The Emerson Spirit Squad high-kicked its way to more recognition from the college this week, after starting a petition for increased acknowledgement as a campus organization.
On Tuesday, the Emerson athletic department granted the squad permission to practice in the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym, allowed the group to perform at basketball games and agreed to provide funding for new uniforms, according to co-captain Christina Szymanski, a junior marketing communication major.
The online petition, titled “Emerson College: Support Cheerleading at Emerson,” on change.org, has garnered 196 signatures since Oct. 31.
Previously, the squad was not allowed to practice in the gym or perform at sports games because Emerson does not recognize it as an official organization or sport, said Szymanski. The group used to rehearse in the Paramount residence hall or on the Common.
The Emerson Spirit Squad’s current uniforms were paid for by the group through money raised at parties and other fundraisers, said Szymanski. The athletic department will now finance new uniforms — emblazoned with the Emerson lion logo — and bows, pom-poms, and megaphones, according to Szymanski.
“We are so happy with athletics and everything they’ve offered,” Szymanski said in an email to the Beacon. “Although we still cannot stunt or tumble, we’re making great strides towards possibly being able to in the future.”
Szymanski created an online petition on change.org to raise awareness of her squad’s struggle to become officially recognized as a cheerleading team by the school.
“While I am not stating this petition for Emerson College to magically accept cheerleading and deem it a school-sanctioned activity, I am stating this to possibly take steps in the right direction. … We are asking the student body to be behind us and support us during this time,” it reads.
The goal of the initiative is to reach at least 200 signatures.
While the athletic department has allowed the squad to perform dances at basketball games, it stopped short of permitting acrobatic stunts because of a physical health liability, according to Stanford Nance, the interim athletic director.
“[The squad] came to me about cheering at men’s and women’s [basketball] games. They can only cheer and dance — that has to do with insurance,” said Nance.
Nance said he could not comment on the squad gaining recognition as a sports team.
The squad has taken precautions for its performances, including purchasing mats with its own funds, according to Szymanski.
Every team member has filled out a liability waiver, emergency contact information, and insurance forms in case of an accident, she said.
The Emerson Spirit Squad was created in 2010 and is currently composed of two co-captains, Szymanski and Noelle St. Louis, and 12 other members.
The SGA offered to recognize the squad in 2010, but the squad declined because it would not have been allowed to perform stunts of any kind, according to the SGA’s Public Relations Commissioner and journalism major John King.
“They would have been a dance team,” said Tanya Flink, former squad member and current treasurer of the SGA.
Szymanski said the new updates are steps in the right direction.
“I know that the school and athletics are doing their best to support the squad,” Szymanski said.