GRAND FORKS, N.D.
University of North Dakota President Charles Kupchella says the school’s fight to keep its Fighting Sioux nickname has gone too far to quit now.
Kupchella spoke with faculty leaders last week, responding to a nonbinding University Senate resolution passed last month calling for UND to drop the nickname and logo.
He said leaders of the Spirit Lake tribe, the closest Sioux tribe to UND, told him during a recent visit that they will not change a tribal resolution approved in 2000 that gives conditional support to the nickname and logo as long as it is treated with respect.
The NCAA has put UND on a list of schools with Indian nicknames and logos that are considered “hostile or abusive,” saying those nicknames and logos will be banned from postseason play. UND’s second appeal is pending before the NCAA.
Kupchella told faculty members that the state Board of Higher Education in 2000 ordered the school to use the nickname.
Given that and the pending appeal, Kupchella said, “It would hardly be cool for me to go back to the board and say ‘we’re not going to do that.”’
UND already has met with the leaders of two tribes and plans are under way to meet with others, Kupchella said. Tribal support has been a key factor for the NCAA in allowing other schools to retain their nicknames, he said.
NCAA President Myles Brand, speaking in Omaha, Neb., said the NCAA will not back down on its ban of “hostile” American Indian names and mascots in postseason play.
“One of the values we hold dear is respect for everyone,” Brand told The Associated Press.
Kupchella said he has been welcomed to a meeting of the Cheyenne River Sioux in South Dakota, which is considering its own resolution on UND’s nickname.
Al Fivizzani, a biology professor, said the University Senate’s resolution was not about the NCAA opposition, but about a national accrediting commission report that suggested UND’s nickname and logo “weaken its performance and impede its full development.”
“We, as a body, want to let them (the state board) know that our accrediting body thinks this is something that makes us a poorer institution,” Fivizzani said.
Mike Nowacki, a student and Senate member, said the accrediting commission did not ask for feedback from students. He said that the nickname and logo has not been a huge distraction for him.
“The primary place that we see it interfering with our learning is in a setting like this, where staff and faculty are talking about it,” he said.
“That’s because it’s not an issue for you,” responded Birgit Hans, chairwoman of UND’s Indian Studies Department. She said it’s a different story for American Indian students on campus.
Hans also took issue with Kupchella’s recent meetings with tribes.
“I find it objectionable to be talking to the tribes … and that we’ve started talking to them about what can come out of this for them at a time when we are under fire from the NCAA,” Hans said.
Kupchella said that UND has maintained relationships with regional tribes for decades.
— Associated Press
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