The Big West Conference announced the formation of a standing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee on Sept 14. This committee is composed of one student-athlete and one administrator from each of the Big West’s 11 member institutions. The committee will work under the name Big West Undivided in its united representation to combat racism, fight for social justice, support the Black Lives Matter movement, and other non-violent organizations alongside its coaches and student-athletes.
“The formation of a standing committee focused on issues associated with diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Big West Commisioner Dan Butterly in a news release. “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 … Undivided drives the purpose and defines the direction for the members of this committee and all of our member institutions.”
Women’s Basketball player, Vanessa Austin will represent CSU Bakersfield student-athletes on the committee.
“We go by Big West Undivided and I’m excited to be on the committee,” Austin said. “By being from different walks of life we listen to everybody’s story and why we are trying to fight against social injustices in our society.”
Austin described the four pillars of the committee: 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 fight injustice. 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.
“This is such an uncomfortable topic to speak about because as a society we have swept these issues under the rug but we are trying to peel the band-aid off and the first step is educating yourself and educating others,” Austin said.
The committee meets once a month through Zoom speaking about changes to their campuses that they can do to educate others about social injustice and educate “students on the importance of voting, the different propositions in the state of California, and how to register to vote,” Austin said.
Austin’s junior teammate Miracle Saxxon, a forward/guard on the women’s basketball team, is majoring in communications with an emphasis in public relations. Saxxon was excited to return to the court and return to training with her teammates.
“[Austin] is in a lot of committees and I am so proud of her … she spoke out against racial injustice and put others before herself,” Saxxon said.
Saxxon also said that her teammates encourage each other to vote while providing reliable information through the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
“[Austin] brings a positivity everywhere she goes,” CSUB women’s basketball coach Greg McCall said. .
He added that things you learn on the court correlates to lessons in life. Austin is so dominant on the court she will often get double or tripled covered. McCall describes that Austin has a high G.P.A, PEAK major and attends several committees.