Letter from the Asian American Psychological Association

21 February 2001

Dr. Charles E. Kupchella
President
University of North Dakota
300 Twamley Hall
P.O. Box 8193
Grand Forks, ND 58202

Dr. Kupchella:

The Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA) is the largest national professional organization in the United States devoted to Asian American Psychology. Our membership is comprised of researchers, administrators, practitioners and graduate students devoted to psychological issues of Asian Americans. Our members have expertise in areas such as the mental health of Asian American and other ethnic minority populations, and the psychology of racism, stereotypes and oppression. On behalf of the AAPA, I am writing to express disappointment and concern upon hearing about the hostile conditions that Native American and ethnic minority students and faculty at the University of North Dakota have faced as a result of the school mascot, "Fighting Sioux." It is difficult to understand why there is continued use of this racist, deleterious, and stereotypic portrayal of an American Indian tribe given their requests to change the mascot. In particular, it is our understanding that students have requested that the mascot be renamed for several decades. As a result, we were recently informed during the National Multicultural Conference and Summit II, that Native American students, other students of color, and supportive faculty and staff, have been harassed, intimidated and subjected to otherwise hostile actions and conditions by members of your university community.

In addition, it is our understanding that the main reason to retain the racist image of the Fighting Sioux is because a benefactor has threatened to pull funding for a campus hockey arena. That money for a sports arena would take precedence over the mental health and well-being of your students is incomprehensible and gives the appearance of condoning racism and oppression on your campus. Racism, whether intentional or not, is still racism. For decades, psychological research has demonstrated the damaging effects of institutional racism and oppression on ethnic minority populations. It is unfortunate to include ethnic minority students from your university among those suffering from such experiences.

This letter serves to formally indicate our support for those students, faculty and staff who have been targets of discriminatory and racist practices by your university. In addition, AAPA supports the efforts to change the university mascot to one that would make ALL students proud, not just a select and privileged few. We would like to appeal to your sense of humanity, and ask that you remedy this situation soon before this issue negatively affects the mental health of yet another group of students. Surely, the university would not be in favor of intentionally oppressing a group of individuals who have a long history of being oppressed in the United States. We urge you to take action.

Sincerely,

 

Gayle Y. Iwamasa, Ph.D.
President, Asian American Psychological Association

Cc: Society of Indian Psychologists
National Hispanic Psychological Association
Association of Black Psychologists
Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs, American Psychological Association
Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues