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Interim president: UND nickname 'solved', Alumnus asks for revote, Schafer says no

GRAND FORKS -- Asked whether he would reopen the contentious University of North Dakota nickname selection process, the university's interim President Ed Schafer used a metaphor from an unlikely source: the 1976 movie "The Gumball Rally."...

GRAND FORKS -- Asked whether he would reopen the contentious University of North Dakota nickname selection process, the university's interim President Ed Schafer used a metaphor from an unlikely source: the 1976 movie "The Gumball Rally."

"They used to get in these cars and chase across the country, and there's this one scene where this guy is in the car and he takes the rearview mirror and rips it out of the car and says, 'Nothing back there is of interest to me,'" he said Tuesday during a Grand Forks Rotary Club meeting. "This university is onward and upward. The nickname issue is solved."

The process that led UND from the controversial Fighting Sioux moniker to the Fighting Hawks nickname concluded in November when alumni, students, employees, retirees, donors and season ticketholders voted for the latter name among five options. Absent from those choices was the option to continue playing as UND/North Dakota, as the university had done since it retired the Fighting Sioux nickname in 2012.

That decision helped prompt UND alumnus Michael Rahn to write an email to the UND Alumni Association and Foundation Tuesday with the subject line "A call for a revote." He said many people wanted the university to keep North Dakota as the school's identity.

"Now that the university is under new leadership, I would feel that an unbiased process could now take place to let the voices of the students and alumni be heard," Rahn, a Grand Forks native who is an accountant in Omaha, Neb., wrote in the letter. "The fractured alumni base can be restored for the university if the new leadership and alumni take action to fix the problem."

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Rahn said he declined to cast a ballot, adding "I felt my voice was not listened to at the time."

The Nickname Committee declined to include the UND/North Dakota option on the final ballot. Former UND President Robert Kelley said he would consider adding that choice, but ultimately decided against it.

Milo Smith, a spokesman for the Alumni Association, said he doesn't remember seeing any emails asking for a new vote other than Rahn's.

"Sometimes you'll hear that general sentiment, like, 'Oh, maybe Ed Schafer will do something with the nickname,' but I can't think of any specifics that has come to us saying, 'Is there any possibility of a revote?'" Smith said.

But Schafer didn't leave any openings for the university to revisit the nickname issue Tuesday.

"That issue has been settled," he said. "The process went through, and in my opinion, whether you like the name or not, whether you supported the Fighting Sioux or not, the reality is we're beyond that. It hindered the university for many years, and the reality is we have a stake in the ground, we have a new nickname, we're moving forward, we have a chosen nickname and we're going to make value to that name."

Schafer has signed on to lead the university through the end of June, when it's expected a long-term successor will be chosen.

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