UI professor helps diversity initiatives for Big Ten Equality Coalition Executive Committee

As part of the committee, Professor of Education Liz Hollingworth will actively seek ways to combat racism and empower student-athletes across the Big Ten.


Dimia Burrell

University of Iowa Faculty Athletic Representative Liz Hollingworth, outside of the Hansen Football Performance Center on Sept. 28, 2021.

Cooper Worth, News Reporter

A University of Iowa professor was appointed to represent the Hawkeyes on the Big Ten Conference’s committee on equality, and she said the committee is working initiatives centered around promoting members diversity and inclusion through social media efforts this month.

On Sept. 9, Liz Hollingworth, a UI educational leadership professor, and interim departmental executive officer of educational policy and leadership studies, was appointed to the Big Ten Equality Coalition Executive Committee for 2021-22. 

“On Oct. 19-21 we will be working on the NCAA Diversity & Inclusion Social Media Campaign, which is an opportunity for student-athletes, administrators, coaches, and fans to use their platform to create a dialogue surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she said.

Omar Brown, Big Ten Conference vice president and people and culture officer, said Big Ten student-athletes have support from conference officials to let their voices be heard on pressing social issues. 

“Big Ten student-athletes, to me, have absolute support from the commissioner, athletic directors, and faculty representatives to voice it,” Brown said. “I would say, if you looked up on social media Michigan, Michigan State, or Iowa you’ll see student-athletes speaking up.”

Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren released an open letter on June 1, 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, announcing the creation of the Big Ten Conference Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition, now named the Equality Committee. 

“I look for diversity, inclusion and equality as we go forward. That’s one of the reasons we started the Equality Coalition,” Warren said Oct. 7 at the Big Ten Basketball Media Days. “The more diverse thoughts that we can have that can come to the table, the stronger we’ll be as a

conference, the stronger we’ll be as a country.”

The goal of the coalition is to seek tangible ways to actively and constructively combat racism and hate around the world while also empowering student-athletes to express their rights to free speech and peaceful protest, the letter stated. 

Hollingworth said members within the executive committee from all Big Ten schools are working to accomplish the coalition’s goals.

“It’s all of us,” she said. “There are 10 of us in that executive committee, and we all have different ideas we’re drawing from our institutions and bringing them to the group.”

The Big Ten Conference launched a Voter Registration Initiative in February 2020, which Warren said at the time was a natural extension of the conversation within the coalition. 

Hollingworth said this initiative will continue into the future, as the coalition recently acknowledged National Voter Registration Day late last month. 

“We realized that encouraging student-athletes — encouraging all undergraduates, in fact — to be registered to vote is something that is part of social justice,” she said. “You can’t make a difference if you aren’t part of the system and doing the voting.”

Brown said the voting initiative will continue to evolve covering local elections as well. 

“I would say this year has been really discussions about, how do you take that, which was really focused on national elections, and turn it into focusing on local elections,” Brown said. “Everything from mayors, state representatives, and governors, and really focus on either what you can do on campus to activate it, or what you can do in your hometown.”

On the executive committee, Hollingworth said she will work on planning educational field trips for student-athletes across the Big Ten.

“We work for the benefit of the organization, not coming up with individual things that would help each institution specifically, so these initiatives are meant to benefit everybody,” she said.  “We come up with plans that all 14 campuses are going to be doing.” 

Hollingworth said she is not just a random faculty member who got included in this. 

“I’ve been active with the athletics department for about 11 or 12 years,” Hollingworth said. “So this is consistent with my job.” 

Former Hawkeye football players filed a lawsuit against the Hawkeye football program, alleging they were subjected to racial discrimination during their time playing for the Hawkeyes in November 2020. 

When asked if the committee is doing anything to address these claims, Hollingworth declined to comment. 

Hollingworth said she is bringing her expertise in education in planning initiatives for student-athletes.

“The specific link was education for me, and some of the things we’re brainstorming are the titles of K-12 books that student-athletes might go to their local elementary school and read with the kids,” she said.

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