NOTE:  THIS PAGE HAS BEEN UPDATED AND IS NOW AT  http://www.hunterbear.org/UND.htm

 

THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA

[My very interesting and sometimes very strange experiences -- much expanded and up-dated. ]

WINTER/SPRING 2002 NOTE: On October 9, 2001, I received a letter from UND President Charles Kupchella [dated 10/1/01.]  It is quoted in its entirety below.  In its concluding portion, the letter contains this sentence, "Be assured, however, that we will not allow any arbitrary injustice to stand.  If we find there is a rationale for taking action, we will do so."

The annual list of emeritus faculty at UND is now being compiled.  We shall see if I am finally named and approved.  If so, fine.   If not . . .

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An excellent letter was sent to President Charles Kupchella of UND, on July 6, 2001, from a person whose late mother was a very prominent UND alumnus, who had a very strong interest in Native American affairs, who had donated many valuable Native American arts and crafts to UND, and who had won major UND alumni awards. The daughter and her husband, well known social justice activists, were [and are] quite concerned about the fact that I [HG] “. . .was the first and only Native American to retire as a UND faculty member [and] was not granted emeritus status although this is routinely granted to other retirees.” These good people were also concerned about UND’s general lack of support for Leonard Peltier. The daughter went on to say, “My late mother. . .would be very disappointed in your attitude and actions. . .She was vitally interested in redressing injustices done to Native Americans.”

 

Since then, the person who sent this very solid letter has been informed by President Charles Kupchella that he has not been aware of these situations of concern. [Note by HG:  The whole issue of my non-emeritus status has been very much in the media of Grand Forks and environs!]

Almost two months passed -- and no word from the University of North Dakota to me.

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On August 31, 2001, I wrote via e-mail to President Charles Kupchella and to Dean Jeremy Davis of the Law School. I followed this up with print copies to each. Quoting the letter from the daughter of the prominent alumnus, I then indicated that we are working directly with grassroots people in the UND/Grand Forks environs to develop an effective Leonard Peltier Freedom Committee.

I then summarized, in considerable detail, my very negative situation at UND and concluded by saying: “To come directly to the point, I am formally asking now that I be granted the long overdue emeritus status and that I be granted that forthwith.”

For many weeks indeed, there was no response -- not even an acknowledgement.  And, essentially, this is consistent with the traditions of the University of North Dakota: initiate injustice, refuse to acknowledge it, and -- in the context of contempt -- refuse to respond to efforts to secure equitable redress.

On October 9, 2001, I finally received an answer from UND President Charles Kupchella:

"I received your e-mail recently and I remain at somewhat of a disadvantage. I know nothing about Leonard Peltier or about the merits of any case you might have.  He, as far as I know, has no connection to the University of North Dakota.  I have seen nothing that would compel me to get further into his case or situation.

As for your status, what confronts me here is that normally -- and, in fact, in every case of which I'm aware -- the recommendation for Emeritus status comes from the academic department.  This is University policy.

You obviously have spent quite a few years in a University environment, and are, thus, fully aware that things such as honorary degrees, promotion, tenure, emeritus designations, and all such things are derived from a process involving faculty at appropriate levels throughout the organization. You surely understand my reluctance to interfere with that process because it would have serious long-range implications concerning the role of faculty for all aspects of governance. Be assured, however, that we will not allow any arbitrary injustice to stand.  If we find there is a rationale for taking action, we will do so.

I am not sure which point you're trying to make about the status of your retirement, since as you say, you made application for it."

Signed:  Charles E. Kupchella, President     Copy to Julie Evans [UND attorney]

Note:  With respect to his final sentence:  I had commented sardonically in my letter that, since I had not gotten a number of things which a retired professor normally receives [e.g., emeritus status and more], then perhaps I hadn't actually retired after all.   HG

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For our part, without making this a new version of one's "life work," I will have much, much more to say -- and do -- about all of this.  Like many indeed, and there will certainly be many, many more of us,   we are very much involved in a broad range of social justice issues:  Native rights, labor, civil rights, civil liberties -- and the increasingly big issue of peace.   But there is unfinished business for us at the University of North Dakota -- matters which obviously exemplify a number of justice issues.  And with respect to those, and all of the other issues in the good and worthy fight, success will be ours in the long run.

