During the course of the men’s and women’s Pace basketball season, there are more than a handful of home games that feature special events.
There was Military Appreciation Weekend on Veterans Day and First Responders Day the following Saturday. Later in the year there will be Coaches vs. Cancer and the day of the Blue Out, where all spectators are dressed in blue.
Wednesday evening was the athletic department’s third annual Pride Hoops Night, an event celebrating the LGBTQ community that surprisingly few college athletic programs around the country hold.
When Athletic Director Mark Brown was approached with the idea, he said the event fit well with Pace’s mission to be a welcoming and inclusive campus.
“Pace is a really special place,” Brown said. “I’ve worked at other institutions and we really are a community and a very diverse community and our department looked at this as an opportunity to really illustrate our support and appreciation to the LGBTQ community.”
During the basketball doubleheader at Pace Goldstein Fitness Center on the school’s Pleasantville campus, which featured wins for both Setters teams over American International College, there were local and regional organizations that were part of the effort including the LOFT LGBT Community Center in White Plains, the Jacob Burns Film Center, the Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center and PrideWorks.
There was also a halftime drag performance at both games by dancer Miz Jade and Pace’s mascot, T-Bone, sported a rainbow cape.
Rachel Simon, Pace’s associate director of multicultural affairs, diversity programs and LGBTQ coordinator, said the evening highlights the broad support the LGBTQ community receives from the school. It also helps to introduce students who are part of the community to another part of campus life.
“I think just to have so many people here, it feels good for both the basketball teams, which get a bigger turnout, and for us,” said Simon.
Students who attended Pride Night said they are deeply appreciative of the efforts Pace makes to include all students.
“I’m really proud to go to this school and people are allowed to be loud and proud about who they are,” said freshman Shannon Roberson. “It’s extremely important to me and I think it’s really important in society, especially with what’s going on in the government right now.”
Liz Pollard, also a freshman, said it’s one of the reasons why she chose to attend Pace.
“It really means a lot to see the interaction of the athletic department with the LGBTQ community,” Pollard said. “You don’t see that a lot and it’s important. I felt very welcome here at Pace and that’s why I love this school, they’re so open for everyone.”
Volunteers from Prideworks, a nearly 20-year-old conference of students from middle school through college throughout the metropolitan area that provides resources for the LGBTQ community, were also on hand. Its president, Matt Thoennes, said helping young people to be honest with themselves is an important lesson and Pride Night assists with that effort.
“I think to show support says that Pace is open and welcoming and I truly believe that if people can’t be their true selves then the world misses out on what they might contribute,” Thoennes said.
Brown said there wasn’t hesitation to hold Pride Hoops Night when the opportunity presented itself and that it’s been well-received.
“It’s such the right thing to do because at Pace all students are valued and appreciated and this is way to demonstrate that,” he said.