The UNITAS Initiative is a program that was developed by the Athletics Department in 2017 to bring attention to diversity and equality issues, as well as to give the student-athletes a platform to share their stories and experiences. Over the course of the last few months, however, the program has grown and taken more action than ever in light of recent events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and racial injustice.
The UNITAS mission states: “We can do more. We will do more. We are committed to meaningful collaboration so that we may better craft an athletic department that is welcoming and nurturing for all of our student-athletes.”
The Athletics Department realizes that Black student-athletes on this campus have unique experiences and need a platform to share them and bring to light the injustice that they face.
This program involves all student-athletes and coaches, but the department has also assembled a Leadership Committee that is made up of athletics staff, student-athletes, a few university staff members from the Office of Intercultural Affairs, a few from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and a communications professor.
Having this committee will provide University and Athletics staff the opportunity to listen to and learn from Black student-athletes and their experiences. One of the goals of this initiative is to give these athletes more equal opportunities to stand in leadership positions and use their voices for change.
Three student-athletes that are a part of the leadership committee are Sanaä Barnes (Women’s Volleyball/Track and Field), Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (Men’s Basketball) and Danielle Burns (Women’s Track and Field), all of whom are also founders of the student-led group The 13%. While The 13% is a separate organization from UNITAS, the two groups have similar goals and will work together to take action in the future.
UNITAS is based on seven core principles: Listen and Learn, Pray, Educate, Invest, Collaborate, Diversify and Lead. The group sees these as the building blocks to creating real change and works to take action specific to each principle.
Some of these actions include student-athletes sharing stories on Jay Wright’s podcast, hosting forums and meetings with staff and athletes, fundraising for programs on campus that focus on diversity and inclusion, the Let’s Vote Nova campaign, holding student-athlete masses to unite the department through prayer and many others.
This initiative has created a platform for student-athletes to take on more of a leadership role when it comes to racial issues as well as fostering the tough conversations that need to happen in order to create change. This initiative will continue to grow and expand, especially with the strong student-athletes they have placed on the Leadership Committee.
Villanova Athletics is committed to making change and taking action. Like the mission statement says, “Action is greater than words. The responsibility lies with all of us.”
To learn more about the UNITAS Initiative and any upcoming events that they are hosting, you can visit its new page on the Villanova Athletics website, which highlights its mission on campus and goals for Black student-athletes competing for Villanova.