WKU Athletics establishes Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council

WKU basketball player Tavion Hollingsworth leads protester for the Black Lives Matters movement during the organized protest by the Student Athlete Advisory Council on Sept. 30, 2020.

Cassady Lamb

WKU Athletics has created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council within the department aimed at creating opportunity for “more difficult conversations” within programs.

The council within the department was made on Oct. 26, according to an email from Zach Greenwell, WKU athletics director of communications.  

As of Oct. 30, the council includes about 20 to 25 members, including student-athletes, coaches, campus representatives and staff members.

The council has been meeting since Sept. 9, and since then has been holding bi-monthly meetings, according to their website.

One student-athlete from each sport is represented in the council. Alongside the athletes, an assistant coach is a part of the council, as well as WKU’s men’s golf coach.

Gina Stoll, WKU’s associate athletic director, says the council believes it is very important to celebrate diversity when it comes to student-athletes.

“More opinions, more stories, more individuals,” Stoll said.

Stoll said that the council is aiming to create three different subcommittees based upon the goals that the council holds.

These three subcommittees include team and staff, educational resources and community engagement.

“If someone encountered something on the way to class or someone saw something on the news that upset them, the committee can start these conversations,” Stoll said.

The goal also states that the conversations should bring more awareness to others’ concerns and experiences.

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” Stoll said. “Have those conversations, not try to keep that in.”

Other objectives of the DEI Council include: 

  • Supporting a planned voter registration initiative for the November election and beyond.

  • Providing additional educational resources to teams to increase understanding, and giving tools to all stakeholders so each person is empowered to play a role in creating an equitable and inclusive environment.

  • Expanding the athletic department’s mental health resources to better recognize the negative impacts of inequity.

  • Incorporate more minority-owned business owners and community leaders in identifying community service opportunities to help promote inclusiveness within the Bowling Green area.

  • Staying in tune with the University’s DEI plan and actively involving our departments and teams with the campus’ ONEWKU initiative.

  • Creating more professional opportunities for minority students within the athletic department to generate a larger network of candidates for prospective jobs in the future.

According to Olivia Higgins, assistant athletic director of marketing, another goal of the council is to create a safe space for student-athletes and provide them with a safe space where they are able to speak up.

“Obviously making this council was something extremely important to us, it probably should have begun sooner, but we got it done,” Higgins said.

Members of the council break up into small groups and talk about their experiences. Higgins said that these conversations may become a “little uncomfortable” because members may realize that they have different backgrounds than others.

She describes these conversations as a totally different perspective.

“There’s so much more to them than the sport they play, the jersey they wear, the ball they pick up,” Higgins said. “There’s so much more to that person than we realize.”

This story will be updated upon further reporting 

News reporter Cassady Lamb can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @lambp0p.