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UND police investigate threats over nickname

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region Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

The UND Police Department is investigating what may be a threat of physical harm against leaders of the University Senate over its support of a resolution calling for retirement of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

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Chief Duane Czapiewski said a caller left "a voicemail with specific language" on the office phone of Senate Vice Chairwoman Kathy Smart. Police are still trying to decipher and evaluate that language, but the chief said, "at this point, we do not feel it's a form of threat."

Czapiewski said the same caller, believed to be a man, left an earlier message Nov. 10 on the office phone of Senate Chairwoman Wendelin Hume requesting information from her. He said the message for Smart was left later but that police don't yet know the exact date.

The matter was reported to police earlier this week, and Czapiewski expects the investigation to be completed today. Depending on whether authorities determine if the message constituted a threat, he said, the caller could face a charge of harassment.

UND President Robert Kelley acknowledged the matter Thursday in Minot at a meeting of the State Board of Higher Education, saying: "I take it very seriously."

Jon Jackson, a member of the Senate's executive committee also at the Minot meeting, said the caller threatened to physically harm Hume and Smart. The message was played at the executive committee's meeting Wednesday, said Jackson, who did not hear the actual message.

Jackson, an assistant professor of anatomy and biology, said that, to his knowledge, this message marks the first physical threat made toward those involved in the nickname debate. He said crossing such a threshold is unacceptable.

Czapiewski said the messages are "not long" but did not know their exact length. He declined to elaborate on their contents. Investigators are trying to determine if the message came from within the university or not, he said.

The chief would not say if his department has any suspects but said no arrests have been made.

Czapiewski said investigators interviewed Smart, an assistant professor in the teaching and learning department, and Hume, an associate professor of criminal justice. Messages left at the professors' offices were not returned Thursday.

The University Senate passed the resolution Nov. 5, calling on the state board to drop the nickname at Thursday's meeting. It's not clear how Hume or Smart voted on the resolution.

The chief said anyone who receives similar messages should contact his department or the university's administration.

"We just need to remain calm and take appropriate action through the systems that we have," he said.

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