Rosemont, Ill. – To kick off PRIDE month, the Big Ten hosted its inaugural LGBTQ+ Symposium on June 1 at its headquarters in Rosemont, Illinois. A contingent of Rutgers Scarlet Knights were on hand to share their experiences, perspective and commitment to helping foster a more inclusive environment in college athletics.
— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) June 1, 2023
The conference welcomed more than 100 student-athletes, coaches and administrators from its 14 member institutions – along with a remarkable group of guest speakers – marking the conference’s ongoing commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. Speakers and attendees discussed and shared leading practices, guidelines and activities relating to each of the campuses and communities throughout the Big Ten footprint.
In June 2022, the Big Ten established an LGBTQ+ working group within the larger Big Ten Equality Coalition to foster inclusivity and support of LGBTQ+ communities throughout the conference membership. The LGBTQ+ working group – comprised of 18 student-athletes, coaches, and administrators – advised the conference on the structure and programming of the Big Ten LGBTQ+ Symposium.
Among the Scarlet Knight attendees at the event were women’s basketball student-athlete Erica Lafayette, softball student-athlete Kyleigh Sand, women’s lacrosse head coach Melissa Lehman and Scarlet Knights For Life Director Elyse Washington.
“Attending this event has brought light to my life and knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community,” Sand said. “The biggest aspect I’m taking away from this event is to include every group. The quote [that impacted me was] ‘Exclusion is not what you say, it is what you don’t say.'”
The full day of programming included two panels, titled “Current State of College Athletics” and “The Future of the LGBTQ+ Community of Athletics.” In addition, the symposium included four breakout sessions, “Equipping Allies,” “Intersection of Identity” and “Legal Landscape of College Athletics,” for smaller group discussion.
Lafayette was featured as a speaker in the fourth breakout session, “On the Field,” which discussed topics that affect LGBTQ+ student-athletes and coaches with a focus on language, culture, and unwritten rules.
“I was just myself,” Lafayette…