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Published February 20 2011

Nelson: Groveling before PC crowd

There’s been a uniformity of opinion in The Forum about the University of North Dakota Sioux logo and nickname. It has run from the Editorial Board to the op-ed pages (with one exception), all the way to at least one of the sports editors, and it is: Drop the name, move on, the odds are against keeping “the Fighting Sioux,” why can’t pig-headed boosters let it go, we fought the NCAA and the NCAA won, etc.

But there’s this one problem with the pragmatists’ point of view: We’re going to get a load of ripe, smelly political correctness shoved down our throats, and the practical folks can’t begin to acknowledge that. It’s startling. Against the apparent will of the majority of North Dakota Sioux, UND is on the verge of losing its nickname and logo in order to placate those same Sioux who want UND to keep their name.

Pragmatism has its place. It counts beans and tallies the effort necessary to achieve some goal and asks us what we’re willing to sacrifice to keep fighting. One can’t help but get the sneaking suspicion, however, that among opinion leaders, dumping the UND nickname is viewed as something perhaps morally superior. Maybe even a way to leave behind the dark ages of racism. I can think of no stronger reason than this for why the pragmatists give only pro forma regrets for UND’s long tradition, if that.

One Forum columnist intriguingly suggests that the 1969 Standing Rock tribal blessing of UND’s “Fighting Sioux” is apocryphal. Earl Strinden gives a detailed account of the incident, and surely the ceremony is within living memory if it happened, but what if it’s unprovable?

Another tack taken against the three bills in the Legislature that would allow or even oblige UND to keep its nickname is that they’re unconstitutional. Heavy hitters like Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Lloyd Omdahl, North Dakota’s own political encyclopedia, say so. Their argument is that the state Board of Higher Education is constitutionally entitled to something pretty near complete independence, thus freeing it from political meddling.

Yet the board, while much better protected from interference than it was before the North Dakota Constitution was amended, still appears subject to our state government. Indeed, one would expect it to be, as the creature is inferior to the creator. In several places, the board is given “full authority” to carry out various of its powers, and yet it’s still explicitly circumscribed in some of those powers as “within constitutional or statutory limitations …”

Before the board’s powers are given, the constitution spells out that “all colleges, universities … shall remain under the absolute and exclusive control of the state.” Unless the board and the state are the same thing, we must assume that the board’s policies may be legally modified by our state government, wisely or not.

We seem to have to grovel before guilt-ridden political correctsters at every turn these days. The idea of fighting on, even against the odds, is still appealing. Faint heart ne’er won fair logo.


Nelson is a Fargo postal worker and contributor to The Forum’s commentary page.