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Task force outlines plan to pick new nickname

Sue Jeno started to cry when she was asked whether she thought UND should pick a new nickname.

"I just want to do it right," she said, choking back tears. "I don't want to look back and say we were wrong."

At a meeting Wednesday, Jeno and the rest of the UND New Nickname and Logo Process Recommendation Task Force voted to continue to move forward in selecting a new nickname for the institution, with the provision the current name "UND" be included as a possible option. The group developed the skeleton of a plan that involves appointing another committee as soon as possible that will ultimately decide on the next nickname.

The plan, which the group is still working on, will be presented to President Robert Kelley later this month.

The school's former logo, the Fighting Sioux, was retired in late 2012 and at the meeting, the task force decided bringing that name back isn't an option due to a 2007 settlement reached by UND and the NCAA, which had threatened sanctions for using a name they deemed offensive.

"There are people who still think we can go back, but we can't," task force co-chair and UND alumna Sheri Kleinsasser Stockmoe said.

Task force member and UND professor Jim Mochoruk said after extensively examining the settlement, he felt they had no other option.

"We actually have a legal obligation to move on, I think," he said.

A rough draft

The group didn't approve a motion, but developed the rough draft of a plan that involves appointing another committee of people who will pick the next nickname.

The committee would consist of five alumni, two of which would be former letterwinners, two students, two student athletes, two representatives from the athletic department, one faculty member, one staff member, one community member and one donor.

Each person on the committee would be chosen by the stakeholder group that oversees them. The stakeholder groups may select this person in whatever way they deem fit, which could include an election or a straightforward appointment.

The final plan will include a recommendation that the stakeholder groups take diversity into account when choosing committee members and that special consideration be taken to try to include a member of the Sioux Nation.

The new committee would also have one or two members of the current task force as advisors.

That committee would continue to gather stakeholder input on what a new name should be and eventually take nickname submissions from the public that would be vetted by legal counsel and the committee. After the names that simply aren't an option for legal reasons are removed from the list, the public would vote on those remaining and narrow the options down to five. From those five, the committee would select the new nickname.

The task force also said it made sense to choose a nickname and develop a logo at a later time. A concrete timeline was not settled on, however, because the task force decided more research needed to be done concerning how long obtaining a trademark would take and making sure UND was able to take all of the appropriate legal action before selling the logo to be made into merchandise.

The task force reacted favorably to Mochoruk's suggestion of aiming for a realistic soft timeline of releasing a final name in about two years, since their survey results showed 59 percent of respondents would favor moving forward as quickly as possible or within a year.

The group addressed the possibility of a name getting trademarked by another entity during some sort of voting process, but Jeno said that would simply mean that name would no longer be in the running.

The task force is also considering suggesting hiring a professional consultant in their plan.

One of the group's two mediators, Kelly O'Keefe, said a consultant would be the best option if the new committee ultimately utilizes a vote to pick a nickname.

Several members said they wanted their plan to include the data compiled from an online survey the group had open throughout November to back up their ultimate decision. They also want to include a note that the decisions they've made are entirely their own and they were in no way "coerced" by Kelley.

"I'm confident and I will stand behind everything we've done 100 percent," task force member and UND Staff Senate President Sharley Kurtz said. "We've done the best things and made the best decisions and we should not second guess ourselves."

Jeno said she felt the task force has done everything it possibly could in the time allotted since it was created in September to gather as much input from stakeholders as possible. She said the plan should continue to make as many people as possible feel like their voice is heard.

"Change is miserably hard for everybody, she said. "But you buy into change moreso when you've had an opportunity to be a part of that change, as opposed to when it's forced on you."

To that end, Stockmoe suggested the new committee have a voice through an online blog that would update the community on the group's progress.

Other business

The task force also changed the structure of the upcoming open forum in Denver, which is happening today.

After hearing complaints the town hall in Minneapolis was too similar to the online survey, task force member and UND alumnus Karl Goehring rephrased some of the questions he plans to ask at the meeting.

The information gathered at all the town hall meetings throughout the state and in Minneapolis has also been taken into account by the task force, Stockmoe said, as will the information from the Denver meeting.

The task force will continue to develop its official plan on an online document sharing website that can be accessed by the public as drafts are composed. It can be accessed at http://bit.ly/1GbRj7Y.

The final plan will be submitted to Kelley by Dec. 31.

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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