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UND sorority in trouble again: Parent organization apologizes for pro-nickname banner

Submitted Photo Above is the banner previously displayed at the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house at the University of North Dakota.

By Anna Burleson

Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s Gamma Phi Beta sorority is in hot water again for behavior that some deem insensitive to American Indians.

On Monday, a pink banner hung on the outside of the sorority house said, “You can take away our mascot but you can’t take away our pride!” in celebration of the UND men’s hockey team playing in the NCAA Frozen Four tournament.

The house is next door to the American Indian Student Services building, and Monday is the start of Time Out Week, a campus celebration of Indian culture and history.

Photos of the banner, which references the university’s former Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, were shared via social media. It was taken down the same day.

While Gamma Phi Beta members at UND declined to comment, the national chapter issued a news release Tuesday apologizing on their behalf.

UND’s Gamma Phi Beta sorority was criticized in 2008 for holding a “cowboy and Indian” party in which partygoers wore headdresses, face paint and other stereotypical Indian garb. As a result, the sorority was put on probation for a year and received diversity education.

On Tuesday, Gamma Phi Beta’s national organization said the sorority will again receive training.

UND president weighs in

Maureen Walker, a spokeswoman for organization, said the group’s council is looking at what the extent of the consequences will be, but there is no timeline in place yet.

“They’re working as fast as they can to take the next steps and we’re reaching out to the American Indian Student Services to take them up on their offer to provide sensitivity training as soon as possible,” she said.

UND President Robert Kelley issued a statement saying he was disappointed and that the timing of its display, at the start of Time Out Week, demonstrated a lack of sensitivity.

“UND has a long-standing respect for the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, which we teach in many of our academic programs,” Kelley said in the statement. “Along with that, we have a critical responsibility to promote respect and civility within our campus community. We teach and model respect for others. It is imperative that, through our actions, we demonstrate respect for all.”

Given the Gamma Phi Beta’s transgression in 2008, some people on social media are calling for harsher punishment this time.

But Walker said it’s important to remember that the women involved in the 2008 party are no longer members and the banner incident involved an entirely different group of women.

“Our members are currently working on an apology to send to the community,” she said.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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