UM Athletics Director Ross Bjork and former chancellor Dan Jones are being honored by the NCAA for their work promoting a climate of inclusion on campus.
Jones and Bjork are the first recipients of the national Champions of Diversity and Inclusion recognition, which recognizes people who support the interests of ethnic minorities and other underrepresented populations. They were praised for their efforts to modernize and add historical context to cultural symbols on the UM campus.
Last year, Jones released an action plan to create a vice chancellor-level position for diversity and inclusion and rename Confederate Drive.
“It’s a special honor to be the very first university recognized for this new NCAA award, and it’s especially meaningful to be recognized along with Ross Bjork,” Jones said Wednesday. “While Ross and I were noted in the NCAA announcement, I’m grateful to the many senior leaders at Ole Miss who are committed to diversity and fairness and work very hard to demonstrate leadership in this important work.”
The committee recognized Bjork for his support during these initiatives from an athletics perspective, including naming a space in an athletics facility after the first two black football players at the University of Mississippi.
The award was created by the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, which is made up of athletics directors, faculty, college athletes and others affiliated with the NCAA.
China Jude, chair of the committee and athletics director at Queens College in New York, said in a press release that the committee seeks “athletics administrators of influence, who have provided significant support to underrepresented populations,” including ethnic minorities, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community.
“We believe that it is important to identify individuals who are making sincere efforts to support underrepresented populations,” Franklin and Jude said in a letter to its first honorees. “Your stance … speaks volumes to the current social climate in which we live. We understand that your process will be long and challenging; however, it is necessary as this country grows more ethnically diverse.”