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A Timeout With ... Shippensburg athletic director Jeff Michaels, on the genesis and expectations of new voting, anti-racism initiatives
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A Timeout With ...

A Timeout With ... Shippensburg athletic director Jeff Michaels, on the genesis and expectations of new voting, anti-racism initiatives

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The athletics department at Shippensburg University has started an initiative to fight against discrimination.

The initiative, announced last week, is called ONESHIP and aims to utilize the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the student-athletes, coaches, staff and faculty at Shippensburg.

According to the mission statement on the website, “The ONESHIP initiative is committed to upholding the values of equity, justice, and inclusion by creating and sustaining an anti-biased and anti-racist environment in athletics and in our broader communities.”

One of the first things to result from the initiative is ONESHIPVotes, which is a collaboration with the university’s non-partisan voter registration group Ship Votes. ONESHIPVotes aims to help with voter registration, education and participation for all student-athletes, coaches and staff for the general, state and local elections.

Shippensburg athletic director Jeff Michaels answered some questions from The Sentinel via email about how the initiative was started and what challenges they hope to overcome with ONESHIP and ONESHIPVotes.

Q: What was the impetus to get the ONESHIP initiative started?

A: The athletics administration, along with a few staff members and a few student-athletes, initially began discussions on ONESHIP a couple of years ago. The initiative originally focused on diversity and inclusion with an emphasis solely on our student-athletes. Once social injustice issues were again highlighted earlier this summer, we felt that it was imperative to implement action that specifically focused on anti-racism and anti-bias in support of all of our student-athletes and department members. This initiative will assist in furthering education, conversations, and actions.

Q: Who is responsible for driving the initiative? Is it mostly student-athletes/coaches/the department?

A: Several department staff members took the initial steps to participate with the leadership group of ONESHIP. A couple student-athletes also joined the initial meetings and have been involved in helping to formulate next steps. Department personnel have been very involved in the initial educational efforts, and the transition to student-athlete involvement and leadership is now underway with the start of the semester.

Q: In regard to ONESHIPVotes, what challenges are involved in getting student-athletes, coaches, and athletic staff to vote?

A: Access is a big challenge for individuals who wish to vote, whether that is within our community or across the country. That is why assistance with the registration process is so important. The support of the campus-wide ShipVotes group will be invaluable as we attempt to help student-athletes learn about a democratic process that will impact them and that they can impact for the rest of their lives.

Q: What reasons have students given for not voting? How do you address those concerns?

A: Some of the issues are related to living in Shippensburg at the time of the general election and how to make sure they are able to vote while away from a home area. Other challenges have to do with the registration process and the time to vote while having a busy academic and athletic calendar. That is why we emphasized having Tues., Nov. 3, as an “off day” from all athletically-related activities in order to allow time that could normally be used for practices, meetings, or other workouts to be devoted to participating in the election.

Q: What other things is ONESHIP hoping to achieve, and how will they be done especially given the current pandemic? What may possibly change with that if the school is shut down?

A: The ultimate goal of the ONESHIP is to have an anti-racist, anti-biased athletics department. We will continue to have conversations with, and learn about, each other, and to work towards action steps that will eventually lead to our ultimate goal. It has obviously become an important topic for our department and is something that we need to work toward on a daily basis. We will continue to support our student-athletes as much as possible with this initiative and all other issues both while at Ship and away from campus.

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Email Michael Heaton at mheaton@cumberlink.com or follow him on Twitter @LinuxScouser

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