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Nickname fans hold rally at REA

UND students said Friday they were surprised and felt like they had been "disrespected" one day after the State Board of Higher Education directed the university to begin retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname.

Sioux nickname rally
More than 300 UND students and nickname supporters dressed in their Fighting Sioux apparel for a Friday afternoon rally and group photo at Ralph Engelstad Arena. The event was held one day after the State Board of Higher Education directed the university to begin retiring the nickname. (Herald photo by Sarah Kolberg)

UND students said Friday they were surprised and felt like they had been "disrespected" one day after the State Board of Higher Education directed the university to begin retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname.

More than 300 students and nickname supporters put on their Fighting Sioux apparel and headed to the Sitting Bull statue in front of Ralph Engelstad Arena for a group rally and photo Friday afternoon as a way of showing their love of a moniker that eventually will be changed.

Most people at the rally and around campus Friday told the Herald they realized the nickname would likely be retired at some point but didn't expect it to happen so quickly. They also didn't like the way the board put the issue to rest.

Adam Svercl, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, said the board's action was "a little bit ridiculous."

"The logo's been here for close to 100 years," he said. "A change out of nowhere like this without asking for students' and the faculty's input is kind of weak."

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'An end'

Meghan Ensrud, a sophomore managerial finance and accounting major, questioned why the board rushed to a decision. Under the terms of a 2007 lawsuit settlement between the state of North Dakota and the NCAA, the state's two Sioux tribes had to give approval to keep the nickname before a Nov. 30, 2010 deadline.

"So, why have we spent these past few years going around getting all of the support from the reservations when it was up to the higher education board?" Ensrud asked. "Why didn't they listen to the reservations?"

Aaron Nelson, a geography senior, said the news was surprising. He would have liked UND to keep the nickname, but "it doesn't really affect my life in any way."

Criminal justice sophomore Ryan Diamond said he "obviously didn't like" the board's decision.

"I've been a Sioux fan for two years now," he said. "It's going to be weird switching from Sioux to something random."

Tyler Wegscheid, a junior physical therapy student, said the board's action was "kind of disappointing" because people all over the country know the university's nickname.

"I think it was a pretty cool thing, and it's sad it has to come to an end," he said.

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Senior anthropology major Michael Storey said he didn't really have an opinion on the issue.

"Whether they change the name or not didn't really affect me," he said. "College won't change because of it."

Matt Johnson, a French and marketing junior, said the board's decision was "tough" to hear.

"I feel very disrespected," he said. "They were in meetings all day long. They should have been able to talk about this a little bit more."

Johnson said the board should have given more time for the tribes to have a final vote on the issue, "and then in the end decide either way but give them an option."

'Leaves a mark'

Sean Lee, a political science junior, said he's been interested in the nickname issue and followed it closely, especially when he served as a student senator last year.

"They made this decision behind the students' backs," he said.

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Lee used his passion for the nickname and his status as a "Facebook nerd" to issue a call on the popular social networking Web site for fans to march to the rally. About 40 students, all dressed in Sioux gear, gathered by Twamley Hall to begin the march.

The students' cheers and chants along the way made it seem like they were heading to a UND hockey game, but Lee said the march "is the first step in picking up the pieces." After making the walk to the arena, students joined a crowd of hundreds of other supporters already gathered by the Sitting Bull statue.

Lee said the large turnout of supporters sent a message to the university and the state board.

"A showing like this definitely leaves a mark in the history of the school and the Fighting Sioux," he said.

Mike Senay isn't a UND student but said he's been a Sioux fan since he moved to Grand Forks about 10 years ago. The news of the board's decision took him by surprise, Senay said.

"I thought we had until November," he said. "I wouldn't be upset about losing the name if it took the course it was supposed to take."

Senay said the board's actions seemed "rushed" and the way members started the nickname retirement process "reeks of a backdoor deal."

Yvonne Cantrell was standing near the rally just to see what the reaction would be, she said. She didn't really pay much attention to the nickname issue until she moved to Grand Forks from Fort Berthold, N.D., Sshe said, but has since become "a closet supporter" of the logo.

"I'm kind of disappointed that they are removing it," she said.

Tammy Howard brought her 7-year-old fraternal twins, Will and Tatum, to the rally.

"They're huge Sioux fans," Howard explained as she pointed to her children proudly wearing their Sioux jerseys.

"I think we should keep the nickname," Will said.

Howard attended UND, and said the board's surprising decision "was in haste." But she didn't have to think long when asked if she would still wear her Sioux jerseys.

"Always, yeah," she said.

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

Related Topics: RALPH ENGELSTAD ARENA
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