University System hosts summit on respect

May 27, 2014

Tribal, campus, university system and state board leadership sit around the table for a discussion on creating an atmosphere of respect on campus.

Tribal, campus, university system and state board leadership sit around the table for a discussion on creating an atmosphere of respect on campus.

On Monday, May 19, the North Dakota University System hosted a summit titled, “Creating an Atmosphere of Respect,” at the State Capitol. NDUS Interim Chancellor Larry C. Skogen worked with Scott J. Davis, Commissioner of North Dakota Indian Affairs, to organize the meeting. Davis coordinated the invitation of tribal leaders, University of North Dakota (UND) students and recent graduates, leadership from the university system and UND, and North Dakota State Representative Scott Louser.

The summit was spurred by the recent offensive t-shirt incident involving an image similar to UND’s retired Fighting Sioux logo in connection with alcohol abuse. Interim Chancellor Skogen’s statement on that incident may be found here. While that incident brought this issue to light, the university system is committed to a broader goal of moving the system forward in ensuring respect for all cultures on its campuses.

“This is not just a UND issue, it reflects on the entire university system. It’s time to start a conversation about how to create a culture of inclusion on our campuses, and we intend to lead that effort,” said Interim Chancellor Skogen.

The summit provided a venue for university system and campus leaders to listen to the tribal leaders and students, learn from their experiences, and discuss ways to move forward. Tribal leaders and students emphasized the importance of effective racism education, promoting inclusion, and holding students accountable for their actions in creating an atmosphere of respect on all NDUS campuses.

BJ Rainbow speaks during the summit.

BJ Rainbow speaks during the summit.

The summit closed with a Native American pipe ceremony held on the State Capitol lawn. According to BJ Rainbow, a 2014 graduate of UND’s master’s program, the pipe symbolizes that only good can come of this meeting, and that all involved are committed to moving forward.

“I think this is a positive first step in tackling this complicated issue,” said Interim Chancellor Skogen. “Thank you to all the tribal leaders and students who took the time to meet with us, and I look forward to working with you further as we develop an atmosphere of respect at all our institutions. As our state’s population grows, it is critical that we help ensure that North Dakota is a welcoming place for all who want to make our state their home – a good place to raise their families and educate their children.”

At the meeting, the Interim Chancellor and Board Chair Kirsten Diederich committed to revitalizing the NDUS Diversity Council. The Higher Education Resource Organization for Students (HEROS) is meeting this Friday, May 30 at Minot State University and will continue the discussion of the Diversity Council at the request of Commissioner Davis.