                                                                   Hunter Gray  Winter/Spring 2002     

I have heard from many well-wishers in the past many weeks.  Here are two examples:

"If President Kupchella was really unaware of things like your situation," a good friend [Chippewa],  former long-time student of mine, and UND grad recently wrote, "then he really doesn't have much of a future at UND."

And from a senior professor -- a well known civil libertarian -- at one of the nation's best private colleges: "Thank you for posting me on this sordid matter.  Were I in your place I'd be deeply upset . . . But right now you are doing the right thing: as administrators always remind us . . . TELL SOMEONE.  You are clearly going this route, and I do hope the press in ND gives the UND Ind Studies dept full, fair, and thorough coverage. I also hope you have some powerful allies in the state legislature who can publicize  the situation.   Take care, good hunting, and good luck.   Am rooting for you in this bizarre situation and trust you'll get your emeritus status PLUS a letter of apology."
                                  

             
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THE LEONARD PELTIER ISSUE

A Critical Note -- July 3 2001:  Nothing -- very sadly nothing -- was done at UND on behalf of Leonard Peltier in the critical months prior to Bill Clinton's departure from office. [In my letter of March  3, 2000 to Turtle Mountain Chippewa artist and friend, Ben Brien -- a letter fairly widely circulated at UND and in parts of North Dakota -- the Peltier case was one of several major, compelling and urgent Native American social justice issues which I specifically listed.]  

The fact that nothing was done at UND on behalf of Leonard Peltier indicates brutally and clearly just how far down bona fide social justice work has fallen as a priority for students, faculty, staff.

The fact that Grand Forks, ND is essentially Leonard Peltier's home town makes any effort there super meaningful.  And the University community is, by far and away, the logical setting in which to ignite and fuel the Peltier Freedom Fire in the Northern Plains.  If such a campaign had been mounted at UND in 2000, the North Dakota Congressional delegation might very well have been persuaded to put heavy, constructive effort on Clinton for a Peltier pardon.

But -- with respect to Leonard Peltier, his life, and his freedom -- only silence at the University of North Dakota.

Leonard Peltier is still in the Land of Bars and Cages and every effort on his behalf -- at University of North Dakota and everywhere else -- must be made with the greatest intensity and the most enduring commitment.

[The critical and pressing Native issues that I indicated in my March 3 2000 letter to Ben Brien are: " . . . maintenance of treaty rights and functional expansion of tribal and band sovereignty and self-determination; land and mineral and water and cultural resource preservation and enhancement; protection and development of health and education services; increased tribal economic development; increased tribal civil and criminal jurisdiction; expansion of Federal Indian services in off-reserve and urban settings; elimination of racism and ethnocentrism wherever they may exist; expanded protection for human rights and religious freedom and related matters; cessation of state and Federal attacks on Native activists and immediate freedom for persons such as Leonard Peltier -- and much more."

          -- Hunter Gray [formerly John Salter, Jr]

 

ANOTHER SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUE [AND ANOTHER CASE OF SILENCE] AT UND AND IN THE FORKS --  [Posted 10/7/01]  HG

Note by HG:  I sent my initial letter on this all-around tragedy to the The Grand Forks Herald on October 3, 2000. After some back-and-forth, the Herald  -- never a dependable friend -- ran it as a major editorial on October 12, 2001. This is a very substantial victory! They had several times asked the police for a statement to run with my editorial and gave them plenty of time to submit it, but the statement never came.  We are continuing to push the police issues at Grand Forks with much vigour indeed. Here is the letter the the newspaper finally ran as a major editorial -- very much a victory!


"At least three Native American people -- Robert Belgarde, Damian Belgarde,
and Jerome Decoteau -- were  murdered this past September in and around
the Grand Forks setting. [I knew and certainly appreciated Mr. Decoteau.] No
killers, as far as I know, have been apprehended. At the same time --
although I can't speak regarding the sheriff's department and other non-city
law enforcement agencies -- I am quite aware via friends and other contacts that the once-high level of police/community relations in Grand Forks [ and very