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Former UW Student Athletes Continue to Ask for Next Steps from UW Athletics

Hanna Barton, Banke Oginni. Photos courtesy UW Athletics.

Former UW student athletes Banke Oginni, Hanna Barton and Rebecca Kite submitted the following letter in response to UW Athletic Director Barry Alvarez. It is the latest in an ongoing dialogue that began with an open letter last week:

Director Alvarez:

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to our previous letter. We appreciate the support you have expressed for the multiple student-athletes who have raised their voices on current issues, and for your support of Black Lives Matter. It is encouraging to hear that the department is striving for change and actively engaging in difficult conversations with each other. In your statement, you highlight that in 2016, Wisconsin Athletics became the first athletic department in the country to add a Director of Diversity, and this year you hired Michael Jackson, a former UW student-athlete, to the senior administrative team. While this is commendable, it is simply not enough.

When looking at the staff directory of the 20 departments within Wisconsin Athletics, there is hardly any diversity. Michael Jackson, in fact, is the only Black member of the senior administration. Sheridan Blanford is the only prominent Black woman within the UW Athletics administrative staff. Additionally, the athletic board has only two people of color on its 25 person roster. It is disheartening to see the lack of diversity within the department, and thus we urge UW Athletics to question: Who has a seat at our table?

As a predominately white administration, what is being done specifically to connect and work with Black student-athletes and other athletes of color? How will the administration confront the biases and privilege that members of the faculty and staff may hold? How will you hire and retain Black staff or other staff of color? We trust the equity council is engaging in talks that will produce meaningful change within the student-athlete body. Yet, it is disappointing to see that the responsibility of teaching, improving, and creating a plan to dismantle racial issues within the Athletic Department has been placed upon the shoulders of the few Black staff members, and those athletes who participate in MSAU, SAESO, and SAAC.

This moment in history reveals a greater problem that is not unique to UW Athletics. The work that it takes to confront racism is not easy—nor is it about saving face or looking good. It is about choosing to lean in to do the tough, messy work of confronting how the systems we participate in maintain racial inequality. We are asking you, Mr. Alvarez, and everyone within the administration to do the work—to be there, in person, during MSAU, SAESO, SAAC, and other meetings addressing race. To use discomfort with conversations about race as a door into these very conversations, and to make such discussions a priority. That’s what we mean by #ForeverForward. There is nowhere to get and no doing this right, there’s only showing up to do the work, day in and day out.

We believe that UW Athletics has the unique opportunity to be a role model for our university and for our country, while “turning strategic plans into strategic action.” We implore you to maintain an open and public dialogue about the steps you are taking to dismantle systemic racism within the UW Athletics Department. To begin this effort, we urge you to revisit our previous demands; like ensuring that all faculty and staff will commit to educating themselves with the aforementioned materials, utilizing campus resources to define specific ways to confront racism within the department, and critically assessing the department’s relationship with UWPD.

We have provided concrete actions and will continue to collaborate with current student-athletes to define the action items that they would like to see taken to hold the department accountable moving forward. In the meantime, what actions will you take?


Hanna Barton, Rebecca Kite, and Banke Oginni

“Exclusion by those at the table doesn’t depend on willful intent; we don’t have to intend to exclude for the results of our actions to be exclusion… If I am not aware of the barriers you face, then I won’t see them, much less be motivated to remove them.” – Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility

Our coverage of their letter and Barry Alvarez’s response can be found here: