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Another UND department decries 'institutionalized racism' on campus

In a resolution passed late last month, UND's English department condemns the "chronic inaction" of UND administrators in the face of swastikas and other racist graffiti found on campus in recent months.

In a resolution passed late last month, UND's English department condemns the "chronic inaction" of UND administrators in the face of swastikas and other racist graffiti found on campus in recent months.

The resolution also links the swastika graffiti with the ongoing controversy over the school's Fighting Sioux sports nickname, beloved by many sports fans but viewed by others as a crude racial stereotype.

The resolution is printed as a letter to the editor on Page A4 of today's Herald.

"By refusing to confront the results of clear patterns of institutional racism, they keep firmly in place," the letter states, "our administrators have betrayed a fundamental duty of our university to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all who work and live here."

The letter goes on to reference the case of Scott Lebovitz, a Jewish UND student who moved out of his West Hall dorm room after anti-Semitic taunts and graffiti, including a swastika drawn on his dorm stairwell.

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"The cynical evasions, equivocations, and denials spun by these managers at first dismissed and then delayed the obvious fact that Jewish students endured months of anti-Semitic hate crimes with no hope of help from those charged with their care," the letter states.

The English department letter follows a similar letter from several faculty members in UND's anthropology department released last week.

Birgit Hans, chair of the school's Indian Studies department, said her department sent a letter condemning the swastika graffiti and criticizing the administration's response to incoming UND President Robert Kelley, now health sciences dean at the University of Wyoming, but not to UND's current administrators.

"We feel very strongly about it," she said of the graffiti, "and I, as an ex-German, feel stronger than most."

Hans said she does not have a copy of that letter, and the faculty member who does have it is out of town at a conference.

UND Spokesman Peter Johnson said he is not aware of any other letters or statements sent from UND departments to top university administrators about the swastika graffiti in recent days.

One UND student was charged with disorderly conduct by the Grand Forks County State's Attorney's Office for the West Hall incident, specifically for writing "Scott is a Jew" with ice cream on a dorm elevator.

One or more students also were sanctioned by the university in that case, but UND officials have declined to disclose the nature of the sanctions or the number of students sanctioned.

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Several university divisions and academic departments came under fire from the school's Affirmative Action office in October for proclaiming a department-wide opposition to the Fighting Sioux nickname in an advertisement that ran in the Herald. Affirmative Action Officer Sally Page argued that, while individual faculty and staff members were welcome to oppose the nickname, a department-wide anti-logo stance could alienate pro-logo students.

UND Vice President for Student and Outreach Services Bob Boyd asked the school's American Indian Student Services office, the only division under his supervision that signed the advertisement, to withdraw its name from future ads.

UND Provost Greg Weisenstein, who oversees all of the school's academic departments, said he did not make a similar request.

Reach Marks at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to jmarks@gfherald.com .

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