In the midst of an ongoing lawsuit, Queen’s University Athletics has chosen not to insure the Queen’s Bands Cheer team. A historic part of Queen’s football games and national parades, the Queen’s Bands Cheer team has been unable to stunt for months.
Meanwhile, in a notice sent to Queen’s Bands Cheer on Dec. 5, 2017, the AMS stated that to maintain coverage under AMS insurance, “Queen’s Bands may no longer have cheerleaders perform lifts, throws, pyramids, etcetera,” and that “all cheerleading members must keep one foot on the ground at all times during training, performing, or any other event.”
The notice also stated that these new limitations were applied to Queen’s Bands as an AMS ratified club, and as a “result of a review of risk associated with the cheerleader portion” of Queen’s Bands.
Amanda Stone, ArtSci ‘18, has been on the Queen’s Bands Cheer team since 2015, and was captain of the cheer team in 2017-18.
According to Stone, Queen’s Bands Cheer has “always been insured by the AMS, and they’ve always turned a blind eye” to the high risks associated with stunting.
“Their reason for pulling our insurance was because they don’t feel comfortable that they know enough about athletics and the nature of what we do to really keep us safe,” Stone said. “This is why we went to athletics,” she added.
“I think we fit under the ARC [sports model], however, they will not insure us. We’ve had numerous meetings with them. They said they can’t take on another team because of finances, or because we don’t fit into their model. However, on our end, we’ve agreed to change all of that.”
“We’re financially independent,” she continued. “We keep ourselves going, and we also said that we’ll change whatever type of structure or organization we have to fit into their model, and they’ve said that despite that, they don’t want to insure us and they won’t see it happening in the future.”
Since Queen’s Bands cheerleaders have been unable to stunt, they have stopped going to most events and all weekly practices.
“We got a lot of negative feedback from the crowds,” Stone said, adding cheerleaders could “just wave, that’s about it.”
According to Stone, there is mounting alumni concern about the absence of Queen’s Bands Cheer at events, and despite the cheer team’s long history on campus, she believes that “Queen’s Bands Cheer as we know it is definitely not there anymore,” and “ will turn into, at the very most with these conditions in place, a spirit squad.”
In an interview with The Journal, Munro Watters, the current AMS Vice-President (University Affairs), said the review of the Queen’s Bands Cheer team activities began in early September 2017.
“Essentially, the reason why this dialogue started in the first place was because the university started requiring a certificate of insurance to book space within the ARC,” she said. “Bands approached us to request information about the insurance policy, which was something they had not done in the past.”
“Seeing as their activities were athletic in nature, we decided to dig deeper,” she continued. “We looked into the highland and cheer sections of Queen’s Bands. We established that the highland group was not a high risk group, based on the physical activity that they do, but then we established that the cheer team was high risk because they are a no-experience-necessary stunt team that is instructed by upper years and has no formal training program or written procedures.”
The risk assessment was conducted by Watters’ predecessor, Palmer Lockridge, in conjunction with the AMS insurance broker, who was not present at any of the meetings Lockridge had with members of Queen’s Bands.
“Our insurance broker wasn’t present during those conversations with Queen’s Bands,” Watters said. “It was just Palmer [Lockrige] and our general manager. He relayed that information to provide the most relevant, appropriate information for the insurance broker to make the decision, who is qualified.”
According to Watters, the information Lockridge presented to the insurance broker was collected through conversations with members of Queen’s Bands, not direct observation.
Like Stone, Watters believes Queen’s Bands Cheer should seek insurance from Queen’s University’s Athletics Department.
“Clubs of this nature are better served by our school’s athletics department. Because we’re student government, we can’t manage and supervise such a high risk level of physical activity,” she said.
The Athletics and Recreation’s sport model includes three categories of sport at Queen’s: varsity teams, varsity clubs and recreational clubs. Varsity teams and clubs compete against other universities, while recreational clubs focus on participation and occasionally compete.
In an email to The Journal, Kim Murphy, Queen’s University’s director of risk management, wrote, “since the development of the sport model, new clubs and teams have not been added when the sport is already represented in one of the three categories.”
Queen’s Bands Cheer would most likely qualify as a recreational club, but because Athletics already insures a varsity cheerleading program, they’re unwilling to insure a second cheer team.
However, currently there’s both a varsity rugby team and a varsity rugby club insured by Athletics at Queen’s University.
“There’s so many different teams at Queen’s, and that’s something Queen’s really prides itself on,” Stone said. “It does make sense that they would make exceptions to let teams exist. I just don’t see why they won’t make those exceptions for our team.”
Murphy confirmed that there is “an outstanding claim where one of the participants [of QBC] was affected” by an injury related to stunting, but she was unable to discuss details.
Before they cancelled their weekly practices, Queen’s Bands Cheer practiced in the ARC’s combative rooms, where Queen’s varsity cheerleaders also practice. Although Stone could not specifically confirm whether the alleged injury, which occurred at a cheer practice in 2015, happened in the ARC, she believes it would have been “in the same type of room.”
Before the alleged injury occurred, Queen’s didn’t require teams looking to book rooms at the ARC to present a certificate of insurance.
“I remember when I came to Queen’s, they told us that if there’s not a club for something you want, tell them and they’ll make it,” Stone said. “I feel like I haven’t seen that, and I think that’s really disappointing. It’s something Queen’s always advertises, but then here we are with a team that’s existed for so long, and we’re completely willing to change or adapt how they might need us to, and they’re completely unwilling.”
“I had one last meeting to see if there was any hope, even if not for right now, in the next two years,” she said.
“It was almost like a plea. They told us no.”
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