By Gabriella Levine
Union’s current cheerleading squad is challenging its long-standing status as a club team and is seeking induction into the Athletic Department as an official sport.
For the past eight to nine years, the squad has been supported and funded through Student Activities. The team is non-selective, never makes cuts, cheers at football and basketball games, or upon certain requests.
The cheerleaders have expressed their opposition to the team’s current club status and have recently issued several complaints to both Student Forum and the Athletic Department. Head of Student Activities Matt Milless explained that cheerleading is funded by the Student Activities budget, whiver covers travel costs and the coach’s salary but does not include the purchasing of uniforms.
“We see uniforms as personal items, and none of our club teams receive funding for that,” Milless said.
He attributes this policy to the fact that many club athletes want to keep their uniforms after each season rather than return them.
[pullquote]“It’s serious! It’s not just pom-poms and cheers. We’re putting people in the air and supporting full body weight.”Diana Tetty, Class of 2014[/pullquote]
“Student Activities can no longer meet the team’s needs, and it is extremely uncomfortable that we must pay out of pocket for our uniforms since half the team came to Union through programs for those who are economically disadvantaged,” said team Captain Marissa Gordon ‘11 on behalf of the squad.
Gordon further explained that the team is unable to compete because girls who are new to the team have different uniforms than members who have been on the team for a few years. In order to competitively cheer, the team must wear matching uniforms.
For the last football game of the season, Union’s cheerleading squad was unable to cheer due to the lack of warm-up gear in cold temperatures, an accommodation that the team was unable to personally fund.
“No team should be unable to do their sport because they can’t afford weather-appropriate clothing,” Gordon said.
According to Gordon, another significant issue for the team’s status as a club is their inability to receive medical attention from a trainer.
She emphasized that the team has already incurred injuries and medical issues, noting a particular case in which one girl needed to have surgery and was told by doctors that if a trainer had looked at it immediately, the surgery would not have been unnecessary.
Gordon also adds that the squad is sometimes forced to send girls to the hospital because they do not have the opinion of a trainer.
“It’s serious! It’s not just pom-poms and cheers. We’re putting people in the air and supporting full body weight,” said Diana Tettey ‘14, who expressed her outrage at the lack of medical resources available to the squad.
The team also claims that they require the support of the Athletic Department in order to competitively compete, practice regularly, and receive full-time coaching as opposed to the current coach who juggles her time between coaching the squad and managing a cheerleading gym.
Union’s cheerleading squad faces a nationwide impediment: Title IX to the U.S. Constitution. Title IX is meant to prevent gender inequity or sex-based discrimination in collegiate activities. The federal government interprets Title IX to cover all programs of educational institutions that receive federal funding.
Last year, federal U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill ruled in a landmark court decision that competitive cheerleading does not count as an official sport for Title IX requirements.
The judge issued a 95-page ruling regarding a case brought to court by members of the girl’s volleyball team from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.
The school eliminated the girl’s volleyball team and replaced it with a competitive cheerleading squad in order to meet Title IX gender equality requirements.
The reasoning for this decision was that Quinnipiac’s attempt to replace volleyball with cheerleading failed to comply with Title IX requirements because cheerleading was too underdeveloped to be considered an official varsity sport.
Only six cheerleading squads around the country are recognized as a varsity sport by a college or university’s Athletic Department. The NCAA does not recognize cheerleading as an official sport.
Nevertheless, the members of Union’s cheerleading team remain steadfast in their effort to receive support from the Athletic Department.
“It all depends on dedication. If it’s an activity, it’s just for fun, but an official team involves more dedication. If we’re willing to strive for that, then why not call it an official sport?” said Tettey.