The Bowdoin Student Athlete Advisory Committee (BSAAC) and the Athletes of Color Coalition (AoCC) collected responses from over 450 student-athletes this past week in a survey emailed to all athletes about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Leaders from both groups explained that the survey was intended to highlight where teams could use more support from the department and whether the structure used this semester will be effective in the future.
The survey, which was designed by the AoCC and carried out by BSAAC, had a few distinct goals: assess athletes’ satisfaction with their DEI work, evaluate coaches’ comfort with managing DEI initiatives and provide the department with specific feedback before the end of the semester.
“The athletic department is planning on doing a bigger, more intense survey at the end of the year, but we wanted to have something now just to have a basis [in these topics],” Annie Maher ’21, co-leader of BSAAC, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient.
“We needed a secondary mechanism to make sure that these [DEI action] plans are effective and achieving their goals,” Owen Wolfson ’21, the other co-leader of BSAAC, said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “[Using this survey] we can get a more individual basis and take this to [Ashmead White Director of Athletics] Tim Ryan and say, ‘Look, this is not just rumors but hard feedback that this action plan is not working or this action plan is doing exceedingly well here, but not there.’”
Over the course of the semester, teams have been engaging in a wide range of DEI work, including attending Real Talks on Race and formulating action plans, but there has been little chance for targeted feedback.
“It’s intended to serve as a check-in to make sure progress has been made and that there’s not any teams or players that need more significant help,” Maher said.
Adding to this, Graham Rutledge ’22, a member of BSAAC, emphasized how feedback could indicate if change would be needed in the future.
“This [survey] was the athletes’ opportunity to give a little bit of feedback to see where they thought they [themselves] needed more work and their overall experience so that we can continue to tailor and evolve this process going forward,” Rutledge said.
Organizers of the survey hoped to uncover how student-athletes felt about the effectiveness of the DEI work done this semester. Specifically, they were interested in coaches’ abilities to facilitate DEI work.
“How prepared do you think your coaches are? How prepared do you think your assistant coaches are? Why do you think they prepared? Why do you not think they’re prepared? How effective were your Real Talks on Race? Why were they effective? Why were they not? Do you know the details of your action plan? Something as simple as that. Something to get us color on how involved and engrained this movement really is amongst the teams,” Wolfson said.
Maher added to these goals, citing the importance of the data in providing enough feedback to share with the department.
“Our main intention [with the data] is to just bring it back to the athletic department to show them where improvements can be made and make sure they understand where coaches are,” Maher said.
Coaches have been working this past semester to get up to speed with DEI work, but some student-athletes believe it is difficult to ask them to also be facilitators of these conversations, especially when the coaching staff lacks diversity.
“I think there’s this pervasive trend of the athletics department, like Bowdoin as a school, is not necessarily entirely diverse, and unfortunately that permeates the quality of these conversations,” Wolfson said, while reflecting on his own experience. “A lot of things we’ve been seeing are praising the coaches for the efforts they’re taking to involve themselves in this work and involve themselves in these conversations, but unfortunately, we are involved in the conversations for the same reasons they are. It would be almost like asking the student-athletes engaging in these talks to then lead those talks.”
Although the survey closed last Monday, BSAAC and the AoCC will not be making the results public in the immediate future.
“The data is still very raw and unexplored,” Wolfson said in an email to the Orient. “We will be sorting through it and creating reports in the coming weeks and will consider how to publicize the results after having a better handle on the data.”