U tackles Redskins debate with educational programs

The University will host film screenings, panels and exhibits later this month.

Haley Hansen

University of Minnesota officials can’t stop the Washington Redskins from playing at TCF Bank Stadium  next month, but administrators are using the team’s presence on campus as an educational opportunity.

The team name has stirred controversy on campus, as some students and school leaders say it is derogatory and offensive to the state’s large Native American population.

On Friday, the University announced a series of educational programs leading up to the Nov. 2 game against the Minnesota Vikings. The events, which include film screenings, panels and exhibits, begin Oct. 24 and last until Oct. 30.

Vice President for Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert said in a conference call Friday that the University hopes the programs engage people on all sides of the issue.

“Our hope is that we raise awareness for our community,” she said. “That’s the University’s
responsibility and role — to facilitate dialogue and to educate and to provide resources around this game.”

University President Eric Kaler sent a letter to Democratic Congresswoman Betty McCollum in early August condemning the Washington football team’s name, adding that he wanted to eliminate the use of the logo and name on all game-day material.

Albert said on Friday that the University won’t be able to turn fans away for wearing Washington football gear on game day.

Student groups on campus have also addressed the mascot issue.

The Council of Graduate Students approved a letter last week that asks University officials to use the game’s profits to create scholarships for Native American students on campus.

Input from members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media helped create the educational series, along with feedback from students, faculty and staff members.

Some students, faculty and staff members are planning to protest the use of the name before the game starts. 

“Some of our community think the Washington team name is offensive, and other parts of our community just really don’t understand why it’s [offensive] and why we would have this educational programming around it,” Albert said.

The events are free, open to the public and co-sponsored by the American Indian Student Cultural Center, the Department of American Indian Studies, the Office for Equity and Diversity and the Circle of Indigenous Nations.