Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass club sports present petition alleging lack of resources, communication from athletic department

(Collegian Archives)
(Daily Collegian Archives)

The Club Sports Council at the University of Massachusetts presented a petition at Monday’s Student Government Association meeting that has gone viral, requesting that UMass Athletics makes changes to its treatment of club sports.

The petition, a Google Doc that has been shared widely via email and social media, and has been signed by nearly 1,500 people, calls for the allocation of more resources to club sports, including the use of facilities and access to equipment, and better communication between the department and the clubs. It cites a 22-page document that lists complaints, email communications and photographic evidence from over 25 clubs.

Signatories include the council’s executive board, members of club sports, varsity athletes, students, parents, alumni and others. The SGA overwhelmingly voted to support the petition.

Mariah Hladick, president of Club Sports Council and the women’s club volleyball team, as well as a senior journalism major with a sports concentration, said the situation came to a “boiling point” when the UMass Athletics began renovating what was formerly known as the Wrestling Room in Boyden Gymnasium into a lounge for varsity student-athletes earlier this semester.

Nicolas Duenas, a sophomore civil engineering major who is a member of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club – one of roughly half a dozen clubs that used to practice in the Wrestling Room –  said that people arrived for a practice on Oct. 1 to find the mats in the room being torn up. While club members were aware of talks of renovation, Duenas said they were given no prior notice that the renovation was moving forward. When he arrived, there was a sign on the door saying all groups that used the room would be notified by the athletic department when a new space was identified for them.

Recently hired senior associate director of athletics for internal operations Darrice Griffin said the clubs were offered time and space in Boyden’s upper gymnasium, a proposal that didn’t pan out because the space wasn’t “conducive to the groups’ specific needs.” She said Athletics was still trying to identify spaces for the clubs that used the Wrestling Room, but that it was a difficult process because there are not many readily available options in Boyden.

Duenas said they’ve scrambled to find other practice space, which has led to a loss of practice time and a drop in numbers for a club that used to have 15 to 20 regular members. He said they have now settled on sharing the wrestling club’s space in a studio room on the first floor of the Recreation Center two days a week.

He said it was especially frustrating, however, because members of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club had recently cleaned the mats in the Wrestling Room, but they weren’t able to salvage them once the renovation began.

“I know that they want to keep priority for their varsity sports, but they also are compromising our spaces, our time, and other (RSOs) too,” he said.

“Admittedly we could have done a better job communicating much further in advance regarding our plans,” Griffin said.

Larger issues

The petition, which was created in the wake of the Wrestling Room’s renovation, seeks to broadly address a host of concerns raised by club sports. Hladick said there are currently 48 active club sports teams, a group of roughly 1,500 students.

“The point of the petition is not to point fingers and say ‘this is what you’ve done wrong,’ but to say these are the issues that we’ve had and we need to find a way to move forward and create a better relationship between all the teams in the club sports council and the relevant groups we work with on campus,” she said.

Specifically, it suggests creating better processes for scheduling, freeing up space in Boyden Gymnasium by moving events such as intramural games to the weekend, establishing a 24-hour request cancellation notice, and sharing resources, including the mats at the Curry Hicks Cage, among groups with similar needs.

“We’re aware of the issues raised by the Club Sport Council,” UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said in a statement. “The athletic department and Student Affairs share the concerns of students to have access to facilities to support the wide range of activities and sports programs available to UMass Amherst students. Campus officials have been taking steps to address some of the concerns raised by the Club Sports Council and will continue to work with undergraduates through the council and the (SGA) on these issues.”

A number of complaints regarding denied requests for field or gym time for practices and games cited a lack of communication from the athletic department, specifically from Daniel Markowski, associate athletic director for facilities and operations.

The petition states that out of 203 requests for athletic space made by any campus group since 2013, 91 were denied – 42 without reason and 14 completely ignored. Not all of these requests were made by club sports.

Markowski referred the Daily Collegian to Griffin.

Abby Purdy, a senior communication disorders major and president of club field hockey, said there is a disconnect between the process because Markowski, who approves or denies requests, oversees all athletic facilities, but is not necessarily aware of the needs of club sports.

Purdy added that requests for the club field hockey team to use Gladchuk Field, the newly built varsity field hockey turf facility, were denied, often without reason. This occurred until the last few weeks, even when the varsity field hockey team wasn’t practicing or playing on the field. The denial of these requests has been detrimental to the club, she said. The majority of their games are played on turf and many opponents refuse to play at UMass because they do not want to play on a grass field.

Purdy said she talked with the varsity field hockey coach at the beginning of the season regarding the club’s use of Gladchuk.

“She said she had no problem with us using it as long as we went through the proper channels,” Purdy said. “But going through the proper channels we have had no progress.”

Nicole Wrin, a senior club field hockey captain and operations and information management major, said when the club has been given a reason for why they can’t use the field, they have been told that the field is under construction. Griffin confirmed that the field was under construction this semester.

Despite this, the varsity team has played on Gladchuk all season.

Griffin added that there is currently no process for club sports to use varsity facilities. However, she said the athletic department was working on that, as well as assessing its physical plant and looking to reserve athletic spaces for those who do not play varsity sports, whether they participate in club sports or intramural sports.

She said that, in addition to the space available in Boyden, the department also has control of the grass fields behind McGuirk Stadium and four of the grass fields across the street from Boyden.

The petition calls for a response to the requests by Dec. 1, that a plan to address access issues be drafted no later than Jan. 15, and that student representatives be included in the decision-making processes. Griffin attended Monday’s SGA meeting to listen to student concerns.

Anthony Rentsch can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Anthony_Rentsch.

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  • N

    Nicolas DuenasNov 25, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Hi, my name is Nicolas Duenas. No “h” in there.


    • K

      Kristin LaFrattaNov 28, 2015 at 1:27 am

      Thank you. The story has been updated to fix this error.

  • N

    Nicole WrinNov 24, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Hi, just wanted to make a name correction. You have it as Nichole Ring and it should be Nicole Wrin.


    • K

      Kristin LaFrattaNov 24, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Thank you. The story has been updated to fix this error.