IRVINE, Calif. – The Big West Conference announced today the formation of a standing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. The committee is comprised of one administrator and one student-athlete from each of the Big West's 11 member institutions.
The committee will work under the name Big West Undivided. This represents the conference's united front to combat racism, fight for social justice, and proudly support the Black Lives Matter movement and other nonviolent organizations alongside its coaches and student-athletes.
"The formation of a standing committee focused on issues associated with diversity, equity and inclusion, with significant leadership provided by our student-athletes, provides the opportunity for the Big West Conference to have a voice, contribute to the discussion, provide solutions and have a positive impact on combating hate, racism, discrimination and inequality," said Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly. "UNDIVIDED" drives the purpose and defines the direction for the members of this committee and all of our member institutions."
Big West Undivided will operate under four guiding pillars:
- Education – Educating Committee members and league constituents on the importance
of diversity and inclusion.
- Empowerment – Empowering student-athletes and administrators to find the voice to
- Accountability – Holding those in campus communities and departments accountable
for their actions and speech.
- Change – Creating lasting change in campuses and communities through peaceful
means and initiatives.
Big West Undivided is chaired by UC San Diego's Director of Athletics Earl Edwards. The vice-chair of the committee is UC Santa Barbara Women's Soccer student-athlete Evann Smith.
"I am excited and honored to be selected co-chair of our Big West Undivided Committee which will focus on social justice, anti-racism, equity, diversity and inclusion from a conference level," said Edwards.
Smith, a sophomore goalkeeper, explained that "athletes across the world are fueled with passion to fight for equality and against injustices. Big West Undivided is a vessel for student-athletes and staff alike to inspire and create sustainable change inside our athletic communities. It is extremely invigorating to be a part of a committee that is action-oriented and filled with determined members."
In the coming months the committee will work with the conference's SAAC (Student Athlete Advisory Committee) on voter initiatives encouraging student-athletes to take part in the electoral process by providing nonpartisan resources and registration information.
The committee has held three meetings so far and will continue to meet monthly as the need for action grows stronger. The full roster of the inaugural committee is listed below.
BIG WEST UNDIVIDED: DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION COMMITTEE
Aaron Cooper - SA: Football
Louise Torgerson - Academic Advisor
Vanessa Austin - SA: Women's Basketball
Ziggy Siegfried - Director of Athletics
Cal State Fullerton
Carolyn Gill - SA: Women's Basketball
Fram Virjee - President
Taylor Thames - SA: Women's Soccer, Track & Field
Barret Morris - Director of Equity and Diversity, Title IX Coordinator
Valerie Richardson - Executive Associate Athletics Director/SWA
Long Beach State
Colin Slater - SA: Men's Basketball
Shana Welch - Head Coach, Women's Water Polo
Flora Oliveira - SA: Women's Track & Field
Dwight Smith - Executive Director - Athletics Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Joy Akaegbu-Cleveland - SA: Women's Basketball
Shauhin Talesh - Faculty Athletic Representative
Katie Wong - SA: Women's Soccer
Tamica Smith Jones - Director of Athletics
UC San Diego
Marissa Ray - SA: Women's Soccer
Earl Edwards - Director of Athletics (Chair)
UC Santa Barbara
Evann Smith - SA: Women's Soccer (Vice-Chair)
Christina Baglas - Deputy Athletics Director for Development
Zoar Nedd - SA: Men's Basketball
Teneshia Ruff - Director of Operations, Women's Basketball
Conference staff liaisons are Chris Hargraves, Assistant Director of Communications & Championships, and Alex Penewell, Assistant Commissioner of Championships & Sport Administration.