UND officials brief campus on Fighting Sioux nickname retirementUND has until Aug. 15 to formally retire its Fighting Sioux athletic nickname and logo, but officials said Monday that the university already is well along in the process of figuring out what comes next.
UND has until Aug. 15 to formally retire its Fighting Sioux athletic nickname and logo, but officials said Monday that the university already is well along in the process of figuring out what comes next.
President Robert Kelley and the university’s transition officer, Vice President for Student Affairs Robert Boyd, outlined the groups that have been formed or will be activated over the coming months to recommend how to honor the 80-year history of the nickname and eventually figure out a new identity for the university’s athletic programs.
They also fielded several questions from the crowd of about 75 students and university staff that were at the Memorial Union lecture bowl to learn more about what will happen over the next year.
An April 8 decision by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education directed Kelley to officially retire the nickname and logo by Aug. 15, 2011.
That decision stemmed from a 2007 lawsuit settlement, the end of a legal fight that started when the university was added to the list of institutions subject to new policies in 2005 after the NCAA banned the use of American Indian nicknames and imagery it considered to be “hostile or abusive.”
Boyd said UND is guided by three “fundamental beliefs” in the transition process, including the belief that responses to change “are both logical and emotional.”
“There are going to be people that look at this process of change and see it very logically and, as a consequence, there’s a fair amount of black and white to it,” he said. “There will be others that will look at this change and will do it in a very emotional way, and we need to be prepared to recognize both of those contingencies will be part of this.”
Boyd said he thinks there’s a helpful adage for the university to keep in mind during the process: “People don’t resist change; they resist being changed.”
He said people expect to be able to weigh in on big changes in their lives and “want to own whatever decisions end up being made.” By getting stakeholders involved, Boyd said, “generally we find that people will accept the change that has to take place.”
The third belief is people “tend to think of what we are going to lose rather than what we are going to gain.” Boyd said the university needs to help people see what can be gained during this change.
He also outlined the various groups that will weigh in on the nickname retirement. Final decisions will be made by Kelley, who also will report to the State Board of Higher Education during the process, Boyd said.
A “transition cabinet” will assist the president as recommendations come to him, Boyd said, and the president also will have “transition partners” that will provide information to other working groups.
But the “heavy lifting” of the process is being handled by three task groups, Boyd said.
Two groups have already been activated: “Communications,” which is tasked with keeping people informed and involved in the process, and “Honoring History and Traditions,” which is designed to recommend a formal retirement of the nickname and logo and honor its history at the university.
Bruce Smith, co-chair of the history task group and dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, said his group of roughly 20 members will be fair and open as it figures out how to honor UND’s 80-year tradition of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
He expects group members to begin meeting next month.
The “New Directions” task group, which will be activated by the president at a later date, is charged with recommending a new athletic identity.
One student suggested the group start its work as soon as possible so campus members can get used to the new nickname.
Kelley said the university wanted to focus on other important issues during the first few months of the transition. Moving forward from this “very divisive issue” is an important task, he said, but he wants the process of picking a name to include input from everyone.
“I am very concerned that we involve all of our stakeholders in this and I don’t quite know how to achieve it,” he said.
Michelle Kozel, a UND employee who works for American Indian Student Services, said she still sees “a great divide” in the community that stems from the nickname. She said there’s “still a gap that needs to be filled” by getting input from all stakeholders as the process goes on.
Kozel said officials talk about the history and tradition of the nickname and logo but often don’t mention that the Fighting Sioux name “has been hurtful to a significant number of people.” She said she thinks now is the time for everyone to come together and find ways to “bridge that gap.”
“We should all be fired up to go to hockey games and football games,” Kozel said. “And people need to realize that there’s some that don’t feel welcome, don’t feel able to expose their children to that kind of imagery.”
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