RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) unveiled on Monday Vaqueros United, an initiative that utilizes the UTRGV Athletics platform to engage in meaningful conversations on racism and social injustice while promoting peace, equality, human rights and social justice.
The Vaqueros United campaign starts with a pledge all student-athletes, coaches and staff have the option of signing:
As a Vaquero and member of the UTRGV Community, I am committed to upholding the rights of people of all walks of life and addressing the inequalities of society. I am committed to stopping divisive conversations and starting productive discussions that promote unity and understanding. I stand committed to the inclusion of all races, genders, religions, and nationalities. I stand united with my fellow Vaqueros against racism and hatred. We share a commitment to continuing the conversation of love, acceptance, and awareness for social justice and human rights. Together, we will promote peace, love, and equality.
We are Vaqueros for change. We are Vaqueros United.
“I’m extremely excited about the launch of Vaqueros United,” said UTRGV SAAC PresidentRachel Yu, a senior on the UTRGV women’s golf team. “This is something that developed almost seamlessly as we had a great group of people who are all very passionate about standing up for change and allowing voices to be heard.
“It is very empowering, as a young person and student-athlete, to see tangible results like this come together, starting from the concepts presented by my peers, and then receiving strong support from our athletic administration,” she said. “This is only a small start that will open the doors to many other opportunities for change.”
Chasse Conque, UTRGV vice president and director of Athletics, commended SAAC and all UTRGV student-athletes for leading the initiative.
“UTRGV Athletics encompasses nearly 350 student-athletes, coaches and staff,” he said. “Our initial goal is to be ‘350 strong’ and have all members of our athletics community sign the pledge. And we’d like to get the rest of the campus community and the entire Rio Grande Valley community involved, so we can all collectively do our part to promote change.
“We want to have all members of our athletics community sign the pledge and publicly share their commitment, so we can collectively do our part to promote change.”
UTRGV President Guy Bailey said he fully supports Vaqueros United.
“I look forward to taking the pledge myself,” he said, “and I encourage our entire campus community to support this initiative to help reinforce UTRGV’s ongoing commitment to promoting access, diversity and inclusion.”
The Vaqueros United campaign includes numerous initiatives, including, but not limited, to:
- Working closely with the Student Government Association, the Black Student Union, the UTRGV Police Department, The Herd, Student Affairs, University Marketing & Communications, the President’s Office, and other offices and organizations within the UTRGV community.
- Hosting roundtable discussions with student-athletes, staff and outside guests to promote safe, open dialogue and bring awareness to the issues being faced.
- Participate in discussions with media outlets to promote change.
- Establish a workshop series for student-athletes on how to effectively use the student-athlete platform to champion causes that are personally important.
- Making Election Day an off day from all athletic-related activity. During the lead up to Election Day, which is Nov. 3 this year, UTRGV Athletics staff will provide voter education to student-athletes, staff and coaches.
- Create a video series that promotes the commitment of individuals and the department as a whole to celebrate the diversity within UTRGV Athletics.
- Create a Vaqueros United T-shirt and posters to promote these initiatives and bring awareness to the fight against racism and social injustice.
- Create public service announcements that will be featured during all home contests in 2020-21.
Additionally, all student-athletes will wear a Vaqueros United patch on their competition apparel throughout the 2020-21 academic year. The patch was designed through a collaboration between SAAC and department staff.
UTRGV SAAC Vice President Jamal Gaines, a sophomore on the men’s basketball team, said that, as a Vaquero and a member of the UTRGV community, this initiative provides an avenue to continue to combat racial inequality.
“I thank the Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee of our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for starting this initiative, in hopes of reaching out to the Rio Grande Valley community with the purpose of social change,” Gaines said. “It’s an honor to be a part of a community where there are multiple organizations and groups of leaders who constantly are taking steps toward a positive change in society.”
Taylar Kregness, chair of the UTRGV SAAC Diversity & Inclusion Committee and a junior on the women’s track & field team, said Vaqueros United is just the first step in the fight for change.
“I am thrilled to be a part of these initiatives and have the opportunity to advocate for inclusion, social justice and awareness with my fellow athletes,” she said. “Chasse Conque, Molly Castner and President Guy Bailey not only encourage, but endorse our campaign. I cannot wait to see the momentum we have created in action, and what is in store for the future of the Vaqueros.”