SA leaves lacrosse team in limbo
Instagram account linked to UB women's team sparks controversy
The UB women’s club lacrosse team lost close to $15,000 and its club status has been in limbo since last spring, after an Instagram account associated with the team prompted harassment and hazing accusations and punishment from the Student Association. But the SA may have mishandled the case and funds, which were the subject of bickering and confusion during an SA Senate meeting Friday night.
In the spring, SA designated $8,000 for the team’s ’17-’18 budget to pay league fees, referees and travel expenses. The team also had $7,000 from donations and money rolled over from previous years and was looking forward to a strong season.
But it never got any of the money and learned SA gave the funds to other clubs.
After SA saw the Instagram account, the team was placed on probation and SA took away its budget. SA also stripped the team of several privileges; the club can’t practice, fundraise or recruit.
Without its budget, the club can’t hire a coach, insure its team or join a league.
The team insists the SA never had a proper vote on the club’s status and never gave the team members a chance to defend themselves.
In no minutes from any meetings last year did any previous SA senators or e-board members vote on the probation of the women’s lacrosse team, according to SA records.
As a result, team members had to wait until this fall to plead their case. Now, two and a half months into the fall semester, the team still hasn’t received its privileges.
Team members feel they’ve been mistreated and denied justice.
“We weren’t able to defend ourselves in the way that we should have been and we were just told what was going to happen to our team,” said Allison Moore, a junior speech pathology major.
SA has not explained why or how it reached its decision or why instead of freezing the club’s funds, it redistributed the money between the 32 other club sports teams. This has left the team scrambling to pay for league fees and has threatened its spring season.
UB Council student representative Mike Brown does not think the SA executive board handled the case well and feels SA is on a “witch hunt” to derecognize the women’s lacrosse team.
Brown, a junior political science major, said the images posted on the Instagram account, which showed members of the team drinking, should not have been grounds for probation.
“The Senate argued that the account was personal and didn’t reflect the team. The e-board basically tried to double down on the team,” Brown said.
Brown said he believes the decision highlights a tendency of the SA e-board to make decisions behind closed doors without the approval of the Senate, disregarding the checks and balances the Senate is supposed to provide within the student government.
SA professional staff members traveled to Montreal this weekend and did not respond to numerous Spectrum requests for comment.
In early May of last semester, Sydney Marco, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, created an Instagram account called “hideyourdads” and posted pictures showing club members drinking and partying together.
At one point, the Instagram account’s biography read, “UB Women’s Lacrosse Team.”
Only club members and close friends knew about the account, until Jane Truesdell, former SA sports coordinator and secretary of the women’s lacrosse team, asked Marco to deactivate the account. Marco refused. Marco then changed the name of the account to “heyjaneihateyoulolz,” prompting Truesdell to take action.
Marco wrote an apology letter taking full responsibility for the Instagram account and said her actions shouldn’t reflect on the team.
Marco feels that Truesdell used her power as SA sports coordinator to get the club in more trouble than it deserved.
“The specific picture reported for sexual harassment happened to include our e-board, but I think [Jane] painted the situation [in] a worse picture than it deserved,” Marco said. “[Jane] had a position very high up in SA and had a lot of power. I think that because she was the only one who didn’t like the account, she took it upon herself to make sure we got in trouble for it.”
The male student pictured didn’t report the account for sexual harassment. Truesdell, who is not in the picture, accused the team for harassment in her report. The photo doesn’t depict obscene content but its caption contains a joke about the male student.
Truesdell said she feels badly that the team is still suffering from Marco’s actions, but feels that this is a valuable lesson for the team. In the professional world, social media conduct isn’t taken lightly, she said. Truesdell said she hopes that this series of events has taught the women’s lacrosse team the importance of Internet safety and to think before posting on social media.
Former SA treasurer Daniel Emmons approved the 2017-18 SA budget on April 21, including the lacrosse team’s budget. The team also qualified for rollover of its unspent funds from the 2016-17 school year. Between rollover and donationsas large as $1,000, the team was set to have a $15,000 budget.
SA held its final Senate meeting of the semester May 5. No SA sports coordinators attended the meeting, so Senate members were not informed of the issues surrounding the women’s lacrosse team due to the absences.
