This university emphasizes social justice in trainings for coaches, athletes

Northern Illinois University facilitates numerous racial-based and social justice related trainings for its athletes and coaches.

Earlier this year, Northern Illinois University athletics won the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association's Award for Diversity and Inclusion for the second time.

Earlier this year, Northern Illinois University (NIU) athletics won the NCAA and Minority Opportunities Athletic Association’s Award for Diversity and Inclusion for the second time.

In 2013, NIU established the Diversity Integration Group (DIG) in order to “discuss ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts and participate in DEI actions.” 

“Diversity, equity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of NIU’s athletic department,” the NIU athletics site states.

DIG members include athletic coaches, administrators, student-athletes, a coordinator for undocumented student support, and directors of the Center for Black Studies, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, and Latino Resource Center.

The university’s hiring practices are focused on racial and gender diversity as “NIU is the only Football Bowl Subdivision school led by a female president whose director of athletics, head football coach and head men’s basketball coach are all African American,” the NCAA states on its website. 

In 2020, DIG created the Social Justice Athletics Action Plan which outlined initiatives including marches, town hall meetings, “safe spaces for black men and women student-athletes,” voter registration, early voting initiatives, discussions, and focus groups. 

A book club is held for student-athletes which centered around How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. 

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The 2021-2024 DIG Action Plan outlines the DEI-related initiatives and objectives the university hopes to achieve presently and in the coming years. 

According to the plan, student-athletes have undergone a “Know Your Rights” training with NIU police and the public safety department, and a “diversity and inclusion recruiting plan” has been developed.

This spring, senior staff members will begin to “review their unit’s current diverse representation” focusing on “head and assistant coaches and Supportive Professional Staff.”

In 2016, NIU was awarded the NCAA’s Award for Diversity and Inclusion for the first time due to its prioritization of and commitment to the subjects.

This year, NIU won the award for the second time for its continued commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Annually, the NCAA partners with the Minority Opportunities Athletic Association (MOAA) to award one university its Diversity and Inclusion award. The associations evaluate the “initiatives, policies and practices of school and conference offices that embrace diversity and inclusion across intercollegiate athletics.”

Schools can meet the award criteria through “community service, professional development, hiring practices or programming activities that enhance opportunities for people of diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences.”

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NCAA’s Associate Director of Communications for External Engagement Gail Dent told Campus Reform that the “group that decides the award recipient is made up of NCAA members from our diversity committees. Staff is not involved.”

DIG chair Courtney Vinson told Campus Reform that the group’s goal was “never to win the award.” 

“The goal for us is always to make sure we are creating environment spaces for our staff and our student-athletes and our coaches that aren’t riddled with bias,” she continued. “Like we want people to be their authentic selves.” 

“The award is icing on the cake,” Vinson concluded.

Campus Reform has contacted NIU for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.