Prior to the murder of George Floyd and subsequent global social justice movement, the NCAA mandated that all affiliated schools must enlist an administrator to serve as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator in January of 2020. At Bowdoin, that role was offered to Assistant Athletic Director for Operations and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Katie Greene.
Since taking the position a little over two and a half years ago, Greene’s job responsibilities have expanded rapidly.
To bolster the athletic department’s inclusivity efforts, Greene assumed chairman of the department’s DEI Committee, composed of students, administrators, coaches and representatives from both the Bowdoin Student-Athlete Advisory (BSAAC) and the Athletes of Color Coalition (AOCC).
This year, the committee plans to meet bi-monthly and focus on expanding its efforts beyond social justice advocacy. In the past, the committee has held events based on a DEI-themed calendar, held workshops with the Institute of Sport and Social Justice for coaches and worked with individual teams to develop action plans.
“Moving forward, we have started to broaden that lens of DEI,” Greene said. “This year, we are really starting to look at more training centered around the political spectrum, LGBTQ+ athletes, trans rights within athletics, socioeconomic privileges and what that looks like.”
Having stepped in as interim assistant coach for the women’s basketball team last season, Greene was able to gain a grassroots insight to the day-to-day DEI and LGBTQ+ related issues that Bowdoin student athletes face, such as having to navigate the use of racial slurs, a lack of support from teammates and an unwillingness to talk about race and gender identity.
“It gave me perspective in building a stronger bond with student athletes and understanding the pressures and challenges that all student athletes go through—especially our student athletes of color, our student athletes who identify as LGBTQ+ and student athletes that could possibly be transitioning,” Greene said. “It gave me a really good sense of how difficult those experiences can be.”
This academic year, each varsity team is mandated to meet and facilitate DEI-based discussions once a month. Furthermore, social justice advocate Jen Fry, who has partnered with the College for the past couple of years, will lead bi-monthly foundational, discussion-based sessions with the incoming first-year athletes. The goal of these sessions is to establish a common language amongst first-years when it comes to discussing DEI work.
A well-known struggle within the athletic department is a lack of racial diversity amongst coaches. As of February 2022, 13 percent of staff and coaches in the department were people of color. Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan spoke last winter about how the athletic department was looking to change its hiring practices in order to attract a more diverse pool of coaching candidates.
However, Greene explained that these DEI-based changes came solely in the form of interview questions for the recent round of coaching hires.
“One of the things we changed in our interview process is we now have a DEI committee representative on every interview,” Greene said. “We ask DEI-related questions now. While it doesn’t change the diversity of the people we are interviewing, it increases the understanding of if they are coming in with what we are looking for.”
Greene believes that first establishing a culture of inclusion is a step necessary to increase diversity amongst the coaching staff.
“You can’t put a roof on a house without walls,” Greene said. “We want to make sure we are not adding diversity without understanding the importance of inclusion.”
“That position evolved quickly with where the state of the country was—where the state of the world was,” Greene said. “George Floyd was murdered. Athletic departments started to evaluate their DEI efforts and realized they were falling a bit short in the efforts that they were putting forth.”