Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Oberlin Named 2023 NCAA LGBTQ Institution of the Year

Over Winter Term, the Nation- al Collegiate Athletics Association named the Oberlin Athletics Department as the 2023 NCAA LGBTQ Institution of the Year.

According to the NCAA, the Division III LGBTQ of the Year Recognition Award Program, developed by the Division III LGBTQIA+ Working Group, aims to “recognize, honor and celebrate the academic achievements, athletics excellence, service and leadership of LGBTQ student-athletes; the service, leadership and promotion of LGBTQ inclusion by an LGBTQ athletics administrator, coach or staff; and an athletics department or conference that has demonstrated proactive efforts to create and sustain an LGBTQ-inclusive culture.”

Though it is an honor, it’s not a surprise that Oberlin received this award with the number of students and staff who identify as LGBTQ+ or are allies to the co munity. Within the College itself, some dorms have a hall sectioned off for those who identify as women or transgender. There are student organizations outside of athletics, such as Queer and Formal Reasoning, as well as inside of athletics, such as the Queer Student Athlete Group, that help facilitate discussion and provide a community for those who identify as LGBTQ+.

In 2018, when Oberlin decided to switch to gender-neutral bathrooms around campus, the Athletics department decided on an all-gender changing space for athletes and anyone else who uses the gym.

Oberlin’s athletic administrative positions, coaches, and student-athletes are required to attend training regarding micro- aggressions, pronouns, and ally- ship. In addition to these trainings, Oberlin Athletics has also hosted training sessions from the Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program as a means to understand how queer identities impact athletics, learn about common terms in the LGBTQ+ community, and learn about practices that ensure that all individuals are treated equally regardless of sexuality or gender.

Oberlin Athletics has also held pride events for the community in the past, most recently on Sept. 27 when the women’s soccer team played Heidelberg University. While players wore a pride patch on their jerseys, students cheered them on with pride flags and posters. Local vendors also provided pride-themed baked goods.

In 2020, Oberlin Athletics and the Multicultural Resource Com- mons put on a basketball “Love Always Wins” pride doubleheader against Allegheny College, which doubled as the faculty/ staff appreciation game. Rainbow sunglasses were available for purchase with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that aims at crisis in- tervention and suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, the Oberlin men’s and women’s teams wore rainbow shoelaces on the court.

In 2021, Oberlin hosted a Pride Month 5K with participants starting from Tappan Square and ending on Bailey Field. Proceeds from this event were also donated to the Trevor Project.
Assistant Athletics Director and former Head Volleyball Coach Erica Rau thanked the student-athletes for helping the department earn this award.

“Most of the credit goes to our student-athletes,” Rau wrote in an email to the Review. “They are the driving force behind all the work we do, and many of our ini- tiatives are student-led.”
Director of Athletics Natalie Winkelfoos made some remarks about the award in a video played to other NCAA staff upon ac- cepting the award at the annual NCAA Convention in Phoenix, AZ.
“This award comes with a great sense of pride,” Winklefoos said in the video. “It also comes with a great sense of responsibility. We cannot be complacent. We must constantly commit ourselves to maintaining and improving inclu- sivity on our campus.”

College fourth-year Maggie Balderstone, who helped form the Oberlin Queer Student Athlete Group, was also featured in the acceptance of award video played for the NCAA. In the past, Balder- stone has done photoshoots of student-athletes for Trans Day of Visibility. Right before Winter Term, Balderstone held a queer joy photoshoot, which featured
the Review’s Sports Co-Editor, second-year James Foster.

“We know that we do the work every single day to try to promote inclusivity, and we do the work to kind of deconstruct the ideas of what a trans athlete is, what a queer athlete is,” Balderstone said in the acceptance video. “And so to know that this department is receiving this award shows not just people on campus, but ev- erybody outside of campus, and essentially, like across Division III, that Oberlin is going to stand with their LGBTQ+ athletes no matter what outside factors may affect that.”

Winkelfoos echoed Balder- stone’s remarks.

“This is an institution that, you know, is deeply embedded into its DNA that we will foster an inclusive environment for every- one,” Winklefoos said in the vid- eo. “And we are not perfect. But when we lean into our values, we lean into this compassionate mindset, we allow our stakehold- ers, in this case, our LGBTQ com- munity, to be seen, to be heard, and to be celebrated.”

Lucas Draper, OC ’23, a dive coach for the Swim and Dive team and former member, was named a finalist for the 2023 Divi- sion III LGBTQ Student-Athlete of the Year award for his activism surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Draper was previously featured in articles from Forbes, CBS, and ABC News 5 Cleveland speaking on issues affecting the transgender community. Drap- er himself has also written arti- cles about transgender rights in Swimming World Magazine.
Other LGBTQ Recipients of the Year include Illinois Institute of Technology swimmer Anna Slo- minski as the 2023 Division III LGBTQ Student-Athlete of the Year and William Peace Universi- ty Associate Director of Athletics Danielle O’Leary as 2023 Division III LGBTQ Administrator/Coach/ Staff of the Year.

“This award means so much to the department,” Rau wrote. “We want the Oberlin Athletics and Shanks Health and Wellness Center to be a welcoming and inclusive space for our athletes and the campus community. We continue to learn and look for ways to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, be kind, and support our community.”

More to Discover