Mascot Mayhem: Tree Suspended, Alcohol Cited.

UC-Berkeley Athletic Department officials Breathalyzed their mascot at a .157 blood-alcohol content at halftime of the men's basketball team's 65-62 loss at Berkeley, according to sources, including several in the band.

Erin Lashnits, a coterminal student in biological sciences, has been suspended for the remainder of her tenure as the Stanford Tree.

Band Manager Mike Priest and Assistant Manager Adam Cohen announced their decision to Lashnits on Thursday night, just hours after UC-Berkeley Athletic Department officials Breathalyzed her at a .157 blood-alcohol content at halftime of the men's basketball team's 65-62 loss at Berkeley, according to sources, including several in the band.

"I'm sad to be done," said Lashnits, who at 23-years-old, is accused of violating not the law, but the Band's alcohol probation. "It's been the best year of my life, pretty much on a daily basis."

Lashnits claimed the trouble started not over alcohol, but over miscommunication about where on Cal's court she would be permitted to dance.

"I spoke with the various Cal reps, and usually there's places that you can and can't go on the court — where I am, where Oski is, where the Cal student section is — they want to keep these things very separate," Lashnits said. "[A Cal Athletic Department employee] told me I couldn't cross the free-throw line — I thought he meant the other side's free-throw line, not that I was only allowed to be standing under the basket. So I was out at center-court, where I wasn't allowed to be, having no idea."

Whatever the cause, Berkeley officials escorted the former Stanford varsity diver off the Haas Pavilion court and barred her from returning. From there, the decision to suspend her for the rest of her tenure was all but inevitable, according to Cohen.

"The decision was unanimous between myself and the Manager Mike Priest," said Cohen, a junior. "She knew that she had been removed from a game. It's not like she argued. She understood."

Cohen and Band Public Relations Director Sam Urmy, a sophomore, stressed that Lashnits' troubles at Cal were merely the last of a laundry list of problems, many of them involving alcohol.

Urmy said Lashnits was suspended for several weeks following an alcohol-related incident during Band Run at the start of the year, and was unable to perform at home football games as a result.

"The alcohol-related stuff is the main issue," Urmy said. "The fact is she hasn't taken warnings about alcohol to heart as seriously as the rest of the Band, and that's taken very seriously by the Athletic Department and the administration."

Along with other Band members, Urmy added that punctuality and attendance were also issues, noting that Lashnits regularly showed up to games after tip-off — if at all. All told, Urmy said she chafed many with her "attitude to her position."

"It was the last in a line of small stupid things she's done," Urmy said. "We decided to take care of it before worse happened or the Athletic Department had to step in and do something. We don't want to risk ending Band over something stupid."

The risk that the University would act against the Band was real, members said. They pointed out that, this year in particular, the Band has been subject to the most scrutiny in recent memory, all while steering clear of major alcohol policy violations. Accordingly, Band management and Lashnits alike were quick to distance her behavior from that of the Band in general.

"This really isn't indicative of the Band's current situation or the Tree's current situation," Lashnits said.

Given the University's increasingly watchful eye, Lashnits said she understands the decision to effectively terminate her run as Tree.

"Because the Band is a student-run organization and wants to remain such, they want to make sure they're the ones taking things into their own hands and making sure they're being the responsible party, instead of having to force administration to take on that role," Lashnits said. "They do that in all cases whether it's some random trumpet player, a Dollie or the Tree."

Lashnits' term was due to end when a new Tree is crowned on March 4, but now the Band will be mascotless for the next three weeks.

In years past, the new and old Trees usually split up to cover both the men's and women's basketball postseasons. This year, while Lashnits believes the new Tree will have to decide which tournament to attend, she stresses that the "institution of the Tree" has not been diminished.

"The Tree's going to be just as awesome as it ever was," Lashnits said. "Nothing fundamental's going to change. The Tree will be the Tree forever and ever."

And though Lashnits said she'll miss what she called "the closest she'll ever become to being a rockstar," she added that her time had come.

"I'm so fucking burnt out," Lashnits said. "I have shin splints that are killing me and my costume got torn up and destroyed against Washington when Sixth Man stormed the court. The only things I'm missing are two home basketball games which really aren't that big of a deal to me. I'm not that big of a sports fan."

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(San Jose Mercury News' Rendition)

Stanford Tree suspended for being drunk at Cal game.

By Lisa Krieger- Mercury News

The Stanford Tree has been felled for bad behavior.

Fifth-year senior Erin Lashnits, who dressed as the rowdy mascot for the university's irreverent band, lost her Tree privileges Thursday after her alcohol blood content was measured at .157 at a basketball game against Cal. That's not only too drunk to legally drive but too high to be a responsible Tree.

To make matters worse, Stanford lost the game. Berkeley officials escorted Lashnits off the court and tested her, then barred her from returning, according to Band Public Relations Director Sam Urmy.

To avoid possible disciplinary problems with the school's athletic department or administration, the band decided to give her the ax. E-mails to Lashnits on Tuesday from the Mercury News were not returned.

Lashnits, a former varsity diver, won the Tree title after tryouts in which she arrived in the center of a staged bat mitzvah celebration carried in a chair, surrounded by dozens of supporters wearing pink ``Erin for Tree'' shirts and singing Hava Nagila.

While the position has perks, such as strangers pulling your leaves, it was also very stressful, Lashnits told the Stanford Daily. She has shin splints. Her costume was recently destroyed. This was only the latest in a series of Tree-related problems, according to Urmy. There were alcohol-related incidents at two other events, he said.

Lashnits is 22 years old, according to New York's voter registration database, which makes her of legal drinking age. But while the latest antic may seem unremarkable for a job that requires making mayhem, the band is on ``alcohol suspension,'' meaning zero-tolerance for drunkenness, and is striving to erase its boozy image.

``We don't want to risk our core mission of rocking out and bringing funk to the funkless,'' Urmy said.

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