UND NICKNAME: Alum studies logo's effects
A UND hockey fan who said he didn't pay much attention to the controversy over UND's Fighting Sioux nickname when he attended the university in the late '90s recently published a research study on the nickname's effect on UND's American Indian st...
A UND hockey fan who said he didn't pay much attention to the controversy over UND's Fighting Sioux nickname when he attended the university in the late '90s recently published a research study on the nickname's effect on UND's American Indian students.
Dana Williams is a University of Akron researcher who plans to defend his Ph.D. this spring. Late in his UND career, Williams said, he became friends with several American Indian students and became more interested in the nickname's effect.
Williams, whose undergraduate degree was in computer science, began studying sociology in graduate school, and his interests naturally led him to American Indian sports nicknames.
Williams' article, published in this month's Sociology of Sports Journal, is based on a 2000 survey funded by the UND Nickname Commission, charged by President Charles Kupchella with investigating possibilities for the nickname's future.
The article states that, while white students polled in the 2000 survey overwhelmingly supported the nickname's continued use, a majority of American Indian students thought the nickname should be retired.
The article also states that white and American Indian students are split on whether the Fighting Sioux nickname honors American Indians.
"It appears that the common claim that the nickname honors Native Americans is not a view shared by Native American students themselves," Williams wrote in a press release.
Williams' study also found that overall support for the nickname declines the longer students attend UND and found no significant difference in opinions between American Indians from different tribes, Williams said.
UND Vice President for General Administration Phil Harmeson led the 2000 Nickname Commission. He said Williams' general results - that a majority of American Indian students oppose the nickname, while a majority of white students support it - were reported when the commission's report was released.
Harmeson, who had not seen Williams' study, said it likely parsed the data gathered by the 2000 survey much more than the commission's report had.
The 2000 survey included 233 American Indians, Harmeson said, and 433 total minority students.
Harmeson and Williams are split on how useful the 2000 data remains today.
While views may have changed somewhat since 2000, Williams said, he suspects the survey's general findings, especially the division between white and American Indian student opinions, would hold true today.
Harmeson, who formerly managed political polls as director of UND's Bureau of Governmental Affairs, expressed more skepticism about the poll's continued validity.
"In a pollster's life, if there are any significant or signal events, that means data from previous surveys is, at best, suspect, and in some cases unreliable," Harmeson said.
"There have been so many events since that survey was done in 2000 that there's no way to predict its accuracy," he said. "Is it interesting? Yes. Is it definitive? Clearly not."
In an interesting side note, Harmeson said, one question the 2000 survey asked was whether UND should abide by the will of Sioux tribal councils if they asked UND to drop the nickname.
A settlement in UND's yearlong legal battle with the NCAA requires the school to drop the nickname in three years if it cannot win the endorsement of both the Standing Rock and Spirit Lake reservation tribal councils.
In 2000, Harmeson said, 67 percent of American Indian students surveyed agreed that UND should abide by a tribal council decision, and 55 percent of those strongly agreed with the statement.
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