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Works in progress: teams develop individual DEI plans at different rates

November 20, 2020

Throughout the semester, athletes and coaches on all varsity teams, along with rowing and men’s rugby, have designed action plans to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The plans, which are works in progress, show commitments to educating their teammates, but some athletes feel that more concrete steps are needed to fully address issues of DEI within their teams.

After individual requests, eight of the 29 plans have been shared with the Orient in the past month. The Orient requested plans from every team, but some teams declined to share or did not respond. While each team’s individual plan may differ, many share similar components and sentiments.

Most plans include some educational aspect, whether in the form of  watching a video, reading a book or attending a lecture.

Manveer Sandhu ’22, co-vice president of the Athletes of Color Coalition (AoCC), believes education is important, but teams must aim to delve deeper.

“The action plans should have ways to educate each other as a team and ways to provide action as a team,” Sandhu said in a phone interview with the Orient. “But I think a really successful action plan would provide each individual player with tools, and maybe even the language, to go be allies and anti-racist in all of their identities.”

In addition to discussions and events focused on education, some teams have proposed specific actions, such as holding a fundraiser or reaching out to the community.

Women’s basketball captain Annie Maher ’21 elaborated on a plan that her team came up with to change the College’s recruiting methods.

“An idea one of my teammates had was creating a program for recruits to go through admissions where there are other students who are not athletes [who can show the recruit around campus],” Maher said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Not necessarily just students of color, but a broad group who people could talk to and get a better grasp of what it’s like at Bowdoin, not just through athletics.”

Many plans also rely heavily on listening to and uplifting voices from the AoCC. However, Sandhu cautions against listening to only one group on campus.

“[Not all] athletes of color are part of the AoCC. We do not represent everyone. We have over 70 different voices within our club,” Sandu said. “I’m hoping that [teams] go beyond just listening to athletes of color on campus because other people of color on campus have also been harmed by the white athlete culture.”

Coaches, athletes and the administration have been developing the DEI plans throughout the semester.

“Back in September, we paused athletics for a week. So all athletic-related activity—no practices, no film review, no games. Anything to do with athletics, we paused that,” said Assistant Athletic Director for Operations, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Katie Greene in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Teams were assigned to create a DEI action plan for their team.”

As teams started creating these plans, the department intentionally provided very little oversight, besides a mandatory Real Talk on Race program in September, in hopes of having the teams personalize their individual plans.

“When we gave [teams] guidelines, there was no talk of ‘it had to include this, or it had to include reading materials,’” Greene said. “There were no mandatory guidelines that they had to follow for that. So a lot of it was individually based per team. Coaches have different perspectives on if they want their team to have something that’s mandatory.”

After two weeks, the department had received all of the plans. At this point, Greene, Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan, AoCC administrative liaisons Track and Field Assistant Coach Lara-Jane Que and Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach Felix Abongo reviewed every team’s plans. After this review, the athletic department released its own DEI action plan on October 16.

“We reviewed all of the team action plans prior to putting out our department action plan because we thought it was important to read through all of the teams to make sure that we are being inclusive of what our teams want,” Greene said. “Because the bottom line is, it’s the student athlete experience, and the inclusivity of it, that we’re trying to reach.”

From here, Greene, Que and Abongo met with all head coaches to discuss the plans and how they were created. The same meeting was done separately with assistant coaches, and then again with all members of athletic leadership—head coaches, assistant coaches and members of the athletic department.

“We ran a full athletic department meeting to talk about the future of the plans,” Greene said. “How can teams collaborate with the community, the athletic community, the Bowdoin community, the Brunswick community? How can we take those action plans and start to move them forward?”

The final step for teams this semester is for student leaders and coaches to meet with Greene separately to discuss their plans.

“I give feedback, constructive criticism. I send it back to them and say, ‘Hey, can you add some more details to this? Can you elaborate on these kinds of things more? Can you maybe try to include some of these things that I felt like maybe were left out?’” Greene said. “Those meetings really drill down and start to get to the nuts and bolts of it.”

Teams have until December 11 to meet with Greene for their team’s review.

These plans were designed to be internal documents, and the athletic department did not intend to make them public when they mandated teams to write them in September.

“When the plans were designed, they were designed to be internal documents … The parameters around it were very broad, you could kind of create [it as] it fits your team, whether it’s paragraphs or whether it’s bullet points,” Greene said. “Some action plans are 14 pages long, some are 10 bullets long, and that’s where the meetings with me come into place to talk about where they can expand more on things.”

However, some athletes have requested to make the plans public sooner rather than later, and some already have.

“No one was really against [making the plans public],” Maher said. “We [the women’s basketball leadership] just thought that there was no reason not to. We’re proud of this work, and it’s important. So we didn’t think that we had anything to hide about this work.”

Conversations about making these documents public are ongoing within the department. At the moment, the decision is in the hands of individual teams. Even if the DEI plans aren’t made public in their entirety, Greene credits each team for their hard work and dedication.

“I’m just really proud of the teams,” Greene said. “I think they’re working really hard on this stuff, and there’s a lot of dedicated student athletes who want to make this a better community. That’s really, really impressive, and I think that’s something to focus on as a positive of a dark time.”


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