Bi-college boycott of South Carolina results from college conversation
By biconews On 15 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Heather Grigo

This month Haverford became the first college in the Philadelphia area to cancel its team’s spring break training plans in South Carolina out of protest against the Confederate flag flying over official state sites. Bryn Mawr soon followed with its own decision to boycott. The birthday

of Martin Luther King, Jr. marked the onset of a boycott gaining momentum throughout the United States that eventually caused the bi-college boycott. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a march of 50,000 people on South Carolina’s state capital, Columbia, on Martin Luther King Day protested not only the lack of state recognition of the holiday, but, moreover, the presence of a Confederate flag waving above the capitol [Feb. 4, page A 16]. Last year, the NAACP had suggested a national travel boycott of the state to protest the Confederate flag if the state legislature refused to remove the flag by Jan. 1, 2000. The first day of the month came and went without change in the flag’s status, and the NAACP began boycotting.

The Haverford College women’s tennis team was the first college sports team to cancel their spring trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina, making the decision at the end of January in response to the objectionable nature of the flag. The issue was simultaneously raised by the team’s coach, Ann Koger, and the director of the Department of Athletics, Greg Kannerstein. At Haverford members of Haverford’s tennis team supported Koger’s decision from the start. At Bryn Mawr the tennis team intially rejected the decision, but after further discussion with the athletic department administration, they determined that they would abstain from attending the Carolina matches. Although the flag had been flying above the state capitol for more than three decades, Coach Koger had neither seen nor heard mention of the flag until she viewed television coverage of the enormous march on Columbia. Because the team, which has been traveled [sic] to Hilton Head each spring since 1989, was not scheduled to meet until Jan. 31, Koger sent articles to each player containing information on the unfolding events.

In the meantime, the decision-making process was underway. After discussion took place among the coaches and the team, whose members were highly supportive of the decision to boycott, the suggestion was brought to Haverford’s senior administration, which quickly endorsed the decision. Immediately afterward, Koger contacted the coordinator at Hilton Head, as well as the college’s tennis opponents, to inform them of the decision, and included an official statement from Kannerstein. As Koger told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I think the flag is and [sic] extremely offensive symbol to African Americans, and I am African American (as are assistant coaches Valerie Howard and Bill Ballou). Whenever I think of the flag myself, I think of the Civil War, slavery and all the things that happened to my people and other people.” President Tritton was entirely supportive of the school’s action to participate in the boycott. He stated that the most influential factor contributing to his decision was that “they were acting on a matter of principle and conscience.”

According to Kannerstein, the College’s decision was influenced by two factors: the nature of the issue, which relates to Haverford’s perceived tradition of individual respect, and the existence of an ongoing boycott by the NAACP, an organization well-respected by the College. Stated Kannerstein, “Haverford does not want to contribute to the tourist economy of a state which shows its disrespect to such a large segment of its citizens through the flag it flies over its capitol.” Since it was the only team from Haverford College scheduled to spend spring break in South Carolina, the women’s tennis team is the College’s sole participant in the boycott.

Nevertheless, their stance is of great importance, according to sophomore Alyssa Kennedy, one of the tri-captains: “It’s a slight inconvenience to make a point.” Fortunately, the team found new accommodations in a much warmer setting: Florida. Since the expense of the trip increased, some players will be traveling by plane in the company of their parents, while others will travel with the coaches by van, a situation that, according to Koger, will be “an opportunity for major bonding experience.” In addition, there was difficulty rescheduling matches; but so thus two have been successfully adjusted.

At Bryn Mawr, both the tennis and lacrosse teams joined in the boycott. According to Amy Campbell, the Director of Athletics at Bryn Mawr, “the decision was made by the students and the coaches of the lacrosse and tennis teams.” Campbell said that the decision of the students was “fully supported and respected by the administration.” When Haverford’s Koger and Kannerstein first raised the issue, Bryn Mawr was given the opportunity to have the same discussion. Included in these discussions were Director of Institutional Diversity Zoila Airall, President Nancy Vickers and Dean of the Undergraduate College Karen Tidmarsh. Students on the tennis and lacrosse teams were notified of the boycott during their first week back from winter break. Discussions took place among the coaches of both teams, who then spoke with their players. Campbell said that these discussions allowed the players and the coaches to talk about some very important issues: she believes it was a “teaching experience” for all those involved. The coaches then allowed the players to vote by e-mail on whether to participate in spring training at Hilton Head. The lacrosse team decided to withdraw its players, but the tennis team at first elected to participate at Hilton Head.

According to Tara Ghei, a member of the tennis team, the athletic department then asked the team if they wanted to support the cause and boycott, head Coach Natalie Butler informed the tennis team of Haverford’s plans and allowed the teams to determine their stance on the issue. Campbell said that before the students voted, “they did not have information about [the possibility of] training elsewhere. The decision had to do with the issues.” Ghei, on the other hand, claims the tennis team was presented with options for alternative travel destinations prior to voting, but, she said, “there was also the possibility that we would not end up going anywhere.” “I think a lot of us thought about what we wanted to do for sring break,” commented Ghei, “and did not look at the big issue. As a result, the administration, as well as the athletics department, had meetings and decided that, since lacrosse decided not to go, the tennis team should not go either.”

Ghei applauds the intervention of the athletic department: “I feel that maybe we did not make the right decision the first time, and if we had to again, would not do the same thing. I’m really proud that we have such good role models in the administration [who were] able to make the right decision for us. As students, we forget that we do not know everything.” Campbell, on the other hand, said that the decision was that of the students, and the department supported them. She also stated that the teams’ decisions were in accordance with the values of the Honor Code as well as those of the NAACP of “fostering mutual respect among all people.” Said Campbell, “the larger issues are really much more important than a single game.” Although some citizens of South Carolina are in favor of removing the flag, it still remains an unresolved issue. Said Koger, “The popular support is to take it down, but the political support is no action, to leave it up.” Should the flag remain flying, Haverford’s team will simply travel elsewhere next year, she said. Among the options for next year’s spring break are Arizona and the Caribbean. The Bryn Mawr tennis team will fly to Arizona for a full week of spring pre-season training.

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