Diversity Pledge Stumbles

May 15, 2017

Over half a year after the NCAA circulated a “presidential pledge” to improve diversity in hiring, 30 percent of its member schools have yet to sign it. Both Boston College and the University of Notre Dame have spoken out against it.

According to The Washington Post, the pledge is a 147-word promise to recruit and interview candidates from diverse backgrounds for positions in NCAA athletic departments. It has no enforcement measure, but the NCAA has an online, public list with the names of the schools that signed it.

According to Boston College Spokesperson Jack Dunn, the college's president, Father William Leahy, refused to sign because the pledge was not strong enough. Dunn said that Leahy would support a rule requiring schools to interview minorities for leadership positions, similar to the NFL's “Rooney Rule.”

“A deep commitment to diverse campus communities already exists,” Dunn wrote. “The task is to act. Many colleges and universities have voiced the same concerns about the pledge. It strikes many of us as a feel-good measure that will not address the issue.”

Paul Browne, Spokesperson for the University of Notre Dame, wrote an email saying that the university's president, Father John Jenkins “feels strongly that principals of such importance should be authored and pronounced by Notre Dame itself and applied university-wide, and not as the product of an association focused exclusively on collegiate athletics," and thus refused to sign the pledge.

“The diversity of our current administrative team is not where we want it to be, and that’s being addressed soon,” Browne wrote. “While poaching’s an annoying fact of life, Notre Dame is proud of helping advance the careers of some prominent African-American athletics administrators who are now serving at other universities.”

Jay Lemons, President of Susquehanna University, said he did not understand why some schools would refuse to sign the pledge.

“I do not see a downside,” Lemons said. “The need for change is so incredibly powerful that it’s hard for me to imagine that frankly any of our institutions have made all the progress that any of us would like to make.”

Lee Reed, Athletic Director at Georgetown University, said that the NCAA is not to blame for schools refusing to sign the pledge.

“A lot of people like to blame the NCAA for the ills of college athletics … It’s a membership organization, and the membership is the schools,” Reed said. “This is up to us.”

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