The Pac-12 Conference announced a series of “initial steps” to promote social justice and combat racism in a release Wednesday.
Those steps include the creation of a head of diversity and inclusion position, with the search to fill it “beginning in short order”; the formation of a social-justice and anti-racism advisory group comprised of athletics and academic leaders and athletes from all Pac-12 member institutions; and the launch of a series of athlete and coach anti-racism virtual forums.
“Social justice has always been an important value and principle for the Pac-12, our member universities and our student-athletes,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “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.”
The first anti-racism forum — which was moderated by current Stanford professor and former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and featured Golden State Warriors coach (and former Arizona guard) Steve Kerr, WNBA standout (and former Stanford forward) Chiney Ogwumike and Minnesota Vikings linebacker and UCLA alum Eric Kendricks as panelists — was attended virtually by more than 250 current Pac-12 athletes on June 29.
The idea to launch two sets of virtual forums — one for athletes and another for coaches — came from conversations with athletes, coaches and campus leaders over the past weeks, according to the Pac-12. 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 be held 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 within their programs. The virtual workshop will include such topics as facilitating difficult conversations with athletes, building trust and community, and educational content on understanding privilege, athletes and activism and the history of protests.
The Pac-12’s new head of diversity and inclusion will be responsible for “ensuring that best practices in minority hiring and advancement are implemented at the Conference, and ensure coordination with and support for campus heads of diversity and inclusion.” The staff member will work closely with senior associate commissioner of sports management and institutional services Teresa Gould to accomplish that mission.
The Pac-12 social justice and 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 group will be co-chaired by Washington State athletics 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 head of diversity and inclusion. The group will serve in an advisory role directly to the Pac-12 CEO Group and Scott, as well as the Pac-12 Council.
Perhaps more important, the group will eventually lead the development of the Pac-12’s comprehensive plan on social justice and anti-racism. That plan will address 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.
That plan, it appears, is the next step in a prolonged process to promote social justice and eradicate racism within the Pac-12.