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Grievance panel hears SOU cheerleading case

ASHLAND - A Southern Oregon University cheerleader and the SOU athletic director each had their say Friday in a grievance hearing closed to the public.

Cheerleading coach and SOU student Melissa Bernstein filed a grievance against Athletic Director Monty Cartwright after Cartwright told the cheerleaders they could not longer perform certain stunts for safety reasons.

Bernstein's grievance asserts that Cartwright made his decision without student input, which is required under campus rules.

The committee's decision is expected by March 13.

Bernstein said that according to SOU's student handbook, students have the right to participate in the formulation of regulations affecting student affairs.

Cartwright has declined to comment, citing the grievance process.

The dispute started last fall after Bernstein was injured during practice and the team's advisor told them they couldn't perform the basket toss stunt, Bernstein said.

Bernstein maintains that performing stunts is a major part of cheerleading. She has been certified in safety procedures and practices by a national organization, she says, and if stunts are banned several cheerleaders won't return next year.

On Friday a handful of cheerleading team members and the team captain, Rob Day, waited outside the door of the hearing. Day was the only cheerleading team member allowed to testify in the hearing before a committee of faculty, students and administrators.

SOU cheerleaders Mary Nelson, 18, and Jaimie Morrison, 19, were formerly cheerleaders at Ashland High School, where they performed the same stunts they did at SOU.

We come to college and we do less than what we did in high school, Morrison said.

The two young women said the SOU team has practiced and perform the stunts the same way they did in high school, and if stunts are banned they won't be back.