To acquire wisdom, one must observe

The Student-Athletes of Color club at Brandeis: fostering a culture of unity

“At a predominantly white institution, it’s very hard to find spaces for minority groups to come together,” states Gabe Haithcock ’25, the president and founder of Student-Athletes of Color (SAOC) at Brandeis. The club functions as a haven where student-athletes can embrace their identities, build connections and enjoy a sense of belonging. Haithcock emphasizes the importance of creating a community where people with similar backgrounds can thrive together. 

Central to the club’s activities are its regular meetings, characterized by a blend of get-togethers and meaningful discussions. Rani Balakrishna ’25, the media coordinator for the club, emphasized the inclusive nature of these gatherings, where participants engage in both lighthearted interactions and deep conversations. Balakrishna alludes to a couple of recent events the club has held: “we have done a couple of breakout group discussions about identities, and we’ve also had a couple presenters and guest speakers. Most recently we had someone from the division of DEI, Dr. Chip [McNeal].”

However, like any new endeavor, Haithcock faced his share of challenges during the club’s inception. Haithcock candidly expressed his initial fears of low participation and the struggle to effectively communicate the club’s message to potential members. Yet, with perseverance and the support of Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach Aseem Rastogi, who played a vital role in helping Haithcock initiate the club, along with the initiation of an established e-board, they surmounted these obstacles and continued to progress.   

Reflecting on her favorite aspects of being a part of the club, Vice President Ragini Kannan ’26 highlights the club’s role as a safe space where individuals can unwind, connect and support one another, particularly after demanding days of academics and athletics. Kannan values “the close-knit community that we have not only as an e-board, but also with the other members of the club that come to most of our meetings. I feel like we all are just one unit and we all come together, no matter what we’re talking about. It can be a serious topic and it’s super respectful and everyone’s listening to one another.”

Continuing to evolve, the club has implemented changes to enhance its outreach and impact. By appointing team representatives from various varsity sports, they have broadened their reach within the athletic community. The role of team representatives is to send notices of the club’s upcoming events to their team group chat. Moreover, establishing new partnerships with other affinity groups on campus, such as the upcoming collaboration with The Brandeis African Students Organization (BASO) to jointly organize a soccer tournament, highlights the club’s dedication to promoting collaboration and inclusivity.

When asked to describe the club in one word, Balakrishna encapsulates its essence with “unity.” She explains “we have become pretty unified, even though we are all from different sports and different teams. We’re all people of color, but that doesn’t mean that every person of color experiences the same. We’re unified in something bigger than beyond all of that and I think that’s special.” 

With a strong online presence through Instagram and a dedicated webpage, along with informative posters scattered across campus, the club welcomes inquiries and encourages participation. Haithcock explains “one of the things that’s made me super happy is how many people in the athletic community we’ve already touched. I would definitely say that we’re not hard to find.”

SAOC typically meets at 8:30 p.m. once a month on a Thursday. Meetings are commonly held at Gosman, alternating between the Napoli room and the Multipurpose Room. For precise information regarding meeting locations and dates, students are encouraged to refer to the club’s Instagram: @brandeis_saoc.

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