KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A new task force at Western Michigan University is working to address diversity and issues involving race within the athletics department and campus community.

Administrators and coaches launched the program following the social justice protests this summer.

Makiba Batten, the head coach of women’s track and cross-country, says they are starting a dialogue with student athletes. 

“A lot of those conversations may be uncomfortable but they need to be had,” Batten said. 

Sammy Boateng, head coach of women’s soccer who is also serving on the task force, says the organization is about more than conversation. The goal is to address issues like racism, injustice, and inequalities.  

“We want to make sure our student-athletes are taken care of in their needs, whether it’s on the field but also especially off the field because a lot of these things happen off the field for different student-athletes,” Boateng said, “and so having a safe space for our student-athletes and staff, but then also being able to educate students and staff.”

The group’s “We Must Unite” motto, which spells out WMU with the first letters, hopes to address issues in a way that brings people together. 

“When we’re talking about winning championships and coming together, we’re always talking about being united, everybody just basically being on the same page,” Batten said. 

One of the first goals of the task force is to partner with the group We Vote on campus. 

“We want to get all the student-athletes to register to vote to be able to use their rights; whatever they pick, that’s their choice,” Boateng said. “We want to be able to give them the opportunity vote.” 

Student-athletes will start participating at the next task force meeting. Coaches say they want them to play a primary role in facilitating the dialogue.