SA and former UAlbany Rowing team battle for boats
By Lauren Mineau
Members of the former UAlbany Rowing team are back on the water, but restrictions may apply.
Although they remain de-recognized by the University and SA, the locks have been removed from the boathouse.
According to Trevor Bender and Keith Heesemann, former members of UAlbany Rowing, the boathouse being locked was a minor misunderstanding.
It was locked as SA requested but after filing the necessary paperwork with the City of Albany, the locks were able to be removed.
Friends of Albany Rowing, the local rowing club not affiliated with the University also has a license to the boathouse, the student rowers are able to compete again.
Recently the team competed against Vassar and Skidmore.
On April 21, the day following the meet two members of Friends of Albany Rowing had stopped by the boathouse to clean up and perform some general maintenance on the boats when they allegedly discovered Ryan Witte, SA’s Chief of Staff and two members of a moving company attempting to take equipment from the boathouse.
The two members of Friends of Albany Rowing, Todd Rutecki (the former coach of UAlbany Rowing) and Pavel Sidorenko noticed that two of the boats that had been loaded onto the trailer were not owned by SA, but owned by Friends of Albany Rowing.
According to Trevor Bender’s account of the incident, Witte said “I have to leave with 5 boats,” implying that he was not concerned with which boats he was taking.
It was at this point that the Albany Police were called and the movers decided they would not take the boats for fear of being caught up in a potential criminal situation.
Rushforth said he did orchestrate the removal of the boats. The removal overlapped with the SA event, Cultural Carnival which perhaps explains why he did not make an appearance at the boathouse himself to supervise the removal of the
“I contracted a moving company to come and remove the trailer, the five boats registered that are ours and I think 20 or 30 oars,” said Rushforth.
On April 25, Rushforth explained that SA was searching for the proper documentation at the time and will be prepared to remove the equipment at a later date with the help of the Albany Police Department.
According to Trevor Bender,
Witte had two documents with him on April 21, one was a registration form for one of the boats dated last year and another was a form from Capital Inventory.
The registration is similar to a car and does not grant permission to remove or grant direct ownership.
If the equipment had been taken, the estimated value exceeds $1,000 — making the removal a class E felony in New York State. Crew members estimate the costs at $2,600 for one set of oars and each boat roughly $20,000 when purchased new. Two boats and three sets of oars were attempted to be removed.
“He either [attempted to] steal the equipment knowingly or without actually trying to make a conscious effort to figure out what was his, stole it. He either knew of should have known.” said Bender.
“If it hadn’t been for pure luck he not only would have ordered people to commit a felony but had Witte and the movers committing one as well,” he said.
Bender and Heesemann stated that the setup of the SA equipment within the boathouse allowed it to be as out of the way as possible. Upon the boathouse being unlocked they moved it out of the way. The SA boats are also not rigged or ready for use, according to the former members.
“The boats are actually dusty,” Heesemann said.
Bender expressed that he wouldn’t even want the responsibility of looking after SA equipment since in the eyes of the University they do not exist as a team and he does not exist as an e-board member.
When asked about the incident Rushforth said, “They weren’t the wrong boats they were the boats registered to use through the City of Albany.”
Rushforth said there may have been a claim made by former Todd Rutecki that the boats didn’t belong to SA.
He added that the Friends of Albany Rowing showed up and threatened to call the police saying SA didn’t have the proper documentation to take the boats and scared off the moving company.
“If this individual [Rutecki] is no longer associated with the student association, I don’t understand why he keeps showing up at the scene whenever we try to remove equipment,” Rushforth said.
Rushforth said he feels he was very right in his actions against the team stating much of the trouble began when the crew team overspent their budget last year “based of initiatives the coach encouraged them to do.”
“He is a cancer to the group and holds them back,” Rushforth said.
Moving forward, Rushforth said he hopes the team will learn to view SA as a vital component to their group’s functionality.
“I really do hope to see a compromise, their needs to be a change in leadership in the crew team and a change in mentality, every other group realizes there are rules and restrictions they need to play by and they can handle it,” Rushforth said.
The members also expressed further frustration with the University and SA as far as communicating regarding the situation.
They have requested minutes (list of what was discussed during a meeting) from the meetings in which they were de-recognized so they could prepare properly for a potential SA Supreme Court case.
According to Heeseman, crew members inquired with Greg Albert, chairman of the senate, for the list of reasons for de-recognition and updated minutes. Albert sent them a list of things needed for re-recognition.
According to SA’s website Albert’s position requires him to be “responsible for facilitating communication and cooperation between the Senators and their various constituencies.”
The members requested updated minutes because the most recent minutes listed on the website are from Feb. 27 2013. According to SA bylaw 18.104.22.168, SA must make minutes available for inspection by Senate members no later than two full business days following a regular meeting.
Though the team members have an SA Supreme Court case against them, they are petitioning it, which is within their rights as students. However, they said information on how to file the paperwork for a petition was never made available to them.
“Why do you have to be obligated to do something when it is your job to service the students,” Bender said.
The former crew team also said they have had similar trouble with the University officials, specifically in the office of Student Success. They said that whenever they request information or assistance they are referred to SA and for disciplinary action, referred to the SA Supreme Court.
“It’s sad that kind of support is not echoed in the University setting. There are other schools who run as a club team under their University and have a ‘friends’ group on the side as well, like Virginia,” Bender said.
The members expressed that they do not wish to be difficult they simply find SA’s means of communications difficult and perhaps somewhat intentional.
As of right now, the members continue to row with the support of Friends of Albany Rowing. They express that the local rowers provide more than equipment but a family of rowers and support.
“I don’t think waking up at 5 a.m. every morning and being on the Hudson in 35 degree weather and working out and going to class is irresponsible. I don’t understand the struggle,” Bender said.