Outlining what has been done and what needs to be done, Athletic Department releases DEI Action Plan update

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On February 18, the Bowdoin Athletic Department released the first semesterly update to its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Action Plan. The document has two sections: one outlining what they’ve done since mid-October when the DEI Committee first released its plan, and a second on a future plans.

Assistant Athletic Director and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Katie Greene indicated that the department plans to publish progress updates at least once at the end of every semester.

“Something that we have really adopted moving forward is just to have a little bit more transparency in what we’ve been doing and what we plan to do,” Greene said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

The increased transparency is something that the Athletes of Color Coalition (AoCC) has been pushing for since the organization submitted demands for diversity reform in September.

“Just to have this being released is a step in that direction to have that transparency to know that they are very much committed to it,” AoCC co-president and DEI Committee member Kendall Rogers ’21 said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

One of the major focuses of the DEI Committee has been to give the entire athletic department a basic level of education on issues of DEI.

After the athletic department did a single fundamentals session with Jen Fry last semester, the DEI Committee scheduled five additional sessions with her this semester for coaches and athletic department staff. They also booked six sessions for student-athletes.

This initiative also allows the AoCC, which held sessions last semester to educate captains and coaches on allyship, to take a step back.

“Having Jen Fry coming in doing this baseline education with teams, as well as doing four or five programs with the coaches, is alleviating a burden that was on the athletes of color in the first semester but also really establishing a common understanding, a common definition that was missed,” Rogers said.

Assistant Football Coach and Player Development Coordinator for the football program Kevin Loney said that it has been encouraging to see the teams learning from one another this past semester. He expressed hope that it would continue in the future.

“Almost every team that I’ve spoken to is starting resource banks on either Microsoft Teams or Blackboard to share information on these different topics and issues,” Loney said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.

Many of the athletic department’s updates and new initiatives were based on actions that went well last semester and demands made by students for more. Of the latter, Rogers is excited about the addition of a “Participation Apparel Purchasing Program” this upcoming fall.

“[The program is] something that the AoCC has been talking about since the inception of the program in 2016 and how the cost of apparel, the cost of equipment, the cost of travel is a burden to minority students,” Rogers said. “Seeing that is a huge weight off of a lot of athletes’ shoulders and something that I know a lot of people were hoping for.”

The program will purchase the clothing athletes will need for practice, including but not limited to sweats, shorts, t-shirts and other items they need for participation and traveling.

Later this spring, the DEI Committee is also bringing in Lex Horwitz ’19 to speak with students about LGBTQ+ issues. This is part of a larger effort by the Committee to create opportunities for discussion about discrimination student-athletes may face due to a variety of intersecting aspects of their identity—from socioeconomic status and race, to gender identity and sexual orientation.

“[Horwitz was] a former student athlete here at Bowdoin and transitioned while here at Bowdoin, so we’ve contracted with them to give a couple of talks with our student athletes,” Greene said. “I’m really excited to hear what they have to say … I think this is a really great start for us to kind of break into the LGBTQ+ conversation and education.”

As part of the work they’ve done since October, the DEI Committee has also updated its website with the goal of making resources and information about its initiatives more accessible.

“They can see who’s on our DEI committee, they can see our pictures, they can connect with us,” Greene said. “We have a resource tab on there now where you can get to the bias incident reporting system, where you can download manuals and handbooks … we really wanted to make it a resource page for people to be able to have all those things in one spot.”

The Committee hopes to continue to update the website to make it more interactive, create a space for teams to share what they are doing and include a way for people to submit their questions to the DEI Committee.

In addition to their programming for the spring semester, the department has contracted with The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport for the next academic year, although this was not announced in the formal update.

“We’ve really started to put plans in place for the future,” Greene said. “This isn’t just a now issue. This is something that we want to plan for years to come.”

The Committee is also in the process of creating a student-led DEI Committee to complement the administrative group and take over the work that the Bowdoin Student Athletic Council (BSAC) and AoCC are currently doing.

“I think [the student committee] will help engage more students in making sure that their voices are heard and making sure that we’re really following what students want,” Rogers said.

In the future, Rogers hopes the Committee prioritizes a restorative justice response and works to focus on the healing process of athletes of color.

“In this plan it says [the department is] continuing to think about the restorative justice response,” Rogers said. “That is something that needs to be on the mind of people before any of this other stuff moving forward.”

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