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Search committee debating nickname impact in presidential search


A committee looking for candidates for the next University of North Dakota president is debating the impact of the school’s Fighting Sioux nickname.

Search committee member Rick Burgum said a draft job description for the president’s position overstates the importance of the nickname.

Other committee members, including chairman Paul LeBel, dean of UND’s law school, and Cynthia Lindquist Mala, president of Cankdeska Cikana Community College on the Spirit Lake reservation, said the draft does not adequately explain the scope of the nickname controversy.

The draft calls the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo “objects of controversy within the campus and the wider community” and says the next UND president “will have a highly visible role in countering the polarizing effect of the dispute over the use of these symbols.”

UND is suing the NCAA over a policy that calls the nickname “hostile and abusive” and prohibits the school from using its nickname and logo in postseason events or from holding playoff games. A temporary injunction allows the school to continue using its nickname until the case reaches trial in December.

The state Board of Higher Education, not the UND president, ultimately will decide whether to keep the nickname, said board president John Paulsen, also a member of the search committee. Burgum said the draft job description might overstate the president’s role in managing the controversy.

Search consultant James Appleberry said he did not think the nickname issue alone will attract or dissuade a potential candidate for the job, but he said a failure to fully acknowledge the issue could raise a red flag.

The approximately eight-page job profile, written by LeBel and Appleberry, includes a detailed description of UND’s campus and programs and lists opportunities and challenges for the next president. The search committee plans public meetings next month before putting it in final form.

The current UND president, Charles Kupchella, plans to retire at the end of the next school year.

Information from: Grand Forks Herald,

– Associated Press

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