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Pac-12 announces initial steps to combat racism and promote social justice

The Pac-12 announced Wednesday a series of initial steps to promote social justice and combat racism, including the creation of a new head of diversity and inclusion position at the Conference.

The Pac-12 also announced the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group composed of a cross section of university athletics and academic leaders and student-athletes, representing all 12 universities, and the launch of a series of student-athlete and coach anti-racism virtual forums.

The first student-athlete forum moderated by current Stanford professor and former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and featuring former Arizona student-athlete and current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, former Stanford student-athlete and current WBNA standout Chiney Ogwumike, and former UCLA student-athlete and current NFL star Eric Kendricks as panelists, along with over 250 current student-athletes, was held earlier this week on June 29.

“Social justice has always been an important value and principle for the Pac-12, our member universities and our student-athletes,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “Now is the time to strengthen our efforts, to listen, to learn and to do more.  Today’s announcements represent an important series of first steps as we seek to do the right thing to make our communities and society more humane, just and free of racism.”

To best drive internal Conference diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and provide strong support and leadership for membership initiatives, the Pac-12 has made the decision to create a new head of diversity and inclusion role, with the search to fill the position to begin in short order.

The new position will be responsible for ensuring that best practices in minority hiring and advancement are implemented at the Pac-12, and ensure coordination with and support for campus heads of diversity and inclusion. This senior leadership role reflects the Pac-12’s commitment to meaningful change and advancing the same values of diversity and inclusion as represented on member campuses.

The new role will also work closely with Teresa Gould, the Conference’s Senior Associate Commissioner of Sports Management & Institutional Services, who was recently charged at a management team level with driving and coordinating the Pac-12’s anti-racism and social justice initiatives, and holding the organization accountable to developing and delivering against internal and coordinated member action plans to combat racism.

The newly formed Pac-12 social justice & anti-racism advisory group will be charged with developing and driving the Conference’s anti-racism and social justice initiatives in concert with member universities, including leveraging the collective efforts of all 12 universities and holding the league accountable to action.  The advisory group will be co-chaired by Washington State Athletic Director Pat Chun and USC Faculty Athletics Representative Alan Green, and will include four members each among the student-athlete leadership team, athletic directors, senior women administrators and faculty athletic representatives, as well as the new Pac-12 Conference head of diversity & inclusion once hired.  All 12 universities will be represented. The advisory group will serve in an advisory capacity directly to the Pac-12 CEO Group and Conference Commissioner as well as full Pac-12 Council.

Following a series of initial conversations with student-athletes and coaches, the advisory group will lead the development of the Conference’s comprehensive plan on social justice & anti-racism.  The plan will provide consistency and alignment between internal efforts at the Pac-12 office as well as external efforts in support of member universities, athletics departments, and Pac-12 student-athletes and will include such elements as community engagement, educational programming, amplifying collective voice, organizational change in the workplace, and action initiatives around specific topics such as influencing public policy through voting, improving relations with law enforcement and developing platforms for student-athletes to tell their stories.

The idea to launch two sets of virtual anti-racism forums – a series for student-athletes and a series for coaches – came directly from conversations with student-athletes, coaches, and campus leaders over the past weeks.  The purpose of the student-athlete forums is to provide student-athletes with space to discuss anti-racism and social justice issues with individuals with expertise in addressing and combating racism and using their voice to promote social justice, to normalize these conversations, and to set a template for further conversations on campus with their teams and athletic departments.

The first coaches’ forum will take place on July 21 in collaboration with the Institute of Sport and Social Justice and be focused on best practices in addressing racism and promoting social justice for coaches within their programs.  The virtual workshop will include such topics as facilitating difficult conversations with student-athletes, building trust and community, and educational content such as understanding privilege, athletes and activism, and the history of protests.  Like the student-athlete forums, these conversations will feature subject matter experts and provide an opportunity for robust discussion and learning for coaches.