ASWC to continue review of college chaperone policy
Over the years, policies instilled by the college have evolved based on their usability and popularity for the student body. Students historically have never been hesitant to take it upon themselves to be the driving forces behind this change. One such policy that students are looking to reexamine this year is the club sports chaperone policy, which provides guidelines and restrictions for club sports travel.
According to Athletics Director Dean Snider, the chaperone policy was created eight years ago to address risks posed by club sports travel.
“We determined, based on legal council, that if Whitman College was funding students to travel we were essentially responsible,” said Snider. “To manage that type of risk, we needed to have some adult that was traveling with [them].”
To combat that risk, the policy put in place requires a non-affiliated adult to accompany all club sports trips being sponsored by the college. Requiring club teams to travel with a non-affiliated adult maximizes the college’s prevention of incidents on student trips and minimizes legal issues.
“We knew that alcohol had been present on the road trips [and] driving had sometimes been faster,” said Snider. “Knowing this and still funding students to travel without supervision would be putting the college, and our students, at risk.”
Students have recently become concerned with the funding sources for these accompanying chaperones, and with the nature of chaperone travel in general. While there are many parts to the policy that the college legally cannot eliminate, some students would like to see changes made. Alumnus and former ASWC Athletics Advocate John-Henry Heckendorn ’12 worked with ASWC and the Athletics Office to begin reforming the chaperone policy before he graduated.
“The goal of the chaperone program was to put older adults in position to oversee and monitor students during the course of a club sports trip [because] the College believes that young people are psychologically less likely to properly weigh the potential long term consequences of their actions,” said Heckendorn in an email. “The college has said that it added money to the club sports budget in order to accommodate the financial impact of a chaperone program.”
Last year, Heckendorn worked to address some student concerns and begin the conversation about policy reform.
“Through [Heckendorn's] efforts, a Captain’s Council was created which allowed for a forum [of] leaders from club sports to address and discuss their concerns and ideas to John-Henry and myself regarding club sports as a whole,” said alumnus Thomas Siegert ’12 in an email. Siegert was formerly ASWC Finance Committee Chair. “From those meetings, one very prevalent concern was the current chaperone policy. Many teams felt [this] was an ineffective and unnecessary use of their money.”
Historically, club funds were derived from a variety of sources across the campus. If a student wanted funding, they would have to get permission from entities as various as ASWC, the Athletic Office and the Office of the President. When the chaperone policy was implemented, ASWC changed its by-laws so that club funding would be localized to two sources: the college and ASWC. As a result, clubs are able to gets funds more easily, and the potential for more funding is increased due to a collaborative effort between ASWC and the college.
“More recently students are questioning the need for this policy because it takes a portion of the total club sport budget,” said Snider. “My impression is that students are, understandably so, looking for ways to access that part of the budget [dedicated to funding chaperones]. But the chaperone
policy is budgeted for that purpose: to protect both the college and our students. As long as we are funding [club sports travel] we need to send chaperones so this policy is still in place and we are going to maintain it.”
Although funding is a major reason students want changes made, concerns about the chaperone policy are not limited to the budget.
“Some teams had great chaperones,” said Siegert, who played rugby. “For instance, men’s rugby has always used their former coach Eric McAlvey as a chaperone. He was very knowledgeable about the game and helped out as best he could on the sidelines of the events. Other teams however had chaperones that were unknowledgeable about their sport and, frankly, gave off the impression that they were very disinterested in being a chaperone anyways.”
It is issues like this that current ASWC Athletics Advocate Molly Blust hopes to address in the future, in addition to solving financial concerns.
“This year we decided that we are going to improve the policy instead of eliminate it, so that teams are happier with the policy as it is,” said Blust. “Right now, it is something that we are working towards and it is a project, but we haven’t done anything yet with it as of this year. [More headway will be made] within the next few months.”
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