BY: REYNA IWAMOTO | STAFF WRITER
During a summer largely defined by social unrest and calls for long-overdue racial justice, the LIU Athletic Department has joined the ongoing fight for social justice with a new organization, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force. Established in early June at the LIU campuses, this task force serves as a platform for members of LIU Athletics to speak out and take action to improve the surrounding community.
“I think that everyone had gotten a bit introspective, and we realized that not only was there more work that we could do as individuals to make LIU and our Athletic Department more inclusive, but we realized that our student-athletes, staff members, and coaches, were incredibly impacted by the killing and subsequent protests/response and we wanted to make sure that our community felt supported,” said Randy Karlson, Associate Director of Athletics.
The DEI Task Force was started at LIU after a proposal of the project was made to the athletics department by Karlson, Casey Snedecor, Assistant Director of Athletics and Director of Media Relations, and Deirdre Moore, Senior Women’s Administrator.
Karlson said that the purpose of the DEI Task Force is, “to not only make our athletic department more equitable and inclusive, but it was also a way to show our commitment to support the diverse populations that make up our Athletic Department.”
The task force also serves as a safe space for members of the LIU Athletic department to share their experiences and have meaningful discussions regarding topics that are important to them.
“Change doesn't happen until conversations do, so I think those first steps are important. I would also like to think that our goal is to start implementing policies and initiatives that will help make our department the best it can be,” Snedecor said.
Members of the DEI Task Force have taken this platform as an opportunity to influence change on campus, creating initiatives to encourage a more equitable athletic experience at LIU.
One of the first acts of the DEI Task Force is led by Madison McCarthy, a sophomore on the Women’s Swim Team, with close contact with Karlson and Snedecor on the importance of voting and why it matters.
“I have started this initiative because voting is really important to me and I have been working in the political field for 3 years now,” McCarthy said.
The LIU Votes website provides information regarding the 2020 election, such as the various ways to vote and sources one can use to inform their vote. The website also provides resources for people to register to vote, check their voter registration status, find their local polling place, and find out the voter registration deadline for each state.
Preceding this upcoming election, McCarthy, Karlson, and Snedecor wanted to establish a way to inform members of the LIU community and encourage them to perform their civic duty. McCarthy has also worked with Snedecor to launch a social media campaign for LIU Votes on the LIU Athletics social media platforms, providing additional information regarding the upcoming election.
“Voting gets more important every day with the social injustices happening all around us,” McCarthy said. “I just hope students use our website and social media campaign to get the information they need for the election.”
In addition to the LIU Votes social media campaign, another initiative was recently launched, giving student-athletes the opportunity to submit to be featured on the LIU Athletics Instagram and Twitter pages. The initiative, #LIUsingOurVoice, highlights student-athletes from marginalized groups as they discuss their experiences and sentiments on social justice.
“I'm hoping to use it to amplify voices of people and groups that have traditionally not had as loud of a voice in athletics as they might have deserved,” Snedecor said. The goal of #LIUsingOurVoice is to give athletes a way to speak about things that matter to them on a larger platform.
Other student-athletes that have been featured thus far in this campaign include Caitlyn Kanemitsu, from the Women’s Swim Team, and Carrigan Umpherville, from Women’s Hockey.
“Our pages are a reflection of what's going on in our department. If our student-athletes are out there having an impact on society and changing the world, we're going to happily be along for the ride, promoting it on social media!” Snedecor said.
The administrators and student-athletes of the DEI Task Force are steadily moving forward, bringing a new wave of change with them, and Karlson is encouraging others to join the movement.
“You do not need to identify as a member of an underrepresented group to be a part of it, but you can be an ally or someone that just wants to learn more. If you want to help improve our community, then we want you to be a part of the DEI Task Force,” Karlson said.
The DEI Task Force currently includes athletes from both the Brooklyn and Post campuses, students meet via Zoom calls to coordinate their initiatives. As they progress, however, they are still urging for more student-athletes to get involved and use their power to incite change.
“While it's been fun being a part of leading this, I would love to see it taken over by student-athletes, and really have them lead the way. Their experiences at LIU are what matters, and this is just one way for them to really embrace that and make a tangible difference,” Snedecor said.
As the DEI Task Force serves as a vehicle for change on campus, it also serves as a reminder of the power in which athletes have within the community and society as a whole. As can be seen in the world of professional sports, athletes in sports leagues including the NBA, WNBA, NFL, and MLB are taking advantage of their platforms to advocate for social justice and generate change.
“Athletes' voices have never been louder or more impactful in college athletics and society as a whole, and I want to bring that out in our athletes at LIU,” Snedecor said.