- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

Charles E. Kupchella, president of the University of Dakota, insists in an open letter to the NCAA that his institution has played by the ultra-sensitive rules of the times and that his Fighting Sioux are a careful reflection of it.

In this trying tempest of NCAA-spun political correctness vs. institutional-spun political correctness, Kupchella shows, however inadvertently, the futility of being a member of this quasi-religious movement.

Kupchella indicates his school has been nothing but politically correct, right down to the design of the logo, which was created by a “well-respected American Indian artist,” he writes.

The question before the NCAA and the member institutions caught in the crosshairs of the postseason ban on Indian names, mascots and imagery is this: Which side is more politically correct?

A name is a name, most no better or worse than the next name, Indian or otherwise.

If it helps, the higher-ups at the University of Dakota should feel free to replace the Fighting Sioux with the name attached to this space, so long as the use of the name, the mascot and imagery are neither “hostile” nor “abusive” to the owner of the name.

Even then, if the University of Dakota sets aside psychological counseling in its budget, we still have a deal.

Kupchella is frustrated, as only someone who championed the elementary tenets of political correctness could be.

“The logo is not unlike those found on U.S. coins and North Dakota highway patrol cars and highway signs,” he writes.

There is no intent to be “hostile” or “abusive” to the Sioux. But that is the rub with political correctness. Interpreting intent is highly subjective.

The NCAA has declared the Fighting Sioux to be “hostile” and “abusive,” and so it is, even as this comes as news to the University of North Dakota and the Sioux.

By the convoluted standards of the NCAA, the state of North Dakota is in a heap of trouble. South Dakota, too. Dakota, after all, is on loan from the Indian people who roamed the Northern Great Plains in the 19th century.

Kupchella has had an epiphany of sorts in the name game, as it so often happens to a school president whose coffers are being threatened.

The university recently spent more than $100 million on its athletic facilities in order to play host to NCAA-sanctioned postseason events. Now, under the ban, that won’t be possible unless the university spends more money to remove the Indian names and imagery the facilities celebrate.

“Do you really expect us to host a tournament in which these names and images are covered in some way that would imply that we are ashamed of them?” Kupchella writes.

The short answer: Yes.

The upshot is that Kupchella and the University of Dakota have elected to excuse themselves from the madness of political correctness. They plan to go through the administrative appeals process and, if not satisfied, will be obligated to seek legal recourse.

Kupchella recognized the folly of the Indian name game on a recent trip.

As he writes, “I left a state called North Dakota. I flew over South Dakota, crossing the Sioux River several times, and finally landed in Sioux City, Iowa, just south of Sioux Falls, S.D. The airplane in which I traveled that day was called a Cheyenne.”

Fortunately, Kupchella’s travel day did not include the “hostile” and “abusive” Jeep Cherokee.

In a less enlightened time, Myles Brand’s NCAA and the institutions touting Indian names possibly could have forged a truce by simply sharing a peace pipe.

But the peace pipe is out as well.

And so we are left with two sides hurtling down the abyss of political correctness, with each claiming to be more sensitive than the other.

Those tribal councils that have voted in favor of the offending universities have been dispatched to the sidelines.

At least we are consistent.

We too often ignored the wishes of American Indians in the past.

The NCAA is laboring in that spirit as well.

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