Slippery Rock University President Cheryl Norton has made a commitment to continue to promote diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the university. On Oct. 10, it was announced that President Norton has signed an NCAA diversity and inclusion pledge.
The pledge states that the signing school, in this case, Slippery Rock, will “specifically commit to establishing initiatives for achieving ethnic and racial diversity, gender equality and inclusion” among the school’s athletic coaches and administrators.
President Norton signed the pledge because she believes that the employees at SRU should be as representative of the student body as possible.
“I think any time individuals see people who they feel are similar to them, come from a similar background, have similar aspirational goals who have succeeded in ways that they wish to succeed, it presents to them a role model,”Norton explained. “So many times we have, unfortunately, situations where no one sees individuals that look like them and they think, that maybe it’s because they don’t belong. And the reality is; they do belong and they are valued and having those role models are important to demonstrate that that belonging is real and the value is honest and they too can have an aspirational goal come true.”
Currently, Slippery Rock has no minority head coaches and five head coaches that are women. There are four minority assistant coaches and five female assistant coaches.
Norton said that taking this initiative will expand The Rock’s search radius when they are looking to fill a coaching position.
“There’s no doubt that if you don’t have a lot of diversity in your immediate area then in order to find that diversity that you wish to have you need to go outside that immediate area,” Norton said. “So you’re looking at bringing in coaches from surrounding states, surrounding regions, similar schools that may not be within walking distance. I don’t see that as a daunting task, I see that as one that allows us to reach out into the community of higher education and bring in the brightest and the best for our students.”
SRU athletic director, Paul Lueken, said that the demographics of the players that play the sport really determine how diverse the applicant pool will be when entering the hiring process for a new head coach. He said that, when looking to hire any coach, they take applications from all over the country and sometimes the world to try and find the best person for the job. He said that Norton signing the diversity pledge will directly affect the kinds of applicants they look for and the kind of applicants they hire.
Norton also said that Title IX, for better or for worse, has made women’s coaching positions more competitive with a lot of male coaches now applying for those positions.
“We’re also seeing a drop off in the interest .of women continuing into the coaching career after they finish their playing career, which is typically where most coaches evolve from,” Norton said. “I think that’s going to be a harder nut to crack, trying to encourage women to continue on in the sport, continue on in the coaching ranks and to continue on working in higher education in that regard.”
Director Lueken said that he thinks that the number females moving into coaching after college seems to change in waves, while competition for those women’s sports coaching positions has definitely increased. He said that collegiate coaches open themselves up to a lot of criticism and are required to spend a lot of time away form their families, and while that may not directly deter females from coaching, it may be a factor.
Norton said that Slippery Rock will continue to consider and hire the best candidates for any position, but that signing this pledge will make them look at candidates they might not have before.