The Big South Conference has announced several initiatives in an ongoing effort to address the racial inequality and social injustice that exists nationally.
In addition to already committing to make Election Day, Nov. 3, a required day off, the league has developed an official position campaign on anti-racism measures, has created a task force to address racial matters and will implement ongoing programs to support and engage these important issues.
The Big South’s position on anti-racism is derived from its own name, “S.O.U.T.H.”, an acronym with the letters standing for support, opportunities, unity, transparency and honest conversation. These five areas will serve as the primary driver of the initiatives.
Support: The Big South will create supportive spaces for black student-athletes and encourage community to promote a culture of inclusion.
Opportunities: The Big South is committed to promoting and providing opportunities for people of color.
Unity: The Big South will be united in its fight against racism, inequality and social injustice.
Transparency: The Big South will be transparent and intentional in setting goals and aligning its resources and assets to achieve equitable outcomes.
Honest conversation: The Big South will facilitate healthy dialogue and provide educational opportunities for the student-athletes, coaches and administration of member institutions.
A nine-person task force was created to review conference efforts and institutional diversity expectations and will be responsible for advising the conference on the establishment of goals to achieve positive outcomes.
The task force will meet regularly and is composed of USC Upstate Chief Diversity Officer Al Atkins, Campbell Athletics Director Omar Banks, UNC Asheville Women’s Soccer Coach
Clifton Bush, Longwood Faculty Athletics Representative Tim Coffey, Hampton Senior Woman Administrator Dr. Paula Jackson, Winthrop Senior Woman Administrator Kelley Kish, Radford Athletics Director Robert Lineburg, Big South SAAC Chair and Hampton Men’s Tennis Player
Davy Van Geerke and Campbell Women’s Basketball Player Lauren McNamara-Clement.
“The Big South Conference takes the issues of anti-racism and enhanced diversity seriously,” said Big South Commissioner Kyle Kallander. “It should be noted that the conference has already been active in addressing diversity issues through policies and our connection event. Recent events, however, have caused us all to look at how we can do more. I am very encouraged by the engaged dialogue we have had in the past month with our student-athletes and task force to honestly and transparently address these critical issues.”
Planned programming to-date as part the league’s mission to make significant change includes a special diversity/inclusion session on July 23 as part of the Big South’s Student-Athlete Summer Leadership Series with a keynote address from social justice educator Jen Fry; student-athlete town halls throughout the year, programming for the Big South’s head coaches, Board of Administrators and conference office staff; the third Big South Connection event, which invites minority and female coaching and administrative candidates to participate in professional development workshops and network with current league administrators; a monthly topical video series to bring awareness and discussion to the current environment that continues to drive the conversations in a meaningful, educational and productive manner; election day, Nov. 3 will be a required off-day from all athletically-related activities to encourage student-athletes and staff to exercise their right to vote. The only exceptions will be for teams with previously existing agreements and conference championship activities, which will be minimal. Institutions involved in these events commit to encouraging their student-athletes to participate via absentee ballot or early voting.