UAF Vice Chancellor comments on current racial tensions, athlete protests
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, many communities across the world gathered to raise awareness to social injustices and police brutality towards minorities. In the wake of the protests, University of Alaska Fairbanks Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Athletics, Keith Champagne, decided to start the Alaska Nanooks Athletic Director’s Inclusion and Diversity Council. Since then there have been other incidents that evoke the memories of Floyd’s death, most recently the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“The one thing I want to see as a society is get to the point where we are honest about systemic and institutional racism,” said Champagne. “We just have to look at ourselves and how we want to address it and what do we want to be in the 21st century.”
Sports leagues in the United States have been full of images and symbolism as they push for social change. From players kneeling before the national anthem to those wearing ’Black Lives Matter’ shirts, this goes across the National Basketball Association to Major League Baseball. With the recent events in Wisconsin, some players have decided to strike against the games, by not taking to the courts or fields.
How will these protests take shape on the college level? The majority of the Alaska Nanooks’ athletic programs are slated to possibly start in January 2021, after many sports were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Champagne says there have been talks within the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the UAF athletic department to allow student-athletes to protest.
“We want to make others aware who are a part of Nanook Nation that we are going to allow our students to protest or to be agents of social change in a very positive, professional and respectful manner.” said Champagne, on UAF’s stance on student-athlete’s ability to protest.
The initiatives for social change at UAF have been spear headed by many leaders, from UAF Chancellor Dan White to Champagne. According Keith, the change being made is done by a diverse coalition at the university.
“There’s a theme or a tenant of critical race theory that’s called, interest conversions, and things change when it’s in the best interest for all of us.” said Champagne.
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