An email about a team party got sent to administrators.
March 14, 2018 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 0 comments
With 20 seniors returning after a 2017 trip to Nationals, Delaware Sideshow was primed to have a huge 2018 college season. But in the fall, when a new recruit forwarded university administrators an email that referenced a “gin bucket,” a multi-semester suspension swiftly ended the hopes of a return to the College Championships.
The year started normally enough for Delaware. With a strong group of returners, they kicked off the fall with recruiting and added new names to their email list. As in past years, the team ran all communications through that email group—practice announcements, tournament planning, social events, and anything else relevant to the program.
In mid-September, a player on Sideshow (though not a member of leadership) sent out an email announcing a team party that evening. It included some somewhat crass definitions from Urban Dictionary that referenced alcohol, aiming to get the team excited about the party.
Team captains told Ultiworld that a first-year player new to the team did not take the email well. Though she had not yet attended any team practices or events, she felt uncomfortable and reported the email to the university.
“She was worried that her attendance on the team was dependent on attending off-campus events like this one,” said Delaware captain Kaylee Viets.
Based on the email and the alleged pressure to attend an alcohol-fueled party, the university administration levied a two-year suspension on the women’s ultimate team. They were charged with five different counts, including hazing, endangering the safety of others, and alcohol use.
The team was stunned. “All of it was outrageous, but the hazing charge especially was unfair,” said Viets, who convened with the other captains, Natalie Bova and Rachel Egan, to begin working on an appeal.
The captains decided to focus on disproving the idea that they hazed or endangered players. All of the charges were based on the email and the report from a new recruit that never attended a team function, not any actual events.
With the support of and statements from players past and present, they made their case in front of a university review board. “Writing the appeal, we cited a lot of other cases from our school and others where the violations were worse and the punishments were less,” said Viets.
They did not deny having a party or drinking alcohol. “We thought that being honest would help to show that we really care about this team and this school,” said Bova.
Although the university dropped the hazing charge upon appeal, they only reduced the suspension to a year and a half, blocking the team from competing for the entirety of 2018. The team appealed again last month to Delaware’s Club Sports Department, Recreation Services, and the Office of Student Conduct. Though they couldn’t drop the suspension, they understood the team’s concerns—that a year without competition would cripple the program—and agreed to allow the team to practice, compete in tournaments, and play in area leagues, so long as they were not representing Delaware.
The possibility of the team playing as an unaffiliated team in sanctioned USA Ultimate competition was also considered, but after conversations with Tom Manewitz, USAU’s Manager of College Competition, the university’s club sports department decided against allowing it, as there would be no realistic way of avoiding a connection with Delaware were they to compete.
The University of Delaware did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“We’ll be appealing the sanctions again at the end of the spring season, this time with the support of Club Sports and Recreation Services, so we’ll have a very good chance at being reinstated in the fall, a semester early,” said Viets.
Though the team is incredibly disappointed about the suspension, they said they have learned a lot. “First and foremost, our communication needs to be better with the team,” said Viets. “A girl, not on team leadership or anything, sent this email out to the whole team. We’ve changed the way we send out communications.” The captains also mentioned being more careful to get new recruits involved at practice before inviting them to social events.
“This was just a gigantic misunderstanding that could have been easily avoided, and we learned that the hard way,” said Viets.