Dungy sparks debate

Many anticipate the renowned coach’s visit, but the QSCC plans to protest.

Justin Horwath

Touting a new Superbowl allure, Tony Dungy will likely draw unprecedented crowds at the Annual Alumni Celebration Tuesday night.

But the hoards who pile into Mariucci Arena – a place specially chosen for the event to accommodate a large number of people – will no doubt dwarf the group gathered outside to protest one of the University’s most famous football alums.

On March 20, Dungy accepted an award from the Indiana Family Institute, an outspoken opponent of same sex marriage. Members of the Queer Student Cultural Center and other student groups will be sitting outside and silently protesting Dungy’s arrival to represent “the silence that GLBT students face when someone like Mr. Dungy comes to campus and talks,” said mathematics senior and former QSCC co-chair Mike Grewe.

“The reason there’s such an uproar is not so much what he believes but the fact that he’s accepted awards from the Indiana Family Counsel, whose primary mission is to discriminate GLBT persons,” he said. “It really sends a message that the University goes out and honors somebody like this.”

Margret Sughrue Carlson, CEO of the Alumni Association, said speakers are not chosen based on personal views.

“The hallmarks of any academic institution are freedom and the rights of individuals to hold their beliefs,” she said. “That does not mean that the University of Minnesota or the University of Minnesota Alumni Association endorses or supports the views of every single speaker.”

On March 20, Dungy accepted a “Friends of the Family Award” from the Institute, and made what some considered anti-gay comments, which Dungy disputed. The Indiana Family Institute, a 16-year-old non-profit organization, supports a gay marriage ban.

Child psychology senior and QSCC member Becky Saltzman said the QSCC office has gathered a petition which they will send to the Alumni Association.

“We’re not going to stop him from coming, but we want to make sure the University knows – and that other people know – that there’s more to him than the coaching,” she said. “We’re not there to start fights; we just want to make a statement.”

University spokesman Dan Wolter said that although Dungy is one of the University’s most “prominent and talented alumni,” the University does not support the views he has expressed in regard to same-sex marriage.

“The University of Minnesota specifically bans discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he said.

As of yesterday, Saltzman said about 300 students, staff and faculty members have signed the petition.

The Alumni Association’s national volunteer president Denny Schulstad said he decided to invite Dungy to reflect the Alumni Association’s role in getting the football stadium approved.

“My goal was to select the most famous football alums and the most famous band alums,” he said. “And those were the two names that I decided were most appropriate” Schulstad said.

Stan Freese, a special guest at the celebration, graduated in 1967, gained notoriety for playing his tuba in Soviet Russia and China, and is now the talent casting and booking director of Disney Entertainment Productions.

“I guess you can’t find somebody where there wasn’t some controversy. That’s what universities are all about: exchanges of ideas,” Shulstad said.

All dinner tickets are sold out, but tickets to the event are still available.