The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has recognized Denison University for its dedication to diversity and inclusion. The NCAA honored the college as the recipient of its “Division III Diversity Spotlight” for the month of July.
Over the past several years, Denison increasingly has become more diverse. Today, more than one-third of its students are multicultural, and students hail from diverse socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds. As part of efforts toward diversity and inclusion, especially among athletes whom reflect the school’s diverse population, assistant athletics director and head women’s basketball coach Sara Lee developed the concept for the Diversity and Inclusion Athlete advisory group (DIG). Comprised of representatives from each of its 23 athletic teams, DIG’s goal is to make all athletic experiences more inclusive and respectful.
DIG’s motto is “Celebrating Diversity; Building Teams,” and its mission is to work with university administration, faculty representatives and student-athletes to build a positive athletics environment for all participants. The highest priority is to establish a climate of mutual respect and support of individual differences, where persons of different race, creed, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and ethnicity can maximize their full potential and function as a cohesive group, free of prejudice, discrimination and harassment.
The group’s first initiative was a campaign to recruit student-athletes to become Big Red Allies. To become a Big Red Ally, student-athletes sign a pledge to promote the best of Denison athletics by bringing a message of respect, inclusion and equality to their athletics community and to welcome all persons, regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and creed.
DIG also instituted a campaign to cease the use of marginalizing language. The group created posters, which featured a variety of student-athletes expressing why they would not use marginalizing language. The campaign provided opportunities for student-athletes to take the lead on this important issue. Student-athletes put these posters all around campus and used them as table tents in the dining halls, in addition to featuring them at the Top 50 Athletes banquet.
Fostering a diverse community is central to Denison’s mission as a liberal arts college. Engagement with — and challenge from — multiple, differing perspectives are incubators of critical thinking and social responsibility.
As a core value, the NCAA believes in and is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators. It seeks to establish and maintain an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion improve the learning environment for all student-athletes and enhance excellence.