UND University Senate votes to oppose bills seeking to save Sioux nicknameUND’s University Senate has adopted a resolution opposing all three Fighting Sioux nickname bills under consideration at the North Dakota Legislature.
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
UND’s University Senate has adopted a resolution opposing all three Fighting Sioux nickname bills under consideration at the North Dakota Legislature.
The vote Thursday was 44-1 for the resolution, with five members abstaining.
The University Senate includes faculty, staff, student and administration representatives. Its vote against the nickname bills follows a similar action Jan. 23 by the UND Student Senate.
The University Senate resolution used language from the Student Senate resolution, noting that the university has begun the transition away from the nickname and logo and the bills would “only reignite the division over the ‘Fighting Sioux’ nickname and logo and further divide our university, the city of Grand Forks and the state of North Dakota.”
Also, according to the resolution, there would be “unknown” costs to a potential new legal battle with the NCAA.
The resolution, introduced by Curtis Stofferahn, professor of sociology and vice president of the University Senate, had included a clause from the Student Senate action concerning potential implications for UND’s entry into the Big Sky Conference. Stofferahn said intercollegiate athletics representatives on the Senate said the nickname is not an issue there, so the clause was dropped.
In various forms, the three House bills introduced last month would direct UND to retain the nickname and logo. Two would mandate keeping the symbols unless a referendum at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation goes against their use.
The third bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, simply declares that intercollegiate athletic teams at UND “shall be known as the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux,” and authorizes the attorney general to consider filing a federal antitrust claim against the NCAA if it seeks to penalize the university.
The NCAA in 2005 directed all member schools to eliminate Native American nicknames, logos and mascots or face sanctions. UND appealed, then sued the NCAA when its appeal was rejected.
A negotiated settlement of that lawsuit gave the State Board of Higher Education until last fall to win the OK of two namesake tribes, Standing Rock and Spirit Lake, to keep the Fighting Sioux name and logo. Spirit Lake voters and the Tribal Council there gave their approval, but efforts to arrange a vote at Standing Rock failed.
In April, the state board directed UND to begin the transition away from the name and logo.
Stofferahn said he “was approached by a number of groups on campus” and asked to bring the resolution to the University Senate.
“They were concerned that, after the hearing on these bills, they thought the university community should be heard from as an official body,” he said.
The discussion on his resolution “was remarkably brief,” he said. “Compared to earlier years when we had this discussion, there was very little contentiousness. Even those who said they are ambivalent or even in favor of keeping the nickname said it was time to move on. It’s too divisive an issue to keep hanging over our heads. They want it resolved.”
One faculty member of the Senate called the nickname debate “a millstone around the university’s neck,” Stofferahn said
He said he has sent copies of the resolution to members of the House Education Committee and members of the Grand Forks legislative delegation.
The Education Committee heard more than eight hours of testimony on the bills Jan. 26 and may act on the proposed legislation later this week, the committee chairwoman said.
Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.