Athletic community rehashes controversial U policy

Current rules disallow competition with teams that have American Indian mascots.

Tiff Clements

Players who would take the field against the Fighting Sioux voiced opinions this week on a University policy that limits play with the University of North Dakota.

Student-athletes expressed support for and concerns about an athletics department policy against playing teams with American Indian mascots and logos at a meeting of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee on Monday night.

The policy hadn’t garnered much attention until UND coaches, who will be switching their schedules from Division II to Division I in 2008, began contacting counterparts at the University to schedule games late last year and were told they could not because of the rule.

Mikey Kantar said he supports the University’s policy. The varsity tennis player said it is important to him that individual American Indian communities have a say in whether their image is used as a logo or mascot.

“You can’t use a culture’s name if they don’t want it to be used,” he said. “It’s a stereotype being perpetuated by people outside the community.”

Monday’s student discussion came after a closed meeting of the University Senate Advisory Committee on Athletics on Feb. 1, committee chairwoman Melissa Avery said the group plans further work on the issue but would not give a timeframe or discuss details of the meeting.

“At that meeting, we made a decision to re-look at the policy,” she said.

The rule, from 2003, allows home competitions with schools having American Indian mascots, as long as they play in the same conference as the University. This means the University will continue to play UND in hockey and the University of Illinois, home to the disputed mascot Chief Illiniwek, because they are members of the WCHA and Big Ten Conference, respectively.

One of two student-athlete representatives on the Advisory Committee on Athletics, senior softball player Katie Meyer, said members were interested in hearing what athletes had to say about the issue.

She said student-athlete input will help ensure that the majority of people affected by the policy would agree with any changes made to it.

“The biggest thing is that we want to have a united front,” she said.

Meyer said the implications of competing with these teams extend beyond sports.

“It’s bigger than us as athletics,” she said. “It’s about doing what’s right.”

Varsity crew team member Ali Fisher said she understands the greater social and political issues at play, but hopes that it won’t hamper the growth of UND’s programs.

“It seems like they’ve finally earned the right to be a Division I school,” she said. “I hope we’re not hurting them.”

Fisher said she worries the University will appear to be a bullying big brother if it denies UND the chance to compete.

Varsity tennis player Sion Wilkins said he’s glad to see that universities are changing the names of offensive mascots.

“I think that’s probably going to become more popular, and we’re going to see some of these mascots go away, which is good in my opinion,” he said.