The following timeline then played out:
●May 9: Truesdell reported the Instagram photos to former SA Vice President Gina Nasca via email. Truesdell said she asked the team to remove the Instagram three times because she believed it could “lead to issues with derecognition and problems with Student Life [and] SA.”
●May 10: Nasca emailed women’s lacrosse that “some concerns regarding the function of your club have been brought to my attention” and that she would like to schedule a meeting with the club.
●May 11: Truesdell and former SA President Matt Rivera asked Katie Raymond, former SA summer Senate chair and current senator, to hold an “emergency” meeting on May 15 to vote on whether or not the team would be derecognized. When Raymond attempted to hold the meeting, SA senators said they could not attend the meeting, so he decided to cancel it. This left the fate of the women’s team unknown for the entire summer. The SA Senate could not determine a punishment for the team and postponed the vote until the Senate’s first fall meeting on Sept. 29.
●May 14: Nasca sent out an email to the team’s e-board stating that the proposed May 15 Senate meeting was cancelled but because the club was up for derecognition it “will be receiving a $0 budget for next academic year and will have to be put up for derecognition again at the beginning of next semester.”
●May 17: Nasca sent an official probation letter to the women’s lacrosse team via email. The letter said the club was placed on probation and that their status would be resolved by the Senate at the beginning of the fall semester. The letter also listed the reasons for probation, including “potential harassment, sexual harassment, and retaliation,” inappropriate social media usage, possible hazing and encouraging underage drinking.
●Sept. 29: The minutes for SA’s Sept. 29 meeting stated it would be discussing the “Women’s Lacrosse derecognition after the club’s suspension in May 2017.” The Senate unanimously voted––with two abstentions––to retain the club’s status, but to put the team on probation.The senators decided that the photos of the team were posted by one member and did not reflect the team or indicate the team engaged in hazing. Nobody voted in favor of derecognizing the club, but SA’s e-board said the club still had to be put on probation and “didn’t quite explain why,” Raymond said. The e-board said the lacrosse team could defend itself at the next Senate meeting, which took place Friday, Raymond added.
●Nov. 7: Josselyn Hancock, junior chemistry major and women’s lacrosse team secretary, emailed SA Vice President Jamersin Redfern with questions regarding the team's status. Redfern never returned her email. Instead, SA Administrative Director Mark Sorel emailed Hancock, “Your club alleged behavior may have violated the Student Code of Conduct. … You are effectively on suspension not probation (& certainly not derecognized) pending an answer from these groups.”
●Nov. 10: The women’s lacrosse team met with the SA Senate, SA attorney Josh Korman and Brown to discuss their situation.
If Korman finds enough evidence against the team, the Senate will hold a hearing on Nov. 17 for the team’s possible derecognition.
If the Senate approves a club’s budget as of its last meeting of the semester, it is finalized for the following academic year, according to Raymond. And Emmons signed and approved the Senate-approved ’17-’18 budget, which included funding for lacrosse, last spring.
The funds should have been frozen pending possible disciplinary action when the allegations about the Instagram account surfaced, Raymond said.
The SA Senate’s September vote to not derecognize the team cleared it of all of its charges, so the club should have been allowed to function as a team again, Raymond said.
“We just want to play lacrosse. We’ve been recognized since September and nothing has changed,” Moore said.
Brown argues that according to the SA club handbook, the e-board incorrectly handled the club’s case by unilaterally stripping the club of its funding.
“The club successfully fulfilled its SA requirements and should not have been placed on probation, and the e-board never voted whether or not to derecognize the team or place the team on probation,” Brown said.
The financial setbacks caused the team to miss paying its league fee of $700 plus a $25 late fee. If the team can’t pay by Dec. 1, it will not play in the spring.
After dealing with the situation since May and attending meetings instead of studying, Moore wants to move past the incident.
“We just want our budget back and to be able to function like a club,” Moore said. “Other members feel that even if they do get their budget back, they won’t be able to form a cohesive team by the time they have to play in the spring.”
Victoria Towndrow, a junior civil, structural and environmental engineering major, is fearful that without its budget, the team will miss its deadline in December and won’t be able to compete at all.
“All of our tournaments are in February. We have no plays, no idea what our new members look like and honestly, we’re unprepared,” Towndrow said. “Other teams started recruiting and practicing over the summer, so at this point, we’re months behind.”
Correction: The original article stated Truesdell sent a handwritten note to Nasca.
Max Kalnitz is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org