Several cheerleaders resumed their posts at Saturday’s women’s basketball game one week after going on strike. Cheerleaders enrolled as full-time UCI students returned to the court, while part-time and non-UCI students sat on the sidelines.
According to a cheerleader and UCI student who wants her identity concealed, the athletics director who works above the Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing, Blake Sasaki, found out that five of the male cheerleaders were either not full-time UCI students or not UCI students at all and couldn’t cheer.
The athletics department is concerned that if any of the non-UCI students get injured they could sue the school.
The anonymous cheerleader said that it was the team’s decision to strike at the game on Jan. 17.
‘It’s not like it’s a secret that some of the guys on our team are not UCI students. We’ve been practicing since June with this whole team, UCI people and non-UCI people,’ she said. ‘We understand there’s a liability issue, but they gave us no choice. They told us literally less than 24 hours before the Cal State Fullerton game.’
She explained that UCI allowed male non-UCI students on the squad so that the team could be a true co-ed squad, not just a predominately girl’s squad.
‘We’ve never had this many guys. Now we’re a real co-ed squad. We’re not changing back to an all girl squad,’she explained.
She said that after practicing with the team since June, it was hard for them to cheer with only part of their team in such short notice.
‘All we wanted was for them to let us finish the season which is eight more weeks. We’re not so much mad at marketing. It’s like going to the basketball team and saying that [they] can’t be a team anymore,’she said.
On Jan. 20 she explained that after meeting with Sasaki, he informed her that in order to continue being a part of the squad the cheerleaders couldn’t strike anymore.
‘We have to cheer at the games with just the UCI students. If we don’t, we can’t be on the team this year or next year,’ she said. ‘They were really mad that we weren’t cheering and I think [it’s because] it was a televised game.’
On the night of Jan. 21 the cheerleaders voted as a team to cheer at the women’s basketball game as a ‘compromise with marketing’ to remedy the unavoidable liability issue.
Part-time UCI student and fourth-year biology major, Aaron Jonas was present at the women’s basketball game on Saturday but was not allowed to cheer because although he is a UCI student, the athletics department was reluctant to let him cheer because he only has part time student status.
‘It’s like I don’t disagree with their decision. My point is they went on this long and what are the repercussions after letting it go on this long,’ Jonas said. ‘I don’t think they realize what they’re doing to the cheerleading team.’
Jonas explained that there is confusion as to whether the cheer squad is classified as a club or a sport.
To his knowledge there are different rules in regards to being allowed to have non-UCI members if a group is classified as a club.
‘I’ve heard that rugby has people that aren’t students. I mean where does it stop,’ Jonas said. ‘All we do is cheer for basketball. All we ask for is consistency.’
Until the issue is resolved Jonas will remain on the sidelines.
‘We’re like in limbo. I don’t know what’s going on. It would be nice to have resolution,’ Jonas said.
UCI Cheer Coach, Jennifer Villasenor said the cheerleaders’ initial reason for going on strike was due to miscommunication between the cheerleaders and the athletics department as well as liability concerns.
‘The reason why they didn’t cheer was because of miscommunication,’ Villasenor said. ‘We haven’t lost anyone yet, but we’re working on it. They still might be able to [cheer]. That’s what we’re waiting for, but athletics is really helping us out.’
Villasenor said that the cheer team is working with athletics to come to a solution.
‘It was a liability issue and it all happened right at the game,’ Villasenor said. ‘We’re trying to figure out how to get these guys covered.’
Villasenor explained the value of having a sufficient number of males on the cheer squad.
‘[It] symbolizes more of what a college team is