On Sunday, April 8 the final day of D3 Week, the MASCAC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee held a diversity and inclusion panel on the campus of Worcester State University.
The diversity panel was made up of MASCAC Commissioner Angela Baumann, former Massachusetts Maritime Athletic Director Garin Veris, Westfield State assistant to the Athletic Director/assistant cross country and track and field coach Marlee Berg and Framingham State football student-athlete and campus Brother2Brother President Deron Hines.
“Diversity and inclusion are prevalent issues facing our conference and country," Baumann said. "We wanted to create an open discussion with our student-athletes. The personal experiences and feedback from the panel and student-athletes were prime examples of why these discussions need to be had. Our student-athletes created action items and strategies that they can implement on their campus and in their personal lives to become beckons of diversity and inclusion.”
Throughout the morning, the panel was asked different questions on their definition of diversity, causes of racism, sexism and homophobia, racial and gender stereotypes, incidents on their campus and their own personal experiences with discrimination.
"I thought that the panel had a lot of good things to say and it brought a lot of insight on the topic that some people might of not even known about," Lexi Popp, Westfield State track and field student-athletes, MASCAC SAAC Vice-President said. "We can always be more diverse and inclusive in any place that we may be so it was nice to hear ideas and ways that we can do that. Hearing real life examples from the panel shows you that this is still something that we are dealing with in this world and we all can now play a part to stop shaming and be more accepting."
Following the panel questions, the group discussed action items and how to improve relations on their individual campus and within in the conference. Having each SAAC President talk to other campus student organizations to work on co-branding efforts and hosting events together to hopefully bring diverse groups together. The student-athletes shared that many campuses already host forums where students can discuss issues that are happening to them and around campus. Creating an informational pamphlet for the different populations on campus to make them feel more comfortable when they arrive on campus were just a few of the ideas that came out of the discussion.
"It was a great experience for me," Hines said. "I like how there are people trying to implement change on their campuses and share different ways we have attempted to solve similar issues. Having these conversations are important but the follow through is what matters most and the student-athletes are putting it in action. It is important that more student-athletes get involved in this because the influence that they do have on these campuses. We don't only have to be the athletes, we can be the voice."
For more information on diversity and inclusion plus helpful resources from the NCAA, click here.