By Paige Lilly, Contributing Writer
The UMF Athletics Department recently announced the start of its Racial Equity Committee (REC), which aims to create a safe environment where racially marginalized students can share their experiences while also working to make an impact here on campus. The REC announced its official presence on Monday in an Instagram post.
The group began soon after Molly Wilkie was named the UMF Athletics Diversity and Inclusion designee, a new role the NCAA now requires schools to have. As part of a group of people with this same designation at their respective Maine Division III (DIII) Universities, Wilkie realized that UMF was one of the few schools yet to have a group of this type. “I learned that many of the other schools had coalitions and groups specifically for their student athletes of color [the names of the groups are all slightly different],” Wilkie said in an email. “After learning about what other schools were doing I thought it was something vital that UMF athletics should be engaging in as well.”
Wilkie then reached out to a number of students-athletes who she thought may want to be a part of the group. “Molly emailed us and asked if it would be something we were interested in,” said Chloe Horn, a junior, field hockey player and a member of REC. “I believe she got the list of our names from our various coaches. Then we were able to set up our first meeting.”
Wilkie stressed the importance of student leaders like Horn in the success of the group thus far. “Although I am facilitating this group, it is all about the student-athlete leaders and working to support and amplify their voices and ideas,” said Wilkie.
The group aims to provide students who identify as non-white with a safe space to discuss their experiences. “Our group … wants to create a safe space for racially marginalized student-athletes for support and advocacy,” Wilkie said. “The group also wants to play a role in helping to educate about and identify the racial inequities that exist on our campus.”
“It’s the start of a conversation many students here don’t realize needs to be had,” said sophomore Mullein Francis, who is a nordic skier for UMF and a member of REC. “Because we all go to a school that is mostly white, I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s rural Maine, we don’t have to worry about that here,’ but in reality we do,” said Francis. “There are a lot of people here who deal with this kind of thing, and it’s good to be able to talk about it with people who understand.”
In fact, it’s that understanding that sparked the friendship between Horn and Francis. “We didn’t know each other before the group, it kind of started our friendship,” Horn said, sharing a laugh with Francis.
In that way, they believe the group is already beginning to be successful in bringing students who identify as non-white together, but they won’t stop there. “We have a lot of big goals,” said Francis. “We are thinking about eventually hopefully having a system where we can include other students as well, not just student athletes.”
However, Francis and Horn both agreed that the group needs a strong foundation before they can move to that goal. “We’re so ambitious, but we know that if we get too excited and try to move too fast it might hurt us in the long run. We know we need to build the group so that it’s strong, doing little events before big ones,” said Horn. In these efforts, these student-athletes believe they will be able to start an important conversation that lasts even after they graduate from UMF.
Any questions about REC should be brought to their Instagram account @umf_rec or emailed to Molly Wilkie at firstname.lastname@example.org.