UND Indian services director calls nickname policy unfair

Grand Forks, North Dakota (AP) 10-07

The director of American Indian Student Services at the University of North Dakota says he will comply with a policy prohibiting his program from publicly stating its opposition to the school’s Fighting Sioux nickname.

But Leigh Jeanotte says in a letter to the head of his division, vice president Bob Boyd, that the policy is biased and unfair.

“When your office sees a controversy and all the things that take place, things that are really disruptive, what do you do?” Jeanotte said in an interview. “Turn a deaf ear and not say anything or do anything? That would be totally irresponsible.”

American Indian Student Services was one of 27 university programs, departments and governing bodies described as opposing the nickname in a Sept. 22 advertisement in a local newspaper that was paid for by an anti-nickname campus group.

The ad prompted a memo from Sally Page, UND’s affirmative action officer. It said campus departments and programs that oppose the school’s Fighting Sioux nickname and Indian head logo might create an “unwelcome” environment for nickname-supporting students, and might expose the university to a lawsuit.

Boyd forwarded the memo to Jeanotte, along with a cover sheet asking Jeanotte to request that American Indian Student Services be removed from future ads about the nickname. The school’s Student and Outreach Services division imposed a policy several years ago barring its programs from making program-wide political statements, Boyd said.

In his letter to Boyd, Jeanotte said nickname opponents are made uncomfortable by the Sioux logos in campus offices and on students’ and employees’ clothing, and are left to presume those departments support the nickname and logo.

“Dr. Boyd, your memo struck me as extremely one-sided, given that the same standards of neutrality that you demanded of AISS have not been applied or extended to nickname supporting units within Student and Outreach Services and throughout the campus,” the letter says.

Boyd said in an interview that he does not oppose UND employees stating their personal opposition to the nickname and logo, provided they make it clear they are not speaking in an official capacity. Page also made that point in her memo.

UND’s nickname and Indian-head logo have been a divisive issue on campus for years. The university is suing the NCAA over a 2005 policy that bars the school from displaying the logo or nickname in postseason play or hosting playoff games.

Information from:
Grand Forks Herald,