Iowa Athletics Creates Diversity Task Force

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — In the spring of 2018, the University of Iowa Athletics Department created the Diversity Task Force to address African-American male student-athlete graduation rates at Iowa. The committee proposed a three-phase, two-year timeline to better understand departmental climate and develop and implement an action plan that outlines strategies to support African-American male student-athlete persistence and graduation. A third phase will review the results.
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This effort will work in concert with a university-wide initiative and commitment to enhance and improve the campus climate as it relates to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Specific to athletics, there is concern and recognition, both nationally and at Iowa, that African-American male student-athletes are graduating at a much lower rate than their white counter parts. While this issue isn’t new, the University of Iowa Athletics Department is committed to taking a leadership role to improve in this area.
“We are showing leadership and it is important that we continue to make our department a more inclusive environment for our student-athletes, coaches, and staff members,” said Liz Tovar, University of Iowa associate athletics director, student-athlete academic services. “We recognize we are not perfect, but we also recognize areas of opportunity where we can get better.
“Our student-athletes have provided valuable information about how we can make our athletics department better in terms of communication mechanisms, accountability, and graduation rates. More importantly, how we can better acclimate our student-athletes to the University of Iowa campus in general.”
The University of Iowa Athletics Diversity Task Force will work toward two primary results: rank among the top three Big Ten institutions in African-American male graduation rate, and to achieve national recognition by contending for the NCAA’s Diversity and Inclusion Award.
The Iowa Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (ISAAC) has been kept abreast of the task force findings and ISAAC chair Ben Colin — a senior member of the men’s swimming team — and ISAAC diversity and inclusion chair Adorabol Huckleby — a senior member of the women’s tennis team — see the University of Iowa Athletics Department’s  efforts as positive and proactive.
“This is a great opportunity for our department to take steps to improve the environment for all student-athletes,” Colin and Huckleby said in a written statement. “The department’s plan demonstrates a commitment to enhancing the experience for African-American male student-athletes, which in turn will create a stronger overall athletics community. Regardless of perception, this challenge is important to accept and represents our leadership trying to address something many institutions are struggling with.”
Within two years, the University of Iowa Athletics Department is looking for enhanced reporting and communication mechanisms to address African-American student-athlete concerns, expand the knowledge of staff, students, and coaches regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, and implement an accountability structure that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion successes.
“I am encouraged by the steps being taken to improve the graduation rates of African-American male student-athletes on our campus,” said Gary Barta, Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair. “And I am pleased that University of Iowa athletics is taking a leading role in the campus-wide initiative of UI Path Forward: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion-Collaboration.”
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