The Breakers, UMW’s student break-dancing club, claims that the Office of Student Activities (OSACS) has prevented them from holding a break-dancing competition involving anyone outside the campus community.
According to club president Matt Diniega, OSACS has said that the Breakers are not allowed to hold a break-dancing event with other schools or with non-students, despite the fact that such events are allowed at other schools such as James Madison University and George Mason University.
Michele Carneiro, former president of the Breakers, said that the club first tried to hold a competition in fall 2007. The club was told that a competition with non-UMW students could be a liability.
Carneiro says they were denied the option of using waivers to ensure that the students and not the University would be held responsible in case of accidents or mishaps.
“OSACS told us that waivers do not hold up in court,” Carneiro said, “even though the boxing club, a club which actually throws punches at one another’s face, had a boxing match last year and used waivers.”
However, OSACS officials said that the club has been treated fairly under OSACS guidelines and has failed to contact the office for further assistance.
Diniega and Carneiro both said that they had previous problems with OSACS and the gym staff about planning meetings and practices, including having room reservations cancelled suddenly.
OSACS Director Joe Mollo said that his staff has tried to work with the Breakers. However, he said that due to the variety of employees working in the OSACS office, including students, temps, and regular employees, the office cannot keep track of club problems without clear communication.
“It might just be a communication issue,” Mollo said. “If they have an issue, they should come in and discuss it. I personally have not seen them.”
Susan Knick, assistant vice president for public safety and community services, said that the safety and liability issues vary on a case-by-case basis, and that the Breakers might have made requests that could potentially harm the University.
“There are many, many areas reviewed when a club wishes to have an event,” said Knick. “There are liability issues in hosting any event and it may be that the venues in which the club wished to host an event were not adequately safe for the intended use which would have increased the liability to the University.”
Knick also explained that the policy prohibiting non-UMW members from attending club meetings is typical for clubs and not confined to the Breakers.
“Club meetings and events are usually not open to the general public because the funds under which the club operates and the venues in use are supported by student-generated funds and should go toward the benefit of students and not the general public,” she said in an e-mail interview.
OSACS Assistant Director Stephen Thomas said in an e-mail that he has tried to contact the club about planning a larger event, but has not been contacted back.
The Breakers will be performing at the upcoming Multicultural Fair on April 5. Club members have performed at the fair multiple times, as well as events for the Islamic Student Association, the Wellness Fair, Small Show for PAC, Parents Weekend and Black History Month, among others.
“I don’t understand how a club can give so much and get nothing back,” Carneiro said.
She added that the club gave up on planning an event after becoming frustrated with the planning process.
Mollo said that procedures for planning club events changed in mid-February. Forms will not be sent outside the OSACS office for security and safety approval until OSACS has evaluated the plans themselves for any potential problems.
“We’re trying to take the bureaucracy out of it for the students and make it a little easier to do things,” he said.
“Any student that has an issue with an office should come in and talk with us.”