Faith. Service. Education of the whole person.

These are the ideals that define Georgetown University and its Jesuit heritage.

And, according to Liora Gelblum (SFS ’05), these are the also reasons she was forced off Georgetown’s varsity tennis team.

The No. 1 women’s singles player, Gelblum was dismissed from the team last December after accepting a fellowship to travel to the Ukraine to work with a Jewish community there this spring.

The fellowship, awarded through the Pesach Project of Hillel of Greater Washington, would have caused Gelblum to miss 10 days of the spring season. According to an email to Gelblum from Head Coach Rich Bausch, missing that time was “not acceptable for [her] to continue being on the intercollegiate tennis team.”

Forced to choose between the team and the fellowship, Gelblum ultimately decided to accept the fellowship and had to leave Georgetown’s tennis team.

The decision was difficult for Gelblum, but the chance to work with the Pesach Project was simply too good to pass up.

“It’s an amazing opportunity both academically and, for me, spiritually,” Gelblum said.

So, from Mar. 20-30, Gelblum will be in Kharkov, Ukraine, instead of competing for the Hoyas against Swarthmore, James adison and American Universities.

The Athlete, the Person

A member of the varsity tennis team since she arrived on the Hilltop after being heavily recruited, Gelblum has been a dominant player for the Hoyas. As the No. 1 singles player her freshman and sophomore years, Gelblum compiled an overall record of 29-18 in singles play. With a 3.90 GPA, she was also named to the Verizon Academic All-District Second Team in 2003.

Gelblum was abroad for her junior year and missed the entire 2003-04 season but returned in the fall right where she had left off. Again playing No. 1 singles, she compiled an 8-4 record and won a singles title at the Georgetown Invitational. She also represented Georgetown at the Wilson/ITA Regional Championships, the most difficult tournament of the fall season, picking up a first-round win.

“This year had been going really, really well,” she said. “I had been playing really well.”

Even with her commitment to the tennis team, Gelblum always found time to participate in other activities.

“I’ve always had other things outside of tennis,” Gelblum said. “It’s not like at some schools where tennis is everything, above academics, above everything.”

On the Hilltop, Gelblum found other things she was interested in off the court and became involved in the Jewish community as well as human and civil rights. Over the summer she worked at a Jewish civil rights organization so, when she learned of the Pesach Project and its mission, she saw it as the perfect opportunity.

“This fellowship is just everything,” she said.

After speaking to others who had been part of the fellowship in previous years, Gelblum applied for the fellowship, and in November she was selected as one of 10 Washington-area students to receive the fellowship.

It was then, after her selection, that Gelblum realized the trip to the Ukraine would conflict with the tennis season. Under the expectation that the trip would occur over Passover – which falls in late April, after the end of the season – Gelblum found out that this year the trip will happen over Purim in mid-March. She immediately e-mailed Bausch to inform him of the fellowship and the conflict.

According to Gelblum, Bausch e-mailed her a response on Dec. 1, 2004, that said, “I cannot give you permission to miss the ten days required to travel to the Ukraine.”

Bausch explained to her in the e-mail that “as much as this is an honor for you to be selected; and as much as it is a wonderful opportunity to travel and interact with energetic, enthusiastic comrades; and as much as it would be a wonderful leadership experience; and as much as you would be bringing a very important message of freedom and liberation to an physically, emotionally and ideologically impoverished people; you already have the pre-existing commitment you made to Hoya Tennis.”

In the e-mail he also described the opportunities she had to fulfill these same aspirations in Washington, D.C., as a member of the tennis team.

Bausch instructed Gelblum to “contact [the Pesach Project] immediately to tell them you must respectfully decline the opportunity due to a previous commitment so they can begin the process of communicating to an alternate.”

Gelblum was disappointed with Bausch’s decision and called him after receiving the e-mail to try to persuade him to change his mind. According to Gelblum, she was on the phone with Bausch for over two hours “trying to explain why it was so important to me and why this is something that a school like Georgetown would encourage . [because] it’s faith and it’s service and academically it goes along with everything I’ve worked on.”

Yet Bausch would not change his mind. The trip would require Gelblum to miss three non-conference matches and four team practices and Bausch felt – according to an e-mail sent to Gelblum on Dec. 6 – that this missed time “would not be fair to the team.”

With that Gelblum was left to choose between the fellowship and the tennis team.

