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A new step for UND nickname: Task force created to replace Fighting Sioux logo

By Jennifer Johnson/ Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — A new task force at the University of North Dakota has been formed to develop the process for picking a new nickname and logo, according to the university on Friday.

The announcement comes one month after the university vowed to start the process and after several racially charged incidents on campus put pressure on President Robert Kelley to distance the university from the Fighting Sioux nickname.

The university’s athletic teams have played only as “North Dakota” since 2012.

Several prominent students, faculty, staff and former athletes were chosen for the task force, which will create the selection process and anticipates providing recommendations to Kelley by the end the year. The task force is not charged with making the final selection, according to a press release.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said the group is meeting for the first time Wednesday. He said there are no preconceived notions about the nickname or logo.

“The possibilities are wide open,” he said.

The earliest time the university could adopt a new nickname and logo is by January 2015, according to state law.

Process

Over the next few months, the 13-member task force will develop the naming process and gather feedback from several sources, including the public, according to Susan Walton, UND’s vice president for university and public affairs. She will serve as the liaison to the university leadership team and task force communications coordinator.

Other members include Tanner Franklin, student body president; Karl Goehring, a former UND hockey goaltender and current volunteer coach; and Sue Jeno, UND faculty and athletic faculty advisor.

Marie Miyashiro, president of the international consulting firm Elucity Network, and Kelly O’Keefe, professor of advertising at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter in Richmond, Va., will guide the group.

“We’ll communicate regularly about their activities,” she said.

With the formation of the group so new, there are few details available. Members of the task force were suggested because of their interest and for the constituencies they represent, said Walton.

“This is going to be a big job over the next several months,” she said.

Jim Mochoruk, UND Chester Fritz distinguished professor and task force member, said he was contacted within the last day or so and asked to serve.

“All we’re going to be doing is making some recommendations to the president. We’ll probably show him everything that we come up with,” he said.

Slow going

In 2005, the NCAA found the university’s Fighting Sioux nickname to be “hostile and abusive,” prompting the state to fight the decision. Intense legislative and public debate over the issue continued until the logo was officially retired five years later.

Last month, UND Athletics Director Brian Faison said that he didn’t anticipate changes to the nickname affecting game attendance, and merchants have continued to sell their stockpiles of Fighting Sioux merchandise.

State Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot, said at that time he anticipated the university’s progress toward a new nickname would be slow because of his plans to introduce a bill during the next legislative session. It would extend the waiting time the university has to choose a new nickname by 2½ years.

He wasn’t concerned the university would pick a new name ahead of his legislation.

“It’s not something they’re going to be able to put together in January and pick a name, I would think,” he’d said then.

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