Freshman athlete with leg disability pledges fraternity

Ethan Linsky, freshman in DGS, is pledging the fraternity Psi Upsilon. He is also is a walk-on athlete who plays basketball for the University. Linsky has Cerebral Palsy.

“Specifically, it’s called spastic diplegia, which means only my legs are impaired,” Linsky said.

The cause for cerebral palsy is unknown but develops either during birth or before two years of age. Linsky’s mental and upper-body physical capacity is that of any able-bodied 18 year old.

Using, but not confined to his wheelchair, Linsky didn’t plan on taking part in the pledge process.

“There’s a rumor going around that the alums are going to pay to make the house handicap-accessable when I’m initiated,” Linsky said. “It’s a nice gesture, but it’s not necessary.”

Linsky said that Psi Upsilon’s staircases are easy to navigate, since most have railings.

“The guys (in-house members of Psi Upsilon) are always really cool and willing to help with the chair,” Linsky said. “It’s interesting that they are (always willing to help), since most able-bodied people don’t think about stuff like that.”

Sal Palafox, pledge education chair for the House and junior in Engineering, said he didn’t hesitate when Linsky rolled up to the house.

“My only concern was making sure he got up to the third floor okay, since the house isn’t wheelchair-accessible,” Palafox said. “Other than that, he’s just a normal, funny guy.”

Linsky’s humor is one of the main factors that gained recognition within the house.

“I went back a couple days later, and all the brothers knew my name and remembered me,” Linsky said. “Obviously, I always had (my disability) on my mind when I was wheeling around during rush, but this house was just a great fit.”

Linsky currently lives in Weston Hall in a standard double room. He said that he made sure he had a roommate so that he wouldn’t feel isolated in a single room.

In the winter months, Linsky wears ankle-foot orthotics, or AFOs — plastic braces that strap to the back of his legs. Linsky said that the braces help him to walk much longer, as well as keep his legs warm. But for now, he relies mostly on his wheelchair, especially for his sport.

“I was really lucky, since I didn’t play wheelchair basketball in high school like most of the guys on the team,” Linsky said. “I’m always trying to catch up to the other guys. It’s a tough sport, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Hailing from Boston, Mass., Linsky said he had a good group of close friends who were good support for him socially, but he said it wasn’t until he came to the University that he became part of a huge community where everyone seemed to understand the mobility-impaired lifestyle right away.

“People still stare (on campus), but they’re just curious,” Linsky said.

“I want them to come up to me and ask questions. I don’t want people to feel that they have to censor what they do or say at all.”