No more drinking blood, worshipping Satan at Mac?

By Ben Bartenstein

“You don’t want to get rid of a cheer rated one of the best in the country,” said Jeff Garcia ’13. Seventy students packed into the chapel last Thursday, not to watch Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan duke it out or to listen to a famed scholar, but attend a forum discussion on student speech at athletic events. The event, which also included a brief discussion on the new housing ordinance affecting students off campus, was led by MCSG President Patrick Snyder ’13 and Senior Representative Jonas Buck ’13. The Athletic Department decided to hold the forum, attended by athletes, fans, administrators, alumni and parents, after receiving a series of complaints about Macalester fans’ conduct at sporting events. “The issue started at one game, an away game [at Bethel],” said women’s soccer player Rachel Huck ’13. “Some members of the men’s team were yelling out random animals, and there was a girl on the opposing team that had a birth defect and it was misinterpreted, understandably.” It was unclear whether the calls were directed at this girl, she said, but several fans from Bethel sent angry letters to the Macalester Athletic Department. The individuals identified as having started the cheers were suspended without an opportunity to defend themselves, she said. Bethel University Athletic Director Bob Bjorklund was unavailable for comment. The Macalester Athletic Department responded by posting signs informing fans of the types of cheers that would result in ejection from the stands. Athletic Director Kim Chandler said the department is aiming to address community members’ concerns and create a more welcoming atmosphere. While this appears an isolated incident, the forum addressed what constitutes an appropriate cheer. “I think the issue at hand here is that the cheers, that we do here as fans, are irreverent cheers,” said men’s cross country runner Joe Macula ’13. “In order for us to work out a better solution for what is acceptable and not acceptable we need to hear from people who have any issues.” Hannah Rasmussen ’14 said she found the “We’re gonna score” cheer particularly offensive. Though she hasn’t given up on games entirely, she was clearly upset by the language. “I was not comfortable in that [game] environment,” she said. “I came away from that soccer game not proud being a Mac student.” Laurie Hamre, Vice President of Student Affairs, said that while many cheers have been the same for 20 years, their frequency has increased. “I think if you hear ‘orgy’ twice in a game, okay,” she said. “If you hear it 25 times a game, it gets a little old. We’ve gotten complaints from recruits who say they won’t play in this environment.” Buck said several community members complained that their kids were exposed to words like “orgy” at Macalester athletic events. Assistant Athletic Director Ron Osterman said he also noticed a different atmosphere. “I’ve probably had more people come up to me in the last five years, after games, than the previous 10,” he said. Some students said that the administration is discouraging fans with a negative message. “And, subsequently significantly fewer people showed up at games,” Huck said. “People felt really frightened. It was a really hard environment to be around because there was no conversation.” Women’s soccer player Erica DeJong ’13 said that she agrees with the direct connection between administrative actions related to cheers and low turnout at recent games. “This is not something that could impact the future,” she said. “This is something that already impacts us.” Men’s soccer player Peter Martin ’14 expressed his gratitude to the men’s cross country team, who led the “Drink blood” cheer at the soccer team’s recent game at St. Thomas. “It got us jacked up,” said Martin. “We scored right afterwards. I really, really hope cheering doesn’t disappear.” Defending the cheers Dedicated fan Harry Kent ’13 said that he questioned the change in attitude towards the cheers, which he feels was never an issue until now. “Four years ago, […] this guy with a beard hands us a sheet, and there’s a list of cheers,” said Kent. “He’s like, ‘You guys gotta do these,’ and we’re like, ‘Okay.’ And, not a single question is asked, like, of any of the cheers. First year, second year, third year, I never heard anything. The problem that I sense now is […] in terms of a fan perspective, there is a real disconnect.” Cindy Spencer, the mother of a men’s soccer player, said she felt this disconnect at a recent game. “It made me very sad to sit in the stands and not say anything for two hours, not wanting to be disrespectful to the changes the administration wanted to make and yet still wanting to express my enthusiasm for the game,” said Spencer. “I travel eight hours a day to come to these games, not just because my son plays, but because the environment is so fabulous.” Most in attendance at the forum had similar remedies for the cheering problem, although there was some tension between what the administration supported compared with the “students.” Men’s soccer player Cole Erickson ’15 proposed that students and administrators work together to develop a list of appropriate cheers. A list would help alumni understand why some cheers may have changed, he said. Football player David Melms ’13 agreed that collaboration was important. “Both sides need to make sacrifices in this whole overarching conversation, even if we don’t [always] agree with them,” he said. Students bear much of the responsibility for enforcing appropriate cheers, said Keith Edwards, Director of Campus Life. “I’d like to see this student body that engages in such great dialogue in so many ways, in so many places on campus, not have that end at the gates to the stadium,” he said. Macula agreed with Edwards’ call for student accountability. “Really get on the people that are targeting other individuals because that should be offensive to us,” said Macula, addressing the students. “They’re not fans or at least Macalester fans, and the fact that they would try to pretend that they are to cover for their offensive language and actions is, I think disgusting. And it reflects poorly on us.” Ellen Washington ’13 believed in Macula’s idea. “This is the most politically correct place in the world,” she said. “I think we do a really good job of self-policing.” DeJong said that the some of the cheers have already been amended to lessen their edginess.Rasmussen noticed this and said the changes contributed to a better game atmosphere for her. “That made me excited,” she said. “For the most part I was like, ‘That was really fun. I miss watching soccer. I want to go to another game.’” Buck said he hopes addressing cheers will make the Macalester fan base stronger. “Let’s get some people to start coming out again,” he said. “Let’s set a good environment and have fun.” refresh –>