Following the death of George Floyd over the summer, the UTA athletic department published a statement to show support and stand in solidarity with the Black community.
The statement, signed by athletic director Jim Baker, said the department does not condone acts of racism, social injustice, bigotry and vandalism. It also said the department would work closely with leadership members from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to support the vision and mission of diversity and equality.
Baker wanted his department to put some action behind the statement, so he appointed Michael Hill, assistant athletic director for communications, to head a new Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
“The thing we wanted to make happen is some action, get some dialogue started with the people in our community and on campus,” Hill said.
Just as the fall semester was set to begin, a press release from the department unveiled the committee’s first action step: the Mav Up and Vote campaign.
Some of the campaign’s goals include making sure all eligible UTA student-athletes, coaches and staff are registered to vote in the 2020 general election and educating people within the department about where each candidate stands on certain issues.
Originally, members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee were supposed to meet in person with leadership from the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to discuss the campaign, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic moved some plans to the virtual world.
Hill said the plan to register the entire department to vote shouldn’t hit any snags because it takes two to three minutes to sign up online.
On July 9, interim President Teik Lim sent an email describing ways UTA can combat racism and discrimination on campus. One of the plans he outlined included reconstituting a diversity and inclusion committee to find ways to make UTA a more supportive and fair environment for members of the community.
Baker said Hill has already reached out to people outside the department, including Student Body President Blaize LaFleur, to see how they can work together to get their message across.
“They’re looking at voting registration, too,” Baker said. “It’s, ‘How can we work with the university and students on campus to make it a bigger endeavor?’”
Senior forward Bre Wickware serves as the women’s basketball co-president on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. She said she and some other student-athlete leaders are helping Hill with the voter registration campaign by spreading the word.
“What we’re trying to do is information dumps,” Wickware said. “Just get it out as much as we can, remind people.”
Putting a team-specific focus on the information can help the Athletics department provide the resources student-athletes need to get registered to vote, according to Wickware.
In the future, Hill said he wants the new Diversity and Inclusion Committee to focus on educating and informing UTA’s student-athletes on issues they might face in the world outside of sports. He said he plans on holding a town hall meeting with local police departments and the mayor of Arlington to start a dialogue on what student-athletes should do when being pulled over by police and knowing what their rights are.
“UTA, we brag on how diverse we are. It’s really good that we’ve stepped up and we’ve made this committee to put some action into play,” Hill said. “We’re not gonna just say something and sit back; we’re gonna actually do something.”