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Omdahl: Nickname Debate Exposes ‘North Dakota Mean’

By Staff | Oct 16, 2015

“North Dakota Nice” has become a common expression for characterizing the mannerly behavior of folks in North Dakota. Well, the University of North Dakota nickname debate has exposed a “North Dakota Mean.”

In the struggle over a new sports logo, we have seen so much mean-spiritedness that I, for one, am embarrassed. It’s time for some apologies.

First, we need to apologize for those students at the University who discarded civility by disrespectfully attacking President Robert Kelley. Their mothers apparently failed to teach them public decency.

Second, we need to apologize for the Fargo legislator who insinuated that something was wrong with the nickname process because the University president was scheduled to decide before he left in January. I’m sorry but I don’t see that this is any of this legislator’s business. If he had paid attention, he would have known that this schedule had been in place for six months without objection and his time to complain was long past.

Third, we need to apologize for those mental latecomers who are now insinuating that the whole process is a sham because the nickname was chosen before the election process started.

Fourth, we need to apologize for the vicious e-mails sent to President Kelley by gutless critics protected by the distance of electronic communication.

Fifth, we need to apologize for all of the sarcasm of the complainers about the choices on the nickname ballot.

It’s a sad outpouring of un-Christian venom when the process reeks with integrity from beginning to finish.

First, a preliminary task force was named to explore the problem and recommend procedures. Over 60,000 e-mails and countless press releases were distributed and 8,000 responses were received.

In addition, town hall meetings were held in Minot, Williston, Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minneapolis and Denver.

The president appointed an 11-member committee consisting of representatives from the UND athletic program, alumni, donors, faculty, ticketholders and Sioux athletes. No one has challenged the composition or competence of the committee during its tenure.

Despite insidious rumors to the contrary, trustworthy insiders report that the president has not participated in the proceedings of the committee so the claim that he has been busy dictating the outcome is without foundation.

Over $ 175,000 in real money has been spent to get the word to everyone with a stake in the outcome. In my book, the process was overkill.

The committee received 1,172 unique nickname suggestions and methodically winnowed through them over a period of months before coming to the final list of five.

Disgruntled folks now blame the University president for not overruling his committee and changing the list of names. If he had done so, other complainers would have accused him of wasting $175,000 for repudiating the work of the committee.

The list did not include the options of “North Dakota” or no nickname for a good reason. It was important to have something that could be licensed for exclusive use on all of the regalia needed to promote of the teams. Over time, millions of dollars were involved.

So on what basis can we claim that the process was flawed? It was so transparent that everyone interested could track the proceedings. In fact, so many people got involved that North Dakota was drunk on egalitarianism.

Even though I have no favorite among the proposals on the ballot, I am supporting the options furnished because I have pondered the nickname issue myself for years and have been unable to come up with a nickname to my satisfaction.

It is time for the complainers to accept the democratic process or come up with a better alternative. So far, they have done neither.

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