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Nickname divides UND Senate

UND Fighting Sioux logo

GRAND FORKS - True to its controversial nature, UND's Fighting Sioux nickname divided the University Senate on Thursday when a resolution opposing the nickname came up for a vote.

It passed 25-17 with unanimous opposition from student senators.

Most of the "aye" votes came from faculty and staff senators.

A significant number of staff senators, including some administrators, abstained. The abstentions were not officially recorded, but one senator said she thought there were 14.

The resolution called on the State Board of Higher Education to end the use of the nickname and direct UND President Robert Kelley to transition to another nickname, said Vice Chairwoman Wendelin Hume, who sponsored the resolution on behalf of anonymous authors.

Student Body President and Sen. Tyrone Grandstrand, an opponent of the resolution, said the wording is too divisive, especially at a time when, within a little more than a year, the issue will resolve itself.

As part of a legal settlement with the NCAA, the state board will have to win approval of the two namesake Sioux tribes in North Dakota or get rid of the nickname by Nov. 30, 2010. The NCAA has called the nickname "hostile and abusive" to American Indians.

Hume, paraphrasing the resolution, said the nickname harms the university as an academic institution and should be retired earlier.

About 40 or so students, wearing green UND apparel, held signs supporting the nickname before the meeting and sat through the debate.

The resolution has no power to compel the state board to act. It merely states the senate's opinion.

Q and some A

Several student senators questioned the alleged harm, seeking proof that indeed there was harm.

Sen. Harald Brevik, a student representative, said he felt the resolution was more "personal emotion" than fact.

The resolution said "UND has suffered damage to its institutional reputation at a national level and has lost potential private foundation grant funding."

How much money was that?, he asked.

Sen. Jordan Buhr, another student representative, suggested that perhaps UND has received some donations because of the nickname.

Hume said there has been no financial research, but it's clear UND has suffered some damage as an institution. The resolution simply points out that there are negatives, she said.

Sen. Dan Rice, dean of the education college, said a higher learning commission did tell UND in 2003 that it thought the nickname hurt the university's reputation.

Buhr and Brevik tried to amend the resolution to remove the clause about damage suffered, but they lost the vote.

The resolution said "(the NCAA) settlement has given rise to concerns regarding the questionable tactics being utilized by pro-logo advocates and supporters for garnishing tribal members' support for the nickname and logo."

Sen. Chelsea Stone, a student representative, asked whether there was any documentation.

Hume said the resolution is not saying that the tactics are wrong; it simply says they're "questionable." Some tribal members, she said, have alleged impropriety.

That's a reference to accusations by nickname opponents that Spirit Lake Nation members who gathered signatures to put the nickname on the primary election later this month were paid by nickname supporters. The tribal nickname supporters said they're not paid.

When one senator asked who wrote the resolution, Hume said she couldn't say. It's not a secret, she said. She just hasn't asked permission from the authors.

Senate rules require only the sponsoring senator identify himself or herself.