Letter to the Grand Forks Herald editor

written by Nathan Teske sent 10.27.00

On 10/27/00, the Herald ran an article concerning Mr. Boris Aramski a UND student who has drafted a letter thanking UND benefactor Ralph Englestad for his donation of $100 million to the University. ("A letter of thanks to Englestad", 10/27/00 1B.) Though Avramski and I agree that graciousness is a virtuous quality, I must question his assessment of Mr. Englestad as a man to be appreciated, as well as Avramski's assessment of the ongoing name change issue.

Perhaps Avramski should consider the history of Mr. Englestad before kissing his class ring. Englestad's actions are no secret, documented in both the commercial press and by Itancan'Win in "Native Directions", a UND student publication.

In the past, Mr. Englestad held not one, but two parties commemorating the birthday of Adolph Hitler, replete with Nazi Party symbols and regalia. Worse yet, one of the decorations at the party included a painting of Englestad outfitted in a Nazi German military uniform. The University of North Dakota's own inquest found that Englestad used "poor judgment" in his festivities, leaving him with nothing more than a verbal rebuke. However, the Nevada Gaming Commission felt more strongly, and fined Mr. Englestad $1.5 million for disgracing the State of Nevada.

More recently, Engelstad privately owned Ralph Englestad, Inc. has violated President Kupchella's mandate that the revised "Fighting Sioux" logo be withdrawn from use, not to mention violating the University's copyright by using the logo on the Ralph Englestad Arena web site. (http://www.ralphengelstadarena.com/) It should also be noted that Ralph Englestad, Inc.'s own marketing documents, available on the web site, contain two marks derived from the revised logo: the logo placed on a green background and circumscribed with the words, "Ralph Englestad Arena, Home of the Fighting Sioux" and the eagle feathers present in the revised logo.

Englestad has also ignored the University's request that the new arena be alcohol free---as is every other venue on the UND campus---and recently, via the arena web site, announced that students would be charged for their previously complimentary season tickets. When taken together, Englestad's recent actions seem to indicate an attempt to personally profit without any direct consideration for the welfare and desires of the school which he claims to love.

These assertions are not hyperbole (if anything, they're understated to conserve column inches) and are completely founded in verifiable fact. The nature of Englestad's history demands that we must cautiously---not graciously---accept any further contributions, and prepare to defend the soverignity of a *public* institution over the self interest of a wealthy benefactor.

Finally, I must comment on Avramski's statement, "When something is named after something, that's positive." Why is this so? The statement presumes that any name given to anything is positive; that's shoddy logic, if not just a violation of plain common sense. What if UND's nickname happened to be any other commonly recognized racial slur? Fighting Blackies? Dirty Gypsies? Dumb Swedes? Are *these* names positive?

Furthermore, if any name given to anything is positive, perhaps we should revert to honoring the noble Flickertail as the university did until 1930. By extending Avramski's faulty logic, it seems that we have dishonored the Flickertail by discountinuing the use of its name when no moral outrage existed. But then again, "Flickertail" can be hard to rhyme in yells and chants.

If anything, it is Avramski and the 200 signers of his letter, not the advocates of the name change, that have "narrow and shallow minds". Apparently they are blinded too much by their own pride to realize that the continued use of the "Fighting Sioux" name and logo hurts people.