CHAPEL HILL – NBA player Jason Collins is the first openly gay athlete to come-out while playing in a major American team sport. On the collegiate level, UNC is taking steps of it’s own to ensure that the athletic community is welcoming of LGBTQ student athletes.

“I think that there is a desire and openness to create an inclusive and welcoming environment,” said Terri Phoenix, Director of the UNC LGBTQ Center.

She’s worked with students from a variety of backgrounds on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Phoenix and Cricket Lane— the UNC Assistant Athletic Director for Student-Athlete Development— have also worked together to educate student athletes, coaches, and staff about the importance of creating a safe atmosphere for LGBTQ student athletes.

“And I do a lot of education work with athletics so pretty much every year I talk with the incoming first year football players,” Phoenix said.

UNC plans to participate in the You Can Play Project according to Phoenix. It’s a national campaign dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

Universities like Duke, Miami and UCLA have produced content for the project. The National Hockey League Players’ Association and the National Hockey League announced a partnership with You Can Play in April.

Released in April of 2012, Phoenix says the “It Get’s Better” video also shows the university’s attitude towards acceptance. It was part of the national campaign: It Gets Better.

In the YouTube video—UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham along with more than 30 student athletes from 10 varsity sports teams—promoted anti-bullying and suicide prevention for LGBTQ teens.

Phoenix is also a member of the new task force— charged with reviewing and enhancing the university’s policies and procedures for handling student-on-student complaints of harassment, sexual misconduct or discrimination.

It’s chaired by Christi Hurt, UNC’s new Interim Title IX Coordinator.

The task force will meet through out the summer and present recommendations to the current policy by the next school year.

“A lot of people have talked about that policy as specifically sexual-assault related—but it’s supposed to be covering a broader area than that,” she said.

Phoenix will bring her background in LGBTQ counseling and violence prevention to the discussion on sexual assault.