students engaged in casual hookups with each other, according to Black & White reporting. These activities included “cycling,” which is hooking up with at least one student from each grade, and “pyramiding,” which is hooking up with four freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and a senior.

Vike-A-Thon previously took the form of “bRAVE,” a similar event that began in 2012 and ended in 2016.

In response to the allegations, Dodd said he plans to collaborate with MCPS officials to ensure that Whitman administrators adequately handle such incidents in the future. 

SGA co-sponsors Michele Traficante and Kathleen Bartels said the accounts of sexual assault surprised and disturbed them when they heard about them in recent days. The student government would never intentionally put students in dangerous situations, Bartels added.

“Nobody wants to hear that that’s going on anywhere, and certainly not at something that our name is behind,” Traficante said.

Student leadership wants to replace Vike-A-Thon with a safer fundraising event this year and in the future, but SGA members aren’t sure if that’s possible considering Vike-A-Thon’s legacy and format, said junior class officer Jack Mandell. He noted that the event “has already been reinvented,” in reference to bRAVE’s cancellation.

When she was a freshman at Vike-A-Thon, one current senior felt targeted when an older male student approached her. The male student chased the then-freshman around the dance floor, and without her consent, he started “doing inappropriate things” to her.

“Looking back on it, people were taking advantage of me because I was a freshman,” she said. “It just lets upperclassmen take advantage of excited little freshmen and sophomores who just want to kiss a boy or want a boy’s attention.”

At Vike-A-Thon in 2020, senior Fenna Oliphant-Linden witnessed a number of older male students approach some of his female friends and try to use them to “complete the cycle,” or hook up due to their younger age. 

“As a senior, I’m looking back on this and thinking, ‘how could these senior guys be interested in these sophomore girls?’” Oliphant-Linden said. “I think this issue has brought to light that it’s sort of embedded in the Whitman culture for there to be predatory seniors, which is so scary.”

To ensure he’s able to address inappropriate behavior in the future, Dodd said he wants to work with administrators and counselors to ensure students feel comfortable reporting misconduct.

Dodd said that the school will need to carefully consider how it can host safe events on school grounds.

“This has opened my eyes to how our students feel like they can interact at school events,” Dodd said. “Whether that’s increased supervision or increased education — I think all of those things are going to have to be addressed. It’s just going to take us some time to figure out how.”