OXFORD, Miss.–A university that was the site of perhaps the most infamous attempt at integration is now being recognized for inclusion of ethnic minorities through two of its leaders. Ole Miss Chancellor Emeritus Dan Jones and Athletic Director Ross Bjork have received the first-ever NCAA Diversity Award.
The school announced the award Wednesday in an news release.
The Champions of Diversity and Inclusion recognition was created by the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, comprised of athletics directors, faculty members, college athletes and others affiliated with NCAA member schools. The committee is Association-wide, which means it is not affiliated with an NCAA division but instead deals with issues relevant to the entire NCAA, said the news release.
Both men worked as part of the university’s efforts to modernize and add historical context to cultural symbols on the Mississippi campus.
Specifically, Jones last year announced a comprehensive action plan for fostering an environment of inclusion on the Mississippi campus. In it, he outlined plans to create a vice chancellor-level position for diversity and inclusion and rename a campus street called Confederate Drive. Bjork, meanwhile, has supported these initiatives from an athletics perspective, including naming a space in an athletics facility after the first two black football players at Mississippi.
China Jude, chair of the committee and athletics director at Queens College in New York, said the committee seeks “athletics administrators of influence, who have provided significant support to underrepresented populations,” including ethnic minorities, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community.
Those recognized as Champions of Diversity and Inclusion have created opportunities for those in underrepresented populations to advance into senior leadership positions; demonstrated longevity or consistency in their support; or initiated or coordinated cultural change in an athletics department or at an NCAA member school in matters related to college sports.
Jude announced the initiative in conjunction with Bernard Franklin, NCAA chief inclusion officer and executive vice president of education and community engagement.
“We believe that it is important to identify individuals who are making sincere efforts to support underrepresented populations,” Franklin and Jude said in a letter to its first honorees. “Your stance … speaks volumes to the current social climate in which we live. We understand that your process will be long and challenging; however, it is necessary as this country grows more ethnically diverse.”