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University of North Dakota

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University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota (UND) is currently conducting a search for a new president. According to Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the 16-member search committee does not include any Native Americans. David Gipp, a UND alumnus and president of the United Tribes Technical College, has asked the State Board of Higher Education to appoint a Native American to the search committee. I feel that this is reasonable given the fact that Native students represent the largest minority group at UND. John Q. Paulsen, president of the State Board of Higher Education disagrees with Mr. Gipp and myself:

John Q Paulsen

John Q. Paulsen, president of the State Board of Higher Education, said the selection committee can adequately consider American Indian issues even though it lacks an American Indian member. He said the board narrowed a list of hundreds of suggested names, including those from minority groups, in choosing the committee.

“We weren’t concerned as much about ethnic background as we were about people’s ability to make good decisions in selecting a new president,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen said members of the American Indian community can send questions and comments to search committee members, who can pass them on to the applicants.
(via Diverse Issues in Higher Education)

I think the problem with Paulsen’s response to Gipp’s letter is that it completely encased in white privilege and racism. Paulsen completely dismisses ethnicity in favor of ability. Isn’t identity important? Our identities help with shaping our decisions. It is almost as if Paulsen is saying that the lived experience of being non-Native American is the same as someone who is Native American. It seems to me that Paulsen and the State Board of Higher Education in North Dakota are overtly barring Native Americans from a process in which Native voices need to be heard. Ignoring the voices of people of color is a racist action.

I truly hope that Mr. Paulsen reconsiders his statements and realizes that having a Native voice on the search committee is an extremely important and just action.

University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux

Native Americans at the University of North Dakota have had to endure a similar form of oppression as Native folks at the University of Illinois. UND is one of only a few institutions of higher education that still use Native imagery as an athletic mascot.

By blatantly ignoring a member of the Native American community, the State Board of Higher Education in North Dakota is continuing its tradition of ignoring Native Americans and their allies.

According to the American Psychological Association:

“The use of American Indian mascots as symbols in school and university athletic programs in particularly troubling,” says APA President, Ronald F. Levant, EdD. “Schools and universities are places of learning. These mascots are teaching stereotypical, misleading and, too often, insulting images of American Indians. And these negative lessons are not just affecting American Indian students; they are sending the wrong message to all students.

Written by Eric Stoller

June 21st, 2007 at 5:16 pm

  • Michelle Marie

    Also, when members of dominant groups set the criteria for things like “ability to make good decisions in selecting a new president,” and at the same time exclude people from non-dominant groups, they are basically saying that only dominant group members HAVE the ability to make good decisions!

    This is one of the many ways power recreates itself; people in power choose to share power with people like them.

    This is such a blatant example of racism.

  • annette

    Yeah, this made me really sad when I heard about it. I’m an alum of UND and I was so excited to hear Pres. Kupchella was resigning, because, in my opinion, he’s made things a much bigger mess there in his time. But it seems like instead of taking advantage of this opportunity for a fresh start, the school is just reverting back to business as usual. It’s sad, because the president before him (Baker–he was there when I was in school) pretty much made the decision to change the name, but then it was the State Board of Higher Ed here in ND that said, “Nope, you can’t do that (change the nickname); only we can.” What would probably help even more is having Native representation on the NDSBHE. I still hold out hope that they’ll make good decisions (both UND and NDSBHE).

  • FinanceBuzz

    I find the following very refreshing:

    “We weren’t concerned as much about ethnic background as we were about people’s ability to make good decisions in selecting a new president,” Paulsen said.

    Paulsen completely dismisses ethnicity in favor of ability

    If we are to have a society where we have individual identities and are considered on our own merits, this is a positive change in outlook. This is especially true of the world of academia which far too often is a hotbed of liberalism and political correctness. This can be seen in Eric’s attempts to dismiss this situation as “white privilege” and…*gasp* here is that overused term yet again….”racism.”

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    Unfortunately, we do not live in a world where racism has been abolished. Also, individual identities are shaped by our experiences. Thus, the experience and identity of a Native American individual in North Dakota would not be the same as a white person’s.

    “After first rebuffing the idea, the president of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education says he will now recommend adding an American Indian to the panel that will recruit a new president for the University of North Dakota.

    “I’ve thought about it a lot. Obviously, it’s received a lot of attention,” John Q. Paulsen said Wednesday. “The more I thought about it, the more I reflected about it, the more it seemed to me that it was appropriate and, in fact, correct and right that there should be a representative of the American Indian community on the search committee.”

    In my opinion, the terms “white privilege” and “racism” are not used often enough to describe situations in which a white person in an institutionally powerful position chooses to ignore people of color or their allies.

  • FinanceBuzz

    I honestly think that in the view of many on the left, racism will always be a bigger problem than it is. Sure, it exists but it is no where near the problem that it once was. If UND wants to include a Native American on the committee, that is completely acceptable, but failing to do so does not automatically equate to “racism.”

    As for white privilege, perhaps you have gained some things in your life or your education or your career because you are white. If so, since you consider this to be such a significant problem, you would like to return these unearned gains in some manner? I worked hard to earn my two degrees and I attained my professional position by my performance. Could it be that you see “white privilege” as such an issue could be because you seem to see racism is so many areas, even when it may not exist?

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    FinanceBuzz – So you are okay with racism as long as it is at levels that are acceptible to you?

    Are you white? Because if you are, like me, you have benefited from a system of unearned privileges because of being white.

    “If so, since you consider this to be such a significant problem, you would like to return these unearned gains in some manner?”

    Great question! Since I can never “return” my unearned privilege, I can actively work to end oppression via anti-racist activism and education. Thanks for asking :-)

    It would seem that you are referencing the myth of the meritocracy or the idea of pulling one’s self up by the “boot straps.” White privilege assists all white folks, even those who are adversely affected by classism. It’s an unfortunate reality of the institutionalized systems of oppression that exist in the US.

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