Some names have been changed due to privacy concerns.
Sophomore Avery Kendall abruptly left the BBCollaborate meeting during his spring semester UW-Madison physics discussion when he overheard a classmate mention that her roommate, Heidi, had graduated from Cambridge High School.
Kendall’s classmate was confused and brought it up to her roommate in passing. Heidi then warned her roommate to be wary of Kendall and stated that she would personally rather fail the class than be his lab partner.
“I would [have] advised [the TA] not to make any other girls his lab partner for their safety," she reflected.
Heidi had a good reason for her concern.
In 2019, during Kendall’s senior year at CHS, he videotaped two classmates undressing to “full nudity” without their knowledge or consent. Everyone involved was under eighteen at the time.
According to Wisconsin Circuit Court Records, Kendall pled guilty to two Class-A Misdemeanors on charges of invasion of privacy via use of a surveillance device. He was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and two years of probation, forbidden to contact either of the women he recorded. That probation ended on March 19, 2021.
Sexual assault survivors and CHS graduates reported finding UW-Madison’s treatment of the case alarming; they feel that the university prioritized profits over student safety by failing to warn students of the possible risks posed by students with a history of sexual misconduct on campus. They cited a lack of transparency, stating that Kendall’s case is just another example of a dangerous pattern that perpetuates rape culture and actively endangers vulnerable students.
Multiple classmates knew Kendall planned on attending Purdue University after graduating from CHS, and they felt compelled to alert Purdue’s admissions office to Kendall’s convictions. He was “not a current nor admitted student” after Grace, a 2015 graduate of CHS, sent two emails with articles detailing the criminal case. Grace emailed UW-Madison admissions, housing and financial aid departments the same information multiple times and never received a response.
Kendall is currently an engineering student at UW-Madison; he participates in campus activities and is a member of the waterskiing team.
Peyton, a CHS graduate and UW-Madison freshman, recalled feeling her worldview permanently shift when a detective informed her that authorities had found the nude videos of her on Kendall’s phone.
“I was like, ‘Holy shit. I can't believe this.’ [He was] one of [my] friends, this is just disgusting. I was just overwhelmed right away. Kind of like [I was] in shock,” Peyton said.
Cambridge High School encouraged Peyton to stay quiet about what had happened to protect the school’s reputation. She stated that Kendall was allowed to finish his senior year from home, only stepping on school grounds before and after school to get class materials. CHS banned Kendall from partaking in any school concerts, but allowed him to come back to see a play and offered to let him walk at graduation, according to Peyton. She felt unsafe and dismissed by CHS’s response, and that almost held her back from attending her dream college: UW-Madison.
“At first I was not sure if I even wanted to come here, but I was the one who liked it,” Peyton said. “I thought ‘you know what? Madison is my school; I need to go there. I can't be afraid.’ I believe I'm stronger than him. I believe he’s pathetic, and thank God I do.”
Peyton saw Kendall playing spikeball on the lawn in front of Gordon’s Dining Hall on one of her first days on campus and immediately removed herself from her new group of friends. Peyton stated that they expressed concern because she “looked like she had seen a ghost.”
To avoid another encounter with Kendall, Peyton reached out to the Title IX Office which offered to help rearrange her schedule while leaving Kendall's intact, and Peyton felt that this placed the burden on her and made her feel like “the problem.”
Meredith McGlone, UW-Madison spokeswoman, stated that if UW-Madison’s Title IX Office is notified, they will “typically reach out to offer any appropriate supportive and protective measures,” such as a no-contact directive. She encourages students to reach out to Title IX with questions or concerns, because the University is not aware of “all such cases” that exist on campus.
However, UW-Madison does not ask students to disclose criminal history or school disciplinary history, following suit with the Common Application decision to omit questions related to a criminal record.
“We need to work harder to fix this,” Peyton said. “I'm opening up so that people know that this happens to people, but [they] aren't alone in this.”
Grace highlighted what she calls hypocrisy within UW’s decision to admit and enroll Kendall while aware of his convictions, considering past statements they’ve put out about preventing sexual assault.
“We remain committed to preventing sexual misconduct, supporting survivors and investigating complaints in a timely, impartial manner that respects the due process rights of all involved,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote in a University-wide email sent in May of 2020, concerning changes to Title IX.
“I’m warning you directly that if you want to protect your students, this is a student who’s capable of causing material harm and there’s a legal record proving it,” Grace said of how she communicated with the University. “They were just like, ‘Fuck you. We don’t care.’”
This isn’t the only situation where UW-Madison has been put under scrutiny for how they handle sexual assault cases and prevention. In 2015, the university went under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for possible violations of federal law when addressing sexual violence and harassment complaints.
Zoe Waters, an advocate for sexual abuse survivors and founder of Necessary Behavior, points to universities as being responsible for creating safe campus environments. In many cases, this means taking a victim-first approach to violence prevention.
“This can look like a few different things, but it's a way to stop violence before it begins by providing information to students about what violence is, the impact of trauma on the mind and body and educating folks about gender roles, sex ed, consent, sexuality and more as early as you are able to,” Waters stated. “Universities need to maintain a victim-centered process.”
UW-Madison requires all incoming students to do an online violence prevention training that takes about two hours, McGlone said.
