For the week of Oct. 22 through 25, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sponsored a multifaceted social media campaign that highlighted diversity within departments of athletics nationwide and hoped to serve as a way in which student-athletes could promote and celebrate their differences. Modeled after last year’s successful inaugural push, the NCAA decided to bring back the week of awareness once again, this time promoting heavily through the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee (MOIC) and the various Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (SAAC) located on each individual collegiate campus. The department of athletics here at Brandeis, along with its own SAAC, took part in this year’s campaign, highlighting such values and discussions via various social media posts.
In their release about the week of appreciation, the NCAA stated that “this campaign is a platform for [people] across the country to start the discussion, speak out on, and promote diversity and inclusion as key elements of student-athlete success. The goal of this annual campaign is… to create a dialogue on diversity and inclusion and to communicate the benefit of inclusive environments to the student-athlete experience,” according to its website.
At Brandeis specifically, SAAC leader and member of the men’s tennis team Colt Tegtmeier ’22 said in a message to The Brandeis Hoot that “The goal of the campaign was to promote inclusion and show how Brandeis is working to use inclusion to its advantage in athletics. We are all about being inclusive to everyone who wants to participate in athletics, from a wide range of races, genders, and sexual orientations on our varsity programs, to promoting healthy habits with intramural sports throughout the year.”
With this in mind, there were four themes proposed, one for each day, that differed from those used last year. These themes were intended to ignite the discussion that the campaign sought to promote, giving each respective university different ways in which to honor each other’s differences.
Day one was titled, “This is Who We Are,” which was designed to highlight the various identities student-athletes possess. Brandeis SAAC members made a collaborative video to express this, as a number of student-athletes stood together and held up signs that voiced this diversity and showcased values important to them. From baseball player Isaac Fossas ’21 saying that he was the son of an immigrant, to cross country runner Harper Pollio-Barbee ’21 saying he valued his ability to problem solve, student-athletes here at Brandeis captured the essence of what it means to be proud of who they are and to carry their values with them across all facets of life.
On day two, the scheduled theme was “Broadening our Horizons,” which served to recognize connections being made on campus that span farther beyond the confines of the athletic department itself. SAAC members went around Brandeis’ campus and took photos with their favorite professors, mentors, teaching assistants and faculty. Austin Clamage ’21 of men’s basketball and Skylah Dias ’22 of men’s soccer were pictured with Professor of Modern Architecture Muna Guvenc (FA), while women’s fencer Jess Spear ’21 was shown with Joanna Fuchs of the Library’s Acquisitions Department.
Next, day three was titled “Better Together,” in which each institution sought to showcase what is already being done at their university to promote feelings of acceptance for all. Judges’ mascot, Louis D. Brandeis, made an appearance at several offices across campus that are committed to the overall goal of diversity and inclusion. These departments also provide much needed resources to students and student-athletes alike, bridging the gap between athletics and the rest of the Brandeis community. Louis was seen at the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Prevention Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC), the Intercultural Center (ICC), the Gender and Sexuality Center and the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC).
Lastly, on day four, SAAC members created another video that featured the theme of “Taking Action,” where students voiced their commitment to engaging with a more welcoming campus community. In the video itself, men’s basketball player Colin Sawyer ’20 said wants to practice more compassionate listening, while Katie Romanovich ’21 of women’s soccer said she hopes to study with more classmates she does not already know. Women’s tennis player Lauren Bertsch ’21 shared her hope for a more active and engaged community in a message to The Hoot, saying that “We hope that [other student-athletes] support each other by befriending someone new, attending their basketball game or swim meet, or whatever it may be.”
Despite the week’s conclusion, Brandeis student-athletes have made it known that they are eager and ready to make a positive change on this campus through endeavors such as these. Tegtmeier continued to comment that, “I have found that the best way to institute change in this university is pooling the voices of those who want this change and sending that collective voice to the staff members who need to hear it. SAAC meetings themselves can incite change, via community service and diversity boosting, throughout the athletic department and campus as a whole.”
While Brandeis already has initiatives put in place to take the community in this direction, it can also be recognized that change really stems from the youngest voices on campus: the students. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the students to take what has been learned from campaigns such as these and promote such inclusive values within our everyday lives. Although this week has come to a close, Romanovich stated in a conversation with The Hoot that, “I hope [this campaign] has caused [students] to want to take action themselves, whether this is by highlighting their own identity, or creating new connections with others.”