By Kelly Chian ‘16 & Alayna Press ’17
A perception of spotty enforcement of the UA Athletic Code has students questioning the administration
It was the last day of junior year, and Alice* and her friends went out to Wendy’s during lunch to get ice for the Mike’s Hard Lemonades that had become warm in her car.
They got the ice and headed back to school with no conflict. Alice went about her day as usual until her eighth period study hall, when one of her friends was called down to the office by an administrator. A few nervous minutes later, she was called down as well.
Panicked and in tears, she then spent the next three hours writing what she specifically had done and signing many forms without her parents present.
Alice and her friends had been caught for underage drinking. Someone at Wendy’s had seen the alcohol in the back of their car and had reported it to the police.
Using the license plate number and the help of the school’s administration, the police were able to discover which student the car belonged to.
Alice and her friends were given a ten day suspension with the ability to attend a family workshop for two Saturdays in return for a three day suspension instead. Alice, being an athlete, also sat out for 20 percent of her games, which was three games that season.
While her punishment was set by the athletic code, she saw discrepancies in the way the Code is enforced across all sports and athletes.
The punishment process starts with the police or the administration; if the student plays a sport, it then goes to the athletic director.
The athletic director works with the police to reprimand students who are caught breaking the law.
“At least once a week the police will come in and they’ll tell us if they had any information on some possible code violations,” athletic director Tony Pusateri said.
The possible violations are either already known through the given evidence or need further investigating.
“There’s two possible things that could happen. One, if the police are involved, it’s a done deal, we start the process,” Pusateri said. “Two, if we’re investigating something, then we would call you down and try to get to the bottom of it, and then we would go from there.”
If there is a code violation, Pusateri goes over the code and proper punishment with the student.
“We make sure the athlete knows what the punishment is, and then we have a book and it has a list of things that he/she has to do,” Pusateri said.
The athletic director said he treats everyone equally by administrating the disciplinary action outlined in the code. However, coaches may not report every incident they see or hear.
“I think [the punishment] depends on how much the coach wants to protect you ,” Alice said.
Since Pusateri is new to the high school this year, he admitted that he’s not always positive that the coaches report everything they see.
“I don’t know our coaches well enough yet, I don’t think anybody turns their back,” Pusateri said. “The ones I know, most of them have children, and when you have children, you start thinking a little differently about discipline in kids.”
Alice said she understands the code’s purpose, what she questions is the severity of the punishment. However, the code is similar to codes in nearby schools.
“I think the athletic code is obviously put in place for a reason,” Alice said. “But I also think that it can be a little drastic for certain violations.”
The drinking policy in particular has been put into question.
“I think the drinking policy is slightly strict,” Alice said. “It’s considered one of the more harsh violation and it has its punishments extended beyound just school.”
Junior Zoe Manoukian runs track and cross country and sees the value in the code but not as a deterrent for the students.
“I know you’re not supposed to drink or do drugs but everyone does them anyway,” Manoukian said. “A lot of people don’t worry about it because either it doesn’t apply to them, or they don’t think they will get caught.”
On the other hand, Junior Julia Redmond does see the teams treating students equally even if they break the rules.
“I know some teams break the rules more than others, but I don’t think any one team is more strict in enforcing them,” Manoukian said.
Varsity volleyball coach Chris Van Arsdale explained the importance of a policy and its purpose.
“The code attempts to strike a balance between education and deterrence.,” Van Arsdale said. “Students need to be able to self-report and to get help with minimal consequences, as policies should encourage both of these actions.”
Senior Jackson McNair sees the policy as being too severe for the first time offense.
“I think the policy is good except that a first offense should be less severe because it could be a one-time thing. The punishment should be harsh for a recurring issue but not for the first instance,” McNair said.
Alcohol creates difficulties in sustaining a good program and the drinking policy is supposed to encourage an environment without drugs and alcohol. With a set of core values, the team and program can be built off of those instead of alcohol.
While parents and coaches play a role in the decisions, the players ultimately have to make the decision in order to change.
“A program needs to have all people involved, but at the high school level, it is best if parents take a more supportive role, as decisions will not be valued by the players unless the students are the ones making them,” Van Arsdale said.
Another aspect of code enforcement is how the athlete gets caught. The majority of the tips that the Athletic Director gets about students breaking the code come from concerned parents.
“It’s usually some other parents turning them in. I get an anonymous email or an anonymous letter or phone call that says, ‘You better check on so and so because they were drunk this weekend’,” Pusateri said. “I don’t think they’re doing it to try to get anyone in trouble; I think they’re trying to keep kids safe, and then maybe protect their [own] kid from getting in any trouble.”
When a parent turns to the Athletic Director with a tip, the punishment is carried out through administration. However, the fairness of the administration’s methods has been questioned by students in the past.
“We’ve had lawyers come in, representing kids, but we won. We didn’t do anything wrong. Even though the lawyers are trying to find a way to say, ‘No you can’t do that’, We can. We did it, and the student was guilty,” Pusateri said.
But beyond the punishment itself, there is also question on how the punishment was carried out by the administration. When Alice was brought down to the office, the administration waited until after she had signed a written confession to call her parents.
“Everything was without my parents. Alone, I had to sign all this stuff, and I was so emotional I didn’t even know what I was signing. I was bawling, like nothing like that has ever happened to me before,” Alice said. “Then my dad just came to pick me up and they said your daughter did this this and this, and she signed all of this, she’s suspended next year, bye.”
The athletic code was created to deter students from making poor decisions and breaking the law.
“I think if somebody’s gonna do it, they’re gonna do it. I wish that we could kinda change it and somebody would say, ‘nah we don’t need to do this, you know let’s just not do it’,” Pusateri said. “Unfortunately, some people do do that and some people don’t so, it’s not used to being a punishment. We don’t like punishing people; we just want it to be some kind of deterrent. It gives kids an out.”
The goal of the administration and the athletic director is to keep students safe and help them create a healthy lifestyle, and hopefully keep bad habits from forming,” Van Arsdale said.
“Essentially, I think it helped put up a ‘caution’ sign in my life and so I was forced to take a step back and think about where my life was headed and whether or not that was the path I wanted to take,” Alice said. “It sucks but in the end I’m happy I’m on the other side of it all now.”