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UW-River Falls pledges to increase diversity in athletics department

Falcon News Service

November 30, 2016

UW-River Falls is among universities that have signed on to the NCAA’s presidential pledge to increase diversity in their sports programs.

According to the NCAA’s website, the pledge’s purpose is to “establish initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equity and inclusion, with a focus and emphasis on hiring practices in intercollegiate athletics.”

Chancellor Dean Van Galen said signing the pledge shows the university’s commitment to diversity and gender equity.

“I appreciate the leadership of the NCAA in developing the presidential pledge, and am delighted to make this commitment on behalf of UW-River Falls,” the chancellor said in a prepared statement.

UWRF Interim Athletic Director Crystal Lanning said that the university is lacking diversity in the athletics department.

“We’re going to put a good effort in towards increasing diversity among our staff, increasing opportunities for women in athletics among our staff. It’s more of a commitment more than anything,” Lanning said.

Lanning and the athletics department have put together five main goals, including focusing on diversity, focusing on inclusion, student athlete development with a focus on resources, developing professional staff and developing ties to the campus and community. The goals were established prior to UWRF signing the presidential pledge, and Lanning said that signing the document was easy for the athletics department.

Data from 2012-13 showed that nationwide 40 percent of students at Div. III campuses identified as diverse, compared to just 22 percent of the student-athlete population. This difference of 18 percentage points is the largest of all three NCAA divisions.

“Students want someone they can relate to,” Lanning said. UWRF coaches handle their own recruiting efforts, but Lanning is aware of how they are approaching it.

“Our coaches are constantly updating me on where they’re targeting players and how they’re doing it,” Lanning said.

UWRF has no document or formal statement regarding recruiting, but Lanning said that the athletics program is always looking for ways to improve.

UWRF is the sixth member of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to sign the presidential pledge, joining Eau Claire, Oshkosh, Platteville, Stevens Point and Stout. All of those schools have roughly the same percentage of female administrators in their respective athletics departments as UWRF.

Lanning said that there is more to it than just coaches and athletes.

“We’re looking at all aspects of every department,” Lanning said.

During the hiring process for any position, the Human Resources Department gives feedback to Lanning and others on the diversity of their search and candidates.

“They will let us know if our candidates aren’t diverse enough,” Lanning said.

Human Resources looks at all aspects, such as ethnic background and sexual orientation, to give the best feedback to the search committee.

The NCAA offers a grant for Div. III schools to encourage ethnic minorities and women to work as interns. UWRF will be applying for the grant, which Lanning said would be a great first step in advancing diversity within the athletics department.

“It’s meant to get ethnic minorities and women involved in administrative positions within athletics,” she said.

Schools can make contributions to the program if they are awarded the grant, but it is completely funded by the NCAA.