Students angered by new cheering policies

Students angered by new cheering policies
by Seth Rothman
January 30, 2008

HAMDEN — On Friday night, before the men’s hockey game against Niagara, Steve Colvin got on the public address system at the TD Banknorth Sports Center and urged all fans — especially students — to refrain from any chants that “rhyme with the word ducks.”

It’s part of a new plan by the Quinnipiac administration attempting to regulate what students are allowed to say in the rowdy student section.

It’s members of that student section that have become angered by the new policies. Students are complaining that the policies are infringing on their first amendment right to free speech. Chuck Menke, a spokesperson for the University’s athletic department, believes otherwise.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to promote good sportsmanship,” Menke said. “We’re not trying to quash anybody’s passion or enthusiasm, we’re trying to promote a fan friendly atmosphere that is still fun and energetic and charged with emotion.”

Students, however, are not happy by the new directive announced by Colvin, the Assistant Director of Athletic Promotions and Ticketing.

“Horrible. It’s a horrible thing,” said Jeremy Schilling, a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Marlboro, New Jersey. “Trying to change the way that drunk college students act during a game is just impossible.”

However, after an email went out to students earlier last week, most assumed the Crazy Bobcats were behind the cheer initiative.

According to the President of the new Crazy Bobcats, Jason Bond, that’s a misconception.

“I wanted to comment about this new student cheer initiative thing that was in the email, that I didn’t even know was [going to be] in the email,” Bond said. “I don’t know how the two of them got combined that the Crazy Bobcats were involved. The Crazy Bobcats have nothing to do with the new cheer initiative. Somehow, athletics put it in. I wasn’t under the impression that we’re part of the new cheer initiative.”

“There was a miscommunication that happened there,” Bond continued. “[They] said something that got people mad, and the Crazy Bobcats got associated with it. I really want to make that clear — we’re not part of this new cheer initiative.”

“We did receive some input from some individuals who expressed a concern, and I think it’s a concern that we in part share, and made a decision to incorporate some fairly realistic and straight-forward message points and requests,” Menke said. “Whether that’s student fans or anybody else in the arena — this applies to everyone.”

Menke mentioned this is also an attempt at complying with conference rules: The Northeast Conference, for example, has a rule prohibiting schools from playing a song that could elicit a response of “sucks!”

“These are not only philosophies expressed by Quinnipiac University and our athletics department, but also by the conferences in which we play and the NCAA as a whole,” Menke said. “Even with the NEC, they have specifically mentioned that is something that we don’t want to encourage, and there are certain songs that would lend themselves to using that word. We try and avoid the use of that word.”

It is unclear whether ECAC Hockey has similar rules.

Schilling and Justin Cohen, a junior broadcast journalism major from Cooper City, Florida agree, Quinnipiac officials should have contacted students and asked for input before making the decision.

“Did athletics ever come up to any of the die-hard fans, who have been at every game, who they know have been at every game? I went to Sacred Heart [on Saturday]. There were 40-50 student Bobcats fans, who I see at every basketball game, every hockey game,” Cohen said. “Did they once come up to those fans and ask them what they thought?”

“The whole communication between the administration and us [isn’t there],” Schilling said. “There is a major problem right now between the upper bureaucracy of Quinnipiac being separate from what the students want.”

During both men’s hockey games on Friday and Saturday, the Crazy Bobcats used a megaphone to initiate chants, drown out others they deemed too vulgar, and also, according to eyewitnesses, speak with the offending students while the game was in progress.

Both Bond and Student Government President Sean Geary, who helped resurrect the Crazy Bobcats club, agreed some of the methods the group used to educate students about how to cheer may not have been the greatest.

“It’s hard to get something started,” Bond said. “I agree that the megaphone was a little much — we’re going to calm down the megaphone a little bit. Just use it to start up cheers and such. It was the first time using the megaphone, so how do you know what to do and what’s right? It’s going to change, and it’s going to get better.”

“If anyone watched the hockey team come out for the first time this weekend, they would have thought the team was horrible, with no chance of playing in this league,” Geary said. “Same thing with the Crazy Bobcats. If anyone saw the Crazy Bobcats this weekend, they would have thought that’s a horrible group of students that isn’t doing the job right now.”

“This is really just the first weekend, or first time that we’ve done this, and we didn’t expect anything to change overnight,” Menke said. “The point was made, and I think over time we will develop our own traditions in the facility with our student section.”

A central argument in this ordeal is the hot-button issue of censorship. After the Quinnipiac Chronicle’s editor-in-chief, Jason Braff, nearly got fired for speaking out against campus policies earlier this year, many students are starting to wonder if Quinnipiac is actively trying to censor them.

“It’s kind of coming from the school, and it’s kind of not. It’s censorship, but you need to understand there is a reason,” Bond said. “When Quinnipiac students weren’t here, there were five-year-olds yelling ‘sucks’ out in the crowd. That’s basically what I’m most concerned about. I think, as Quinnipiac students, and as smart people, we should understand that’s not right.”

Both Bond and Geary realize students — at first glance — don’t seem to want to give the Crazy Bobcats organization a chance. But they say students should.

“What’s getting caught up a lot, is that we’re just there to say ‘who cares’ and not anything else,” Bond said. “The Crazy Bobcats are an organization to fill up the stands and come to every game. A lot of people are just focusing on that one line that we’re saying. It’s important, but also pay attention to all the other cool things that we’re trying to do. We want to get a full student section that’s standing and going crazy.”

“No one is going to buy into it [immediately]. I think that organization, and I’m just speaking from having organizational experience, they need to reassess how they operate,” Geary said. “How they’re perceived — perception’s very important. I hope this weekend was a wake-up call to the organization.”

“All we’re trying to do is get a couple of messages across, and ask and request of our students to take those kinds of things into consideration when they’re in the facility,” Menke said. “We’re not trying to take away anything from their enjoyment, excitement, or passion for the game. We’re just trying to say ‘Hey, keep in mind, we’ve got some other fans in the building, and we want to be respectful of them, as well as the opponents on the ice.'”

“What happened with the old Crazy Bobcats, I think, from what I’ve heard, is they went too far towards the ‘sucks’ and the cursing, and those things,” Bond said. “So, we’re going to try to make it so that we don’t get cut off by the administration. There has to be a happy medium. It can’t be rated R, and it can’t be rated G. Let’s rate it PG-13.”

Meanwhile, Geary took pains to remind students the Crazy Bobcats are not affiliated with the Student Government office. In their rush to get the organization ready for the first weekend of men’s hockey play in the second semester, only SGA members were involved, but they hope more students will get involved. Indeed, on Wednesday evening, there was a well-publicized meeting of the club, but very few non-SGA members attended.

That is of no consolation to Cohen, who doesn’t believe students should be involved in telling others what they can and cannot say, as eyewitnesses said Crazy Bobcats members did over the weekend.

“Personally, I don’t think that a student should be allowed to [direct] what another student should say,” Cohen said. “If someone from promotions, someone in charge of the building or an usher, security guard or police officer has a problem with it, that’s fine. But having a student either yell at or degrade another student, that is not in the jurisdiction of the students. [They] have no authority to, in public, say something to another student about what they are cheering.”

Meanwhile, the students still feel slighted. Cohen continued to maintain he wished the administration officials should have come to the students before unilaterally making a decision with little student input.

“Just listen to the fans. Don’t do just what you want to do, listen to the people who care about this team, and give us an opportunity to help you,” Cohen said. “You’re not our enemy, we’re not your enemy. We all want to help, we all want to make this a better atmosphere, nobody’s denying it. It’s not going to take one end, it’s going to take teamwork between the two.”

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