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PLT Updates: Athletic Director Ryan Bowles

On Monday, April 19th, Bergen Senf ‘24 met with Athletic Director Ryan Bowles to get an update on the athletic department. First, AD Bowles addressed the recent killing of Daunte Wright and the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin. In the past few weeks, the athletic department has been working to support individual teams to use their voices and platform through these events. Many teams, coaches, and players have worn OAI (Oles Against Inequality) t-shirts, and knelt for the national anthem ahead of competitions. Specifically, AD Bowles was proud of the statements that were offered ahead of the Men’s and Women’s Soccer games this past weekend. Within the department, there are many actions being taken around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The athletic department is working with OAI on a protest understanding statement, designed to support expression by student-athletes. While the statement is currently being drafted, AD Bowles hopes that it will give formal permission to coaches and athletes to demonstrate, without fear of retaliation. Next week, the athletic department will be hosting speaker Jen Fry as she facilitates separate sessions for student athletes and department staff on anti-racism. Coming up in May, representatives from OAI will present to the entire athletic department on equitable and diverse recruiting practices.

Addressing the COVID-19 case increase on campus in the past few weeks, AD Bowles remains confident in the athletic department's ability to finish the semester strong. After analyzing contact tracing data, Bowles has concluded that the spread is not a result of athletics or athletic events. From this data, he knows that social gatherings and contact with roommates are the primary cause of the rise in cases. To address this problem, the athletic department has stressed to student-athletes the importance of being mindful of the impact of social gatherings. However, AD Bowles also acknowledged the challenges faced by student-athletes and the fact that the department cannot control what happens outside of monitored athletic activities. He asks that student-athletes be aware of how their actions affect the whole student population as we try to finish the semester fully in-person.

On BORSC’s Instagram page, a poll was posted for students to submit questions directly to AD Bowles. First, Bowles responded to a question regarding mask adherence by football players and staff in Porter Weight Room. This was the first time that he had been asked about a problem with mask adherence in football, but reaffirmed that they should always be wearing masks. The athletic department tries to police it the best that they can for both students and staff, but there is also a level of understanding during intense practices. According to Bowles, the athletic training staff is “constantly harping on student athletes,” and will continue to do so. Second, he addressed a question regarding the budget allocation between the athletic department and club/intramural teams. He explained that the two entities are completely separate, with funding for athletics coming directly from the College and fundraising efforts. Finally, AD Bowles addressed the question, “Why are athletes encouraged to use their platforms and then censored when they speak out?” specifically regarding a post by the Swim and Dive Team that was removed this past September. He answered by explaining the difference between stating individual opinions on St. Olaf sponsored accounts, versus individual accounts. When there is an individual opinion, it must be expressed on an individual account, because it does not represent the consensus of everyone associated with a team account. AD Bowles reaffirmed his support for the use of individual platforms, and said that this policy is in no way an attempt at censuring student-athletes.

As we enter into the final weeks of the spring semester and the athletic competition season, AD Bowles encourages all members of the athletic community to get to the finish line strong. This semester, Bowles has been able to spend more time on campus at athletic events, and has been continually impressed with the perseverance of student athletes.

If you have any questions you would like to brought to Ryan Bowlesor any of the PLT members, you can submit them here.

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