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By Maren Bjoergum. May 2, 2012 - 1:07 am
Days after returning from another triumph at the Nationals in Daytona, Florida, HPU’s Cheer and Dance teams got the bad news.
There will be a restructuring of the Athletics Department, resulting in this year’s NCA (National Cheerleading Association) and NDA (National Dance Association) championship being the teams’ last ones. The reactions were many, as Twitter and Facebook were filled with dismayed comments as well as support for the teams.
The administration at HPU sent out an official statement April 18 stating that “expenses for the programs have grown significantly in recent years, and to bring both costs and program expectations in alignment with other athletics endeavors, university leaders made the decision recently to reorganize the teams to support HPU athletic contests, university activities and community events.”
The Star-Advertiser quoted university officials saying, “the programs combined make up 20 percent of the athletic budget, which fields 12 Division II teams, but they did not provide a dollar figure.”
The HPU Cheer Team’s accomplishments have been noted outside of the U.S. According to international student Victoria Vermedal: “being a cheerleader back in Norway, [I] have heard of HPU’s cheer team and how exceptionally skilled they are in their sport and as a team. If there is someone who deserves this financial support, it is them, they deserve to be seen.”
The Cheer and Dance programs have brought much newsroom and acclaim to the school with their multiple titles – and in the large coed Cheer Team’s case 10 consecutive National Cheerleading Association championship titles – but that will all come to an end now.
“I do feel like they are eventually trying to get rid of the program down the road,” said Augustus, but emphasized the fact that they were trying to think about the present and that their current goal is to compete at Nationals one more time. They are exploring other options:
” [but] we’re not giving up on the fight for Nationals.”
Support is coming in from all over the country, and the Facebook group Save HPU Cheer & Dance has 9215 members, nearly 1000 more people than there are students at HPU. HPU alumni, students from other schools, prospective students and fans, both domestic and international, have bought T-shirts, written letters to the HPU administration, posted HPU-related photos and videos, and asked for other ways to support the teams.
Jessi Waddle Espiritu, an HPU and cheer team alumnae, asks for a way for HPU alumni to donate money directly to the Cheer and Dance programs, as she writes that
“I already help the school out each year, but I know there is a lot of support out there for the Cheer & Dance Program and with all the supporters donating we can keep the legacy alive.”
Cheer team members said HPU wont let the teams fundraise using the university’s name and their uniforms, so the current goal is to be able to fundraise for one more year, and that will be what they will be fighting for when the three representatives for the Dance and Cheer teams (Ashley Faulkner, Daniel Winograd, Devon Bennett) will meet with the administration on May 10.
“We hope that hope[s] that students – instead of waiting until after the fact – can be a part of the decision making process rather than being told what has happened,” said Collin Paran, Student Body President elect and student body representative on the problems. He is working closely with the Cheer and Dance teams to figure out the best possible solution.
“We’re hoping that students can be more involved in the decision making process instead of being told about the [change] after it [is already been agreed upon]” he said, pointing at the recent increase in tuition as another important decision that was made without students having a voice in the process. He also noted that the upcoming meeting will “set a precedence for how other affected student groups and programs will convey their messages.”
Augustus and the teams are trying to be optimistic, but: “We are still going to work hard to try to compromise with the school, but we do also have other options as well. If we are unable to compete at nationals, we can go forward and put an all-star team together to compete at Worlds.”
HPU Athletics and Campus Recreation Director Darren Vorderbruegge said: “The individuals involved with these programs have been well recognized for their success, and I have every reason to believe that as the programs now change, the personal commitment of the coaches and students will ensure that the tradition of excellence continues. I expect that cheer and dance will contribute to an even better fan experience at HPU athletic events and be great representatives of our student body and our university in the community and around Hawai‘i.”