- Associated Press - Thursday, May 29, 2014

TIOGA, N.D. (AP) - A recent University of North Dakota incident over t-shirts deemed racist has underscored the need for the North Dakota University System to revive a dormant council on diversity, the head of the university system said.

North Dakota University System Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen called for the action during a State Board of Higher Education meeting in Tioga on Thursday.

Earlier this month, photos of young men and women wearing T-shirts bearing the words “Siouxper Drunk” at a University of North Dakota annual party appeared online. The T-shirts also featured a logo similar to the retired UND Fighting Sioux mascot, shown drinking from a beer bong.

UND dropped the Fighting Sioux mascot in 2012.

“This racist activity very quickly tore the scab off that very deep emotional issue across our state,” said Skogen of the t-shirts.

He added that the people who appeared in the pictures “may or may not” be affiliated with the university.

The Diversity Council exists to ensure that diversity policies put in place by the State Board of Higher Education are followed at North Dakota University System campuses. But the council has been inactive for about a year said North Dakota University System director of communications Linda Donlin.

Skogen said talks to revive the Diversity Council have been underway for several months, but that the latest incident has shown how important it is. He added that understanding diversity is key given the state’s continuing rapid rate of growth.

“North Dakota is going to become more diversified, not less diversified, as a result of what’s been going on,” he said.

Just over 90 percent of North Dakota residents were white in 2012, one of the most racially homogenous states in the nation. But that was down from 92 percent white in 2000. The largest racial minority in the state is Native American, accounting for 5.5 percent of the state’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Diversity Council is set to meet on May 30 at Minot State University.