UND General Info | UND Medical School | UND Discussion | Other Sites | Look Back


Source: Grand Forks Herald, February 23, 1994

STUDENT SAYS UND OFFICIAL HARASSED HIM DEBATE STARTED OVER SIOUX NICKNAME
Cary Castagna, Herald Staff Writer

A UND student formally complained Tuesday that a UND executive swore at him and verbally harassed him during a phone call about the university's Sioux nickname.

The student is John Eschbach, 41, a student in elementary education, special education and Indian studies. He is a Turtle Mountain Chippewa. The official is Gordon Henry, vice president for student affairs.

Over the phone

Eschbach says Henry swore at him and called him a liar during a phone conversation Feb. 4.

Although he admits he got angry, Henry said he did not try to intimidate Eschbach and did not swear at him.

The incident stems from the Jan. 21 women's basketball game, when North Dakota State University fans wore shirts that spelled out vulgar taunts using UND's Sioux nickname. Eschbach, was angered that UND officials at the game, including Henry, didn't do anything.

Critics of the Sioux nickname have said that such uses are one reason the nickname is objectionable.

Didn't hear it

Eschbach wrote a letter to the student newspaper, the Dakota Student, saying Henry and the other officials denied seeing the fans wearing the shirts, or hearing the chant.

Henry said he felt Eschbach's letter to the editor was a "misrepresentation" and called Eschbach to tell him so. Henry told the Student that he told Eschbach he didn't hear the chant.

"There is no law saying a person can't get angry when they feel that their character has been impugned," Henry said Tuesday. "I was angry. I thought he was accurate, and I thought he had made a mistake."

Eschbach says he doesn't want Henry to be punished. "Rather (I want him) to make an admission behind closed doors to the appropriate officials."

Eschbach said UND ought to ban vulgar language in chants a sporting events.

"What brought this on was the incidents that happened in the past regarding the basketball games, "Eschbach said. "I believe if those incidents would have been corrected, this would not have happened with Dr. Henry and myself."

Henry said he was surprised to hear that Eschbach had filed a complaint.

Thought it was over

"We had a confrontation," Henry said. "We dealt with a situation where I thought his facts had been misrepresented and I was concerned about that and dealt with him. As far as I was concerned, we talked about it. We both apologized for the anger with each other and I thought that was the end of it."

Eschbach took his complaint to Dean of Students Lillian Elsinga Tuesday. He was referred to Sally Page, an officer at the Affirmative Action Office.

Page confirmed she received the complaint, but wouldn't comment.

Although he originally called for Henry's resignation, Eschbach says he has decided that would be too harsh.

"I stand corrected on that matter," Eschbach said. "I was wrong to suggest that Dr. Henry should be replaced because I don't have that right."

Henry said no student had ever filed a formal complaint against him. "I've been working for 25 years in this community and I've worked very hard at building an integrity and frankly I have people who are wondering what's going on and that hurts me because my integrity is the most important thing I've got going."

Athletic Director Terry Wanless declined to comment.

President Kendall Baker, who approved the continuing use of the nickname last July, was unavailable for comment. After months of deliberation last year, he said UND would keep its "Fighting Sioux" name, and at the same time, do more to foster the the appreciation of Indian culture.

Baker had concluded after touring all four reservations in North Dakota that Indians were not unanimously opposed to the nickname. He also did not want to abandon the 60-year-old Sioux tradition.

Last July, Baker said, "We must take action to ensure that this name is used in a highly and completely respectful fashion on and off campus, and that we must immediately initiate programs and efforts which will celebrate Native American culture, traditions and history and increase campus understanding, knowledge and appreciation of them."