A new safe space for student athletes of color on SUNY New Paltz’s campus is in the works.
The New Paltz Athletes of Color, or NPAC for short, is a forming collective that will promote inclusion and represent all non-white student athletes.
“We want to focus on representation and inclusion while also spreading awareness on a lot of things that not only go on in school but in the world we live in,” said NPAC co-founder and third-year basketball forward Brandon Scott.
The roots for the group’s creation came in the fall of 2019, partially inspired by the school’s athletic department having talks with multiple sports teams about diversity and inclusion.
“The main idea for the group came from the lack of people of color (POC) in the athletic programs and the retention rate of those POC who commit to an athletic program due to racial and social gaps,” said founding member and third-year electrical engineering student Paul Tola.
According to an NCAA demographic summary for the 2018-19 school year, over 64% of all NCAA student-athletes are white. Black student-athletes make up just 16% of that total, with Hispanic athletes only totalling 6%. Narrowing it down to just Division III schools, which New Paltz is a member of, 74% of the nearly 195,000 athletes represented are white, with Black athletes making up 10% and Hispanic 6%.
While the percentage of Black and Hispanic athletes has generally increased over the last eight years, its growth can still be considered underwhelming.
College athletic departments across the country have founded diversity initiatives since the start of the fall 2020 semester or further promoted their current programs, such as Georgia Tech and the University of Richmond. NPAC is looking to put SUNY New Paltz on the map for being a school that noticeably promotes and recruits an increasing number of non-white athletes.
“Our mission is to offer a sanctuary for athletes of color to feel welcomed and at home in New Paltz athletics,” Scott said.
The group’s four current co-founders are Scott, third-year basketball forward Isaiah Bien-Aise, Paul Tola and Paul’s twin brother and third-year soccer defender, Jonathan. Originally the group had seven founding members until many of them graduated. These alumni included men’s volleyball middle-blocker Tevin Skeete, women’s basketball forward Philesha Teape, women’s soccer midfielder Raven Blake and men’s basketball guard Keith Seaman.
Scott made it clear that the group has multiple steps to take before becoming an official sanctioned club recognized by the Student Association and athletic department, such as more widespread recruitment and active promotion. Unfortunately, current world circumstances have delayed their proceedings.
“With COVID, it pushed our plans back,” Scott said. “The work is still in progress and we have a long way to go before it becomes an actual thing.”