Waters iterated that universities need to ensure that every person that comes forward has access to as much support and information as they need.
“We have already failed students the second they walk in the door by not providing this education earlier,” she concluded.
Heidi and Edie, a UW sophomore and Kendall’s physics classmate, felt that UW-Madison should have at the very least notified students in close proximity to Kendall so that they could have adequately prepared themselves.
“Women and people in general should be made aware when [they’re] going to be in a discussion or lecture [with him] or in a dorm, especially [on the same] floors,” Edie said. “That is so sketchy and I would feel so unsafe [not knowing].”
“I would hope that they wouldn’t even let him [on campus] in the first place, but if they were going to do that, yes, I would want to know,” stated Heidi. “But also I would just feel continuously unsafe. It’s like no one wins, obviously except for him.”
However, Grace, Peyton, Heidi and Edie all feel that the University’s ultimate decision to admit Kendall was questionable at best.
“I don’t think he should have been allowed on the UW campus. I think as soon as UW realized that he was a threat, he should’ve had his admission revoked. He chose to assault these women, and now he has to live with those consequences,” said Grace. “I think UW has a responsibility to its currently admitted students who are already paying tuition to not allow a convicted sexual predator onto campus.”
Kendall’s classmates are not the only ones concerned for the safety of women on campus.
Cora, a sophomore at UW-Madison and Kendall’s teammate on UW-Madison’s water skiing team, shared that typically, waterski teams are not shy about changing in and out of swimsuits in front of one another. She found it strange when she was asked to step behind a car to undress. Later, she learned of Kendall’s convictions from her teammates.
“He should be telling people on the team what's going on. When people are changing and girls are changing, he should have a spot he has to go to. [We need] more restrictions like that because not only is it our team [at risk], [but] we're talking about Lacrosse, Marquette, Iowa State, Illinois schools, Minnesota schools,” said Cora. “[Kendall is] putting other girls at risk too.”
McGlone explained that UW-Madison posts information about convicted sex offenders on the UW-Madison Police Department Website, as per the federal Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act. However, the criteria to define someone as a sex offender does not include surveillance without consent, meaning Kendall is not on this list.
“When this type of information comes to our attention, staff from the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards typically meet with the student involved to discuss expectations under campus policy,” McGlone stated. “While we cannot take disciplinary action against someone for behavior that occurred while they were not enrolled at UW-Madison, we can and do hold students accountable for any violations of the law and university policy while they are enrolled.”
According to Cora, the front and back cameras are cracked on Kendall’s phone, rendering them useless. Kendall told her that UW-Madison allegedly broke the cameras to deter him from reoffending and that he expressed having no intentions of recording anyone else undressing.
"The university does not break students’ phones as a response to misconduct," McGlone responded.
The women familiar with Kendall’s case feel that the University’s response and lack of direct action speaks volumes about UW-Madison’s true priorities, especially when it comes to balancing student safety with tuition dollars.
“It seems like a slap in the face for women that it doesn’t really matter [to the university]. Even when somebody has all of these [legal] things against him, they’re still like not taking action to make women aware and safe,” Edie explained.
“Basically what it says is ‘sucks to be you’ when they decide to let someone in who they know has the potential to cause harm to other students,” Grace echoed. “What they’re saying to all of those students who are now potential victims for this predator is ‘thanks for your money, every man for themselves.’”
UW Housing declined to provide specific comments on the situation and deferred to University Communications. Dr. Jennifer Sheridan, the interim Associate Dean for Inclusion, Equity and Diversity in Engineering also felt that a university-provided response would speak best for her department.
McGlone responded with encouragement for students with questions to contact available resources that specialize in sexual misconduct, such as UHS Survivor Services (a confidential resource); the Title IX Program; the Dean of Students Office.
“It’s understandable that a survivor would have questions about this situation. We recognize students may not be aware of our admissions policies or of all the ways UW–Madison works to prevent sexual assault and misconduct, protect and support students and hold perpetrators accountable,” said McGlone. “We’ll work with you to provide resources and protective measures to meet your specific needs; we’re here to support you throughout your time on campus.”
Peyton reflected on Kendall’s actions, CHS’s inactions and her experience so far at UW-Madison as all having impacted her not only a student, but as a feminist, a survivor and a human being.
“The amount of pain [I felt], it actually did affect me. The way I view the world is so much different, and especially the school, knowing that they let in that person. It’s hard to come here and be so positive about coming here,” she said. “I love Madison, [but] are they really working as hard as they should be?”
Kendall declined requests for comment.
Editor's note 04/29/2021 1:06 p.m. : Multiple sources for this story alleged that University Housing and/or administration broke Kendall‘s phone camera. University Communications spokesperson Meredith McGlone reached out after the point of publishing to state that the university does not break phones as a response to misconduct.
Editor’s note 4/29/2021 3:40 p.m.: A previous version of this story quoted a source as saying she was in contact with PAVE to receive services. The source misspoke. She was in contact with both PAVE and the Title IX office for assistance and Title IX offered to rearrange her classes.
Editor’s note 4/29/2021 4:43 p.m.: University Communications spokesperson Meredith McGlone requested an additional statement be added to the article after the point of publishing. A previous version of this story did not include the university’s response to allegations that Avery Kendall's phone camera was broken.