Clark Athletics Celebrates National Diversity and Inclusion Week

Sara Conroy, Sports Editor

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) held their Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign from October 1st-5th. The campaign was created to give student-athletes, collegiate athletic departments, coaches and even fans a platform to celebrate diversity within sports. The goals set out by the NCAA was to use social media to create a dialogue on how diversity and inclusion creates a better environment for every student-athlete.

The campaign was set up so that each day of the five-day celebrated a particular aspect of diversity within collegiate athletic programs. The days were as follows, according to the NCAA website;

        Oct. 1.: “More Than an Athlete”: highlighting student-athletes’ multiple identities.

        Oct. 2.: “Beyond a Label”: Debunking athletics-related stereotypes.

        Oct. 3.: “The Facts”: Sharing diversity statistics, facts and figures.

        Oct. 4.: “Diversity is…”: Explaining what diversity/inclusion means to me.

        Oct. 5.: “I Pledge to…”: Committing to a personal action plan for inclusion

Clark partook in this national conversation by posting to their social media platforms throughout the day, each day. They were most active on their Instagram profile, highlighting student-athletes, administration and statistics during the week. For the first two days of the campaign, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President, Ana Mercado (’19), reached out to athletes who were chosen by the Athletic Department to participate in the campaign.

On the first day, the Instagram featured students with multiple ethnic identities., these being ethnic identities. The students featured carried ethnic roots from six countries which spanned four continents. The students featured on this day spoke to the difficulties and the anxieties that surround their ethnic diversity, of the strength their background gives them, and of how Clark Athletics has allowed them to be who they are unashamedly. Not only was this a space for Clark Athletics to showcase its diversity, but it was also a space for student-athletes to use the power of social media to speak to the importance of their diversity to their individualism and their community.

On the second day, students who challenge the athletics stereotypes were highlighted throughout the day. This day included six student-athletes who have participated in extracurriculars outside of Clark Athletics regularly. One of these students is completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program while also competing in collegiate athletics and earning their degree. Another one of these students is the Copy Editor for the Clark’s Undergraduate Research Journal and formerly an intern for the Massachusetts Democratic Party. Other students highlighted on this day engaged in range of activities from education facilitation for student on the dangers of sexual exploitation, youth trauma research, emergency medical response work, and interning with an international non-profit organization.

As mentioned previously, the third day included a space for schools to showcase their diversity and inclusion through statistics. Each member of our Clark community will take something different away from these facts, but the the figures that follow were shared by the Clark Athletics instagram to celebrate the third day of this campaign. According to the NCAA Division III Diversity and Inclusion website, “21% of all student-athletes [in the nation] identify as ethnic minorities and 42% identify as female” and for the whole of athletics, including coaching staff and athletic directors, “20% identify as ethnic minorities and 40% identify as female”.

To celebrate the final two days, the organizers and administration took over to emphasize the points for “Diversity is…” and “I Pledge to…”. Ana Mercado, the SAAC President, had this to say about what “Diversity is” in her own words, “Diversity is about being different, not divided”. Sean Monroe (’20) added that, “Diversity is the acceptance inclusion and love for all students from all walks of life”. While this finished off the student-athlete’s participation in the campaign, student-athletes will act as the most important force in ensuring that the celebration and support of diversity and inclusion is sustained long past this week. The week was finally rounded out by the Clark Athletic Administrators, who each took a pledge to promoting diversity and inclusion at Clark Athletics, having an open and honest dialogue about issues of social justice, and to create safe spaces and foster a positive and inclusive environment for our student-athletes.

While this was a national social media campaign led by the NCAA, the SAAC was the group on Clarks campus that lobbied the importance of joining this event. The SAAC executive board worked closely with the athletics department to organize the campaign. The student-athletes in this group were the ones calling the shots on what to post each day. This speaks to the willingness of fellow student-athletes to help build each other up, celebrate their differences, and encourage their peers to get involved outside of athletics.