It should have been a difficult decision for Gelblum to make, but one factor made it surprisingly simple: money.

Bausch informed Gelblum that if she chose the fellowship and left the tennis team, her athletic scholarship would be withdrawn. She needed that money to remain at Georgetown and so decided to remain on the tennis team.

“I felt like I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “To be able to go here I have to have my scholarship.”

The Battle

The next day at practice, however, Gelblum was persuaded by a teammate not to let the issue drop so easily.

With her teammate’s encouragement, Gelblum decided to press the issue further. She spoke to her dean, Mitch Kaneda, who wrote an e-mail to Bausch urging him to consider the academic merit of the fellowship. Julie Fishman, the director of the Georgetown Jewish Students Association and a former participant in the Pesach Project, also spoke to Bausch on Gelblum’s behalf.

Yet, according to Gelblum, Bausch remained adamant in his decision that she must choose one or the other. So, as a last step, Gelblum went to Associate Athletic Director Kim Simons to explain the situation in hopes that she might be able to mediate it.

Gelblum said Simons expressed surprise over Bausch’s decision and was understanding of her interest in activities off the court and that she offered to speak to Bausch about the situation.

After Gelblum’s meeting with Simons, a meeting was held between Interim Athletic Director Adam Brick, Simons and Bausch to discuss Gelblum’s options.

Both Brick and Simons declined comment for this story.

Kevin Rieder, assistant sports information director, said that the athletic department staff will not comment on individual situations or athletes.

After the meeting, Bausch called Gelblum and informed her what had been decided at the meeting. According to Gelblum, Bausch said it was decided by Brick that if Gelblum did accept the fellowship she should be able to keep her scholarship, regardless of whether she was on the team or not.

Gelblum said that Bausch told her that while he did not agree with the decision of the athletic department – he did not think she should be able to retain her scholarship if she was not playing – he was going to heed the recommendation and the scholarship no longer needed to weigh on her decision.


Even though money was no longer a factor, Gelblum’s decision was not any easier.

“I’ve played tennis my whole life,” she said. “I love playing and I love competing . This was not how I wanted to end intercollegiate tennis.”

Gelblum appealed to Assistant Tennis Coach Nina Kamp, who suggested Gelblum try to reach a compromise with Bausch.

Now past the deadline to accept the fellowship, Gelblum made one last appeal to Bausch.

Gelblum said she offered to “come to practice 15 minutes before every practice and help set up, hit with anybody who needs an extra hitting partner, pretty much anything.”

Yet Gelblum said Bausch still would not change his mind but that he did say that it was possible something could come up to change the situation.

Thinking there was a crack of opportunity, Gelblum accepted the fellowship.

After she accepted the fellowship Gelblum wrote an e-mail to the coach and assistant coaches telling them she had chosen to accept the fellowship knowing what the consequences are, but that she was not quitting and would remain on the team until they forced her off.

The next day, Dec. 6, Gelblum received an e-mail from Bausch that informed her she was officially off the team. The e-mail instructed her to “turn in your Hoya team gear, including all the uniform items that were issued to you this year, as well as the team gear bag.”

The e-mail also informed her that “Upon consultation with the Director of Athletics, Adam Brick, and the Associate Director of Athletics, Kim Simons, it was agreed that you would retain your tennis scholarship for the second semester despite the fact that you will not be on the team second semester.”

Gelblum said she was devastated and that the decision did not make sense. While still trying to sort through everything, Gelblum was informed that Bausch had sent out an e-mail to the entire team informing them that she was no longer a member of the varsity tennis team.

Gelblum said her former teammates came to her in confusion and she sent out an e-mail to them to explain the situation. She apologized and promised to be there if they ever need her.

Yet, according to Gelblum, her teammates remained confused and upset. She said they organized meetings with Bausch in which they communicated their confusion and their desire to keep Gelblum on the team, even if she was going to miss 10 days, but that he was unresponsive.

Bausch refused to comment.

THE HOYA was denied access to the members of the varsity tennis team. Rieder said that they had no comment because Gelblum was no longer a varsity athlete.

While the members of the varsity tennis team travel to Virginia Commonwealth University today and prepare to play host to Pittsburgh tomorrow, Gelblum remains off the team.

Yet if asked to return, after all the conflict, Gelblum said she would be there in a heartbeat.

“I love competing,” she said. “I would really like to finish my last semester of tennis.”

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