Ultimate Frisbee Club Fights to Stay Alive
Club has been on hold since spring 2005
September 29, 2005 2:01 PM
All they want is grass, and they won't stop until they get it.
They are the SF State Ultimate Frisbee Club, and their toughest match to date has been against the SF State administration.
"We like to call what happened 'the saga,' because we struggled to hold on to this club," said Randall Rishe, co-president of the Ultimate Frisbee Club. Ultimate Frisbee is a non-contact sport that mimics the rules of football, with players throwing a disc down a long field to try and score in their opponent’s end zone.
“The saga” began in spring, when the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development informed the Frisbee club members that the university was putting their club on hold.
"We never asked for money or anything, so why can't we be a club?" said Rishe, an SF State senior double-majoring in criminal justice and history. "After going and back and forth between the OSPLD and Risk Management, we finally discovered it had to do with liability."
Last semester, the California State University chancellor's office audited all SF State student organizations registered with the student program office. The audit revealed that certain clubs on campus, such as the Frisbee club, were allegedly functioning as a club sport without the university’s knowledge. University policy states that if club sports members practice on campus and are injured, the university is liable, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Penny Saffold.
"The chancellor's policy demands we have insurance, and we only had insurance for the athletic clubs,” Saffold said. “So, I had to put all the club sports on hold until it was decided we could afford insurance."
However Frisbee club members refused to be put on hold.
"We're not going to wait for the university to go through their bureaucratic nonsense before we're allowed to play on the field," Rishe said.
Consequently, the grounds crew threatened to call campus police every time they caught the club practicing on the quad, baseball or soccer field, Rishe said.
"They said we're trespassing, but we're SF State students," Rishe said.
Phil Evans, the director of campus grounds, declined to comment. The club appointed Rishe their informal legal advisor, dubbed "Attorney General," and he immediately called campus police.
According to Rishe, he spoke with Sgt. Jennifer Schwartz and she found the matter to be “laughable."
“She said they couldn't arrest us because we were SF State students," Rishe said.
Rishe made a list of California Government Codes that he thought defended his case, including code 831.7.
The code states: “Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable to any person who participates in a hazardous recreational activity.”
"So, the school isn't liable, and throwing a Frisbee on an open field isn't a hazardous recreational activity," Rishe said.
Dr. Saffold said the Frisbee club isn't telling the whole story.
"They're not a recreational club,” Saffold said. “Their goal is to compete, but they don't want us to know this." The Frisbee club's team captain admitted Saffold is right.
"Our goal is to foster a competitive spirit, but within our own players," said John Lindsey, 20, TV and radio production junior. "However, we enjoy competing against other Frisbee organizations. We gathered a group of us to go and compete, but not with the school's name, thus removing the issue of liability."
Rishe attended a campus task force meeting last March, and declared that the Frisbee club was a "social club that liked to play sports.
"I said (at the meeting) we don't have set practices, or competitions, and we don't buy equipment." The result: The Frisbee club could practice on campus, since it wasn't competitive.
However, at the beginning of the fall semester the grounds crew harassed the Frisbee club again for the same reason according to Rishe. Rishe said he whipped out the government codes, and the grounds crew left them alone.
"If the grounds crew threatens to call the cops again, I'll say, 'Go ahead my friend, here's my phone, you can use my minutes," Rishe said.
Saffold said the grounds crew shouldn't have threatened arrest. She added said that she wants to keep all the student organizations, but the chancellor's office demands that it be done in a more organized and structural way.
"The administration is in the process of getting additional insurance, and putting all non-collegiate sports under the supervision of Paula Moran, professor of kinesiology, instead of OSPLD,” Saffold said. “Then, they'll hire a coordinator for club sports, as well as for intramural and recreational sports."
Moran, the Frisbee club’s former advisor, said she could no longer advise the club due to her "busy schedule."
"I appreciate the Frisbee club's tenacity and passion," Moran said. "Everything we're doing is essentially protecting the clubs."
Right now, all clubs can register through OSPLD as long as they have a faculty advisor. Last week, Al Kielwasser, a lecturer in the BECA department, signed on as the Frisbee club’s advisor, and their membership with SF State was renewed.
"(Faculty advisor) Kielwasser has just signed off on our club, so ‘the saga’ is complete," Rishe said.
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