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Task force on Fighting Sioux nickname replacement has first meeting

A UND task force met Wednesday to begin coming up with the process of picking a new nickname and logo for the school.

The task force won’t be picking a nickname, but will try to establish a concrete process the school will use to choose a new one after the controversial Fighting Sioux moniker was officially retired Dec. 31, 2012.

“I’m not necessarily asking you to find the name, I'm asking you to identify the best pathway to get to that name,” UND President Robert Kelley said to the task force. “If we come up with a name at the end of that process, all the better, that certainly is our eventual goal, but just for right now, we're looking at the process.”

While this first meeting consisted mostly of policy discussion and planning potential meeting dates, the group had clear ideas about what it wants to accomplish.

Task force member and UND alumnus Chuck Horter stressed the importance of transparency while the task force co-chairman, Student Body President Tanner Franklin, said he wanted to make sure all stakeholders had their voices heard.

“It's going to be just as essential to communicate with alumni members and more difficult to communicate with those alumni members than it will be some of the student body, but most definitely just as essential,” Franklin said. “They were here for many years before I was and have experienced a whole different culture than what the student body is today. I think there needs to be a lot of commentary, a lot of input.”

Kelley told the group it would be ideal to have a plan together by January, when the school can legally choose a new nickname and logo, but also said the most important part will be creating a process that works, not meeting a deadline.

Progress

The Fighting Sioux nickname and logo remain popular in the area, but the NCAA considers the symbols offensive and threatened sanctions. The symbols were officially retired by the school after the state failed to convince the NCAA otherwise and UND athletes have played simply as “North Dakota” ever since.

Over the last several months, racially charged incidents occurred both on and off campus, including students wearing shirts with the phrase “Siouxper drunk” on them to a local festival and a sorority hanging a banner some deemed racist. After several American Indian students organized a protest walk through campus this summer due to what they considered university inaction, Kelley began recruiting people for the task force to move forward from the old Fighting Sioux name,

The task force consists of 13 members including alumni, students and UND administration. They worked with two mediators, Marie Miyashiro of the Elucity Network consulting firm and Kelly O’Keefe of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter, who directed the meeting via Skype.

Some of them said they’ve already been approached on the street with nickname suggestions and ideas, but they plan to make it very clear to the public their role is to come up with a roadmap to decide on a new name, not actually pick one.

“It will be a lot of work, but very rewarding,” task force member and UND Associate Vice President for Finance and Operations Margaret Meyers said.

The group will meet again in October, though exact dates haven’t been set. The meetings are open to the public.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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