LGBTQ advocacy group gives Grand Valley athletics top mark

Cheerleaders run on to football field
LGBTQ advocacy group Athlete Ally gave the GVSU athletic department its highest mark on its Athletic Equality Index, measuring the Lakers on inclusion, non-discrimination and training on LGBTQ issues.
Image Credit: Valerie Henderickson

Athlete Ally, an LGBTQ advocacy group, recently bestowed Grand Valley’s athletic department a perfect score on its Athletic Equality Index, a measurement of how NCAA schools support LGBTQ inclusion, policies and practices.

Grand Valley was the first NCAA Division II school to earn the top mark of 100 from Athlete Ally on its Athletic Equality Index, joining 18 Division I schools to receive the distinction.

“Working through the Athletic Equality Index process allowed us to look critically at how we support our LGBTQ student athletes by confirming we had the right policies, resources and training in place,” said Director of Athletics Keri Becker. 

“Our work now is to continue to develop and foster a culture within the athletic department that allows student athletes to bring their whole selves to the team.”

The University of Arizona, Boston University, the University of California-Berkeley, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, the University of Illinois, Ohio State University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California and the University of Texas were some of the Division I schools to achieve perfect scores along with Grand Valley.

Assistant volleyball coach Callie Youngman led Grand Valley’s efforts in coordinating with Athlete Ally to achieve its score. Youngman said the opportunity and accomplishment aligns with the university’s commitments and values.

The Laker Inclusion Team recognizes inclusion as a central tenet of providing the best student athlete experience possible,” said Youngman. 

“Athlete Ally was an outstanding key partner and we had support from a variety of offices and divisions across campus throughout the AEI process, so this was truly a ‘team effort.’ This is a moment to celebrate as well as a source of momentum to continue in the work we have left to do as a department and GVSU community."

Athlete Ally graphic on GVSU
Grand Valley was the only Division II school to receive a perfect score from Athlete Ally on its Athletic Equality Index, measuring inclusion, non-discrimination and training on LGBTQ issues.
Image Credit: Courtesy image

The Athlete Equality Index grades athletic departments across four metrics and four practices, such as non-discrimination, transgender inclusion, training for student athletes and staff, and a fan code of conduct.

“What is compelling is that there are so many people in Grand Valley’s athletic department that have been helpful and intentional in their thinking about practices,” said Anna Baeth, Athlete Ally’s director of research.

“I’ve been able to work with coaches and administrators, a wide swath of people across the athletic department. It’s clear they care and commit their time and energy to create an inclusive environment for student athletes.” 

Baeth said Grand Valley’s level of commitment to promoting inclusiveness, diversity and equity is exemplified in the athletic department’s SEA of Change initiative.

The program united first-year and transfer student athletes at the start of the fall semester to discuss issues affecting classmates on campus. The initiative received so much positive feedback that the department plans future sessions to expand discussions.

“I feel like SEA of Change is comprehensive in that it looks at different intersecting identities,” said Baeth. “There were conversations around racial justice and leadership. 

“These are topics that can and should coalesce with student athletes, coaches and administrators. Grand Valley is making that happen, and that’s pretty spectacular.”