The Frank Clearwater Memorial Institute has been following the affairs of UND closely, and has recently been disgusted by the actions of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education and the attempts to passify resistance by UND's President Charles Kupchella.

FCMI herein, deconstructs (as with Alumni Association CEO Earl Strinden's tasteless article from about a year ago) a letter to the editor written by Kupchella, seeking to soothe the uproar over the Board's decision.

We've listed the President's entire article at the end of our analysis. Enjoy.

[As before, BRIDGES adds the formatting: President Kupchella's statements are in red, and FCMI's are in yellow.]

 

Dear Editor:

As sometimes happens, the headline and the account published in the Grand Forks Herald yesterday concerning the meeting of the University Senate and my remarks there contained some inaccuracies and some distortions that need to be set straight.

Yes, of course, what presidency would be a "presidency" without a president having to tell us all how it "really is"? If Presidents at every institution in this world actually started doing their job, and representing the people they're supposed to represent-in this case students-then we wouldn't have to have these confessionals every other day from our so-called "leaders".

 

The headline said that I "set a new name plan in place." Far from it. I indicated that UND needs a plan to move on, taking as a given the Board of Higher Education's recent decision. I further indicated that we must use the moment as an opportunity to enhance statewide cultural understanding between Native American and non-Native American people, with the University of North Dakota as the lead institution.

Could the rejection of the UND use of the nickname by the handfuls of tribal councils be perhaps also a rejection of UND as a "lead institution"? This is perfect Orwellian newspeak to say that we must use this totalitarian decision against a human rights movement as an "opportunity to enhance statewide cultural understanding". Whose understanding are we supposed to enhance, when a voice demanding justice has been silenced? That's not a chance for "understanding", that's a mandate to "shut the hell up and do what you're told".

 

I suggested that in order to give shape to a plan, I would need the support of the faculty and staff, as well as the State Board of Higher Education, alumni, the Athletics Department, the Tribal Councils, the Greater Grand Forks community, and other stakeholders.

We'd hate to let the President down in his assumption that middle ground might not be possible in this issue. He's going to get burned one way or another, by one "interest" or another. That's the reason Presidents exist: as punching bags, to divert the blows from the powerless in society. Of course, ironically missing in his list of people who need to give shape to the plan are students. An oversight, perhaps? Not likely. Native American students at UND have faced racism ever since they were first allowed in the university decades ago, and they're still the ones to bear most of the brunt of attacks by patriotic and "honoring" fellow students who see their existence and demands for respect as the one thing standing in way of "their" fun.

 

I have received numerous expressions of support from the people of Grand Forks, coaches, faculty, staff, students, and even Native American leaders for finding ways to build greater cultural understanding and to eliminate negative impacts of the University's use of the nickname, either here or on other campuses. I made available at the meeting three pages of suggestions for enhancing program ideas for enhancing cultural understanding, for giving support to Native American students on our campus, and for public service programs that would support Native American people on Indian reservations.

"Negative impacts" from the nickname? You better believe it! It's too bad the President doesn't actually list the one program that would go the farthest to ensure a new generation of North Dakotans don't grow up thinking a "Sioux" is a sports team, and that's to change the name. Other programs are great ideas, but they are not supplements for fundamental and necessary change.

 

At the December meeting, at which the State Board of Higher Education decided to keep the nickname and the logo, I was asked to lead the University of North Dakota and even to take a statewide leadership role in addressing all these matters. That's precisely what I intend to do. I spent several minutes at the beginning of the University Senate meeting indicating that the State Board of Higher Education had every right, and certainly the authority, to make the decision it made. To its credit, the Board took the burden of making and announcing a decision away from me, allowing me to get on with the more substantive, positive aspects of the business of running the University.

Ah, yes. The more "substantive" aspects. Does he mean the near-fulltime job of sedating rich, Las Vegas hotel owning "aspects" and assuring them that things will soon be "righted"? The State Board of Higher Education was not within it's authority to condemn UND Native American students to continued belittlement, nor is it within the authority of the Board to play Kris Kringle to ever moneyed interest that waves a few bucks in their direction and promises to keep graduated students from leaving North Dakota.

 

The Board is made up of good people who made a decision they clearly considered to be in the best interests of the University of North Dakota and the entire system of higher education in the state.

A clear case of "we had to burn the village to save it". We'll have to legalize racism in order to keep a crack-pot, cash-cow flowing his flooding ridiculous amounts of money into our pockets. There's a term for this: prostitution.

 

We must proceed now in an atmosphere where the issue isn't one of whether or not we keep the nickname, but rather how to better promote cultural understanding. All the supporters of the continued use of the nickname with whom I have spoken recognize that we all have an obligation and an even greater opportunity to do better in the way of supporting and promoting cultural understanding.

Of course they "recognize" that they have an obligation to do this. Name supporters want to cover their own asses!! They have no desire to look like bigots to the rest of the civilized world! In environmental politics, this is called "green-washing". Oh, wait, I guess we could call this "green-washing", too. But, instead of striking at the cancer, the President wishes to slash blindly at the overt racism that people do at hockey games and clean up our opponent's t-shirts. Oh, that's a progress in tactics that even David Duke has failed to master yet.

 

I have invited the Tribal Council from Spirit Lake to the campus. During that visit, we will illustrate for them the many programs we have in place on campus. We will discuss our ideas of how we might enhance some of these programs, and we will ask them for their ideas regarding program needs, and for ways of dealing with either the appearance of racism or actual racist behavior here and in other places throughout North Dakota.

Again, "look at our window dressing, and please don't notice what we're really selling". Companies like Honeywell get away with this when they produce cowardly landmines and cluster bombs: we're creating jobs! they sing-song. The real practice of institutional racism remains what is endorsed by the university itself. Racism by individuals is just racism by individuals, and frankly they have the right to their idiotic thoughts and biases. Public institutions, however, especially of higher learning, have no excuse. No damn excuse at all! They are beholden to the demands of a civilized society, when they act in its name, with its permission, and with its tax dollars.

 

In summary, my main purpose in talking with the University Senate yesterday was to begin to engage this campus in moving forward, asking the University Senate members to give me their full support to give shape to a plan and then to get on with implementing it.

An attempt, again, at rallying the citizens behind the president, even as he does a terrible deed, in order to save the Union. How many times before have we heard this? "We must all come together and work towards compromise…" How ludicrous is this, and who does he actually think in the University Senate is going to compromise with him? They've shown again and again that they have more stature, will, moral standing, and courage than the last five university presidents combined. The President will be met with great resistance, and his presidency will be as tainted with his shortcomings just as was President Clinton's.

 

My request was based on two premises: (1) that the Board has decided that we will keep the name for the foreseeable future, and (2) we need to conduct ourselves in ways that are respectful of Native American people.

Why has the President rolled-over and cowered in fear of the Board? He could have the strength to stand up to them, and many people would start supporting him. Instead he trembles in fear and claims that this is what he wanted all along. How despicable this lack of bravery! If we are to believe name-sympathizers, the "bravery" of the "Fighting Sioux", is not being displayed by the President as he doesn't even fight for the very virtue UND's nickname supposedly refers to.

His last premise is the most transparent and shallow of all. How hypocritical is the President when he says that the University of North Dakota needs to conduct itself with respect for Native Americans, when they are calling en masse for the name to be changed? They are asking for respect, but not the kind of superficial, "here, be a good Indian, and we'll throw a couple of scholarships at you" kind of way, but real, tangible, and meaningful respect that flows between equals, not "respect" that is inflicted by a President on his peasants.

 


 

January 12, 2001

 

Editor
Grand Forks Herald
PO Box 6008
Grand Forks, ND 58206-6008

Dear Editor:

As sometimes happens, the headline and the account published in the Grand Forks Herald yesterday concerning the meeting of the University Senate and my remarks there contained some inaccuracies and some distortions that need to be set straight.

The headline said that I "set a new name plan in place." Far from it. I indicated that UND needs a plan to move on, taking as a given the Board of Higher Education's recent decision. I further indicated that we must use the moment as an opportunity to enhance statewide cultural understanding between Native American and non-Native American people, with the University of North Dakota as the lead institution. I suggested that in order to give shape to a plan, I would need the support of the faculty and staff, as well as the State Board of Higher Education, alumni, the Athletics Department, the Tribal Councils, the Greater Grand Forks community, and other stakeholders. I have received numerous expressions of support from the people of Grand Forks, coaches, faculty, staff, students, and even Native American leaders for finding ways to build greater cultural understanding and to eliminate negative impacts of the University's use of the nickname, either here or on other campuses. I made available at the meeting three pages of suggestions for enhancing program ideas for enhancing cultural understanding, for giving support to Native American students on our campus, and for public service programs that would support Native American people on Indian reservations.

At the December meeting, at which the State Board of Higher Education decided to keep the nickname and the logo, I was asked to lead the University of North Dakota and even to take a statewide leadership role in addressing all these matters. That's precisely what I intend to do. I spent several minutes at the beginning of the University Senate meeting indicating that the State Board of Higher Education had every right, and certainly the authority, to make the decision it made. To its credit, the Board took the burden of making and announcing a decision away from me, allowing me to get on with the more substantive, positive aspects of the business of running the University. The Board is made up of good people who made a decision they clearly considered to be in the best interests of the University of North Dakota and the entire system of higher education in the state. We must proceed now in an atmosphere where the issue isn't one of whether or not we keep the nickname, but rather how to better promote cultural understanding. All the supporters of the continued use of the nickname with whom I have spoken recognize that we all have an obligation and an even greater opportunity to do better in the way of supporting and promoting cultural understanding.

I have invited the Tribal Council from Spirit Lake to the campus. During that visit, we will illustrate for them the many programs we have in place on campus. We will discuss our ideas of how we might enhance some of these programs, and we will ask them for their ideas regarding program needs, and for ways of dealing with either the appearance of racism or actual racist behavior here and in other places throughout North Dakota.

In summary, my main purpose in talking with the University Senate yesterday was to begin to engage this campus in moving forward, asking the University Senate members to give me their full support to give shape to a plan and then to get on with implementing it. My request was based on two premises: (1) that the Board has decided that we will keep the name for the foreseeable future, and (2) we need to conduct ourselves in ways that are respectful of Native American people.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Kupchella
President
University of North Dakota