Arcadia Athletics Discusses DEI Efforts in CASAA Race Matters Forum

By Leigh Ferrier | June 11, 2024

The Center for Antiracist Scholarship, Advocacy, and Action (CASAA) at Arcadia University held its final Race Matters Forum of the academic year on Thursday, May 23, 2024, featuring a presentation and Q&A session with staff and coaches from Arcadia Athletics. Earlier this year, the Athletics Department received a microgrant through CASAA to provide more widespread use of a platform called Return on Inclusion (ROI), which offers sports-specific modules for participants to work through with the goal of developing inclusive leadership and fostering belonging within the Department. ROI provided nine separate modules that delved into diversity, belonging, and inclusion as well as cultural competence, tools to cultivate inclusive leadership and hold difficult but important conversations, inclusive hiring, and supporting student-athlete activism.

While the importance of community and diversity is well known within academia itself, it is equally important within sports, especially with student-athletes still being a part of that academic environment. The NCAA, the National Collegiate Athletics Association, puts heavy emphasis on diversity and inclusion, including a full brochure on the promotion of these practices “to provide the best possible learning environment for students” (“Diversity and Inclusion”). For the NCAA, learning does not just happen in the classroom. It happens in conversations, within mentorships, on teams, and among friends, and there is absolutely space for student-athletes to learn from each other in deep and meaningful ways. 

By working through these modules, leaders within the Athletics Department will be able to look at the guidelines and policies given by the NCAA while still thinking about what they do not cover. For example, while the NCAA has particular guidelines for transgender student-athletes’ participation in sports, these policies do not address student-athletes with intersectional identities. It is clear that there are still more conversations to be had, but at Arcadia right now, we can see the effort being made to move closer to spaces that are truly equitable and inclusive. By being willing to take part in this program, and then seeking a microgrant to allow it to reach more people within the Department, the Athletics Department is telling students that they’re listening, they’re willing to challenge their own biases, and they’re eager to work on not just understanding these issues themselves but encouraging students to experience diverse cultures to move away from the development of a “monoculture.”

While acknowledging that these modules and the program itself are just a start to having these conversations and developing inclusive leadership, they have given leaders in the Athletics Department tools to think about and reflect on their own leadership style and choices. One module acknowledges that there is an “inclusive leader continuum,” starting with unawareness and ending in advocacy. It gives leaders the tools to think about whether they are, in fact, advocates, or if they’re just simply aware of the issues students are facing without addressing them. Are they fostering healthy communication? Solving interpersonal issues on the team? Addressing issues of racism, homophobia, transphobia, or conflicts that may make members of the team feel unsafe? Are they facilitating healthy dialogue about experiences not just in the sport itself but in life more generally? As the CASAA Race Matters Forum revealed, the Athletics Department is now better equipped to do this important work, and we look forward to seeing how they embody “radical change.”

To view “Arcadia Athletics/Return on Inclusion: Eliminating Barriers to Inclusion,” visit us at the CASAA YouTube channel

Leigh Ferrier ’22, ’24MFA, who is interning at CASAA this summer, is a Student Pedagogical Consultant Program Lead at Arcadia University and a student in the Master of Arts in Literature program.