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VIEWPOINT: UND stands indicted for institutionalized racism

GRAND FORKS -- We, as members of UND's Department of Anthropology, are deeply troubled by the recent reports of anti-Semitism found on the UND campus.

GRAND FORKS -- We, as members of UND's Department of Anthropology, are deeply troubled by the recent reports of anti-Semitism found on the UND campus.

A UND student reportedly feared for his own safety while living in a residence hall, where he was singled out and intimidated because of his religious faith. These reports surfaced on the heels of the decision by UND to lightly reprimand the Gamma Phi Beta sorority for hosting a "Cowboys and Indians" theme party that mocked American Indian cultures by promoting students donning themselves in red paint and makeshift "loincloths" made from brown T-shirts.

We have seen the photographs, and frankly, we're appalled that the sentence handed down is not more severe. This event was merely the most recent (reported) chapter in a long-standing compendium of racism against American Indians on this campus. The stubborn reluctance to retire the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo as well as the stealing of the eagle statue outside the American Indian Student Services Center are other examples of intolerance that do, in fact, contribute to a hostile environment at UND.

These are not isolated incidents but indicative of institutionalized racism on the UND campus.

Sadly, the administration at UND fails to recognize the grave nature of this endemic and chronic racism. The failure of expedient and appropriately harsh punishment for hateful acts that jeopardize the safety of our students adds to the problem of abetting racism and xenophobia and flies in the face of UND's Code of Student Conduct.

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The recent acts of anti-Semitism, in particular, illustrate Section 2-3 Prohibited Acts, including points: 2. Interference/Endangerment; 5. Harassment; 6. Menacing; and 7. Terrorizing.

In addition, the UND "Community Values Statement" is completely negated by both the acts of the sorority and those promoting anti-Semitism: 1. That everyone be allowed to work, learn and live in a safe, caring environment. 2. That everyone learn about, understand, appreciate and respect varied cultures. 3. That everyone matters. 4. That all individuals be respected and treated with dignity and civility. 5. That everyone continue to share in the responsibility of making UND a better place.

We ask the administration to act quickly and decisively in correcting the unacceptable behavior that has plagued our campus in recent months. We do not need long, drawn-out investigations that will be finalized long after students go home for the summer.

A strong message needs to be sent to the UND and broader Grand Forks community that racism, anti-Semitism and other acts of hatred will not be tolerated. Our community is in desperate need of healing so that all individuals feel safe and welcome.

We have held up our end of the bargain by addressing these issues in our classrooms; it is now up to administrators to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on acts of hateful speech and behavior with appropriately harsh consequences for such actions.

Reed and Mikulak are assistant professors, Leach is an associate professor and chair and Rerick is office manager in UND's anthropology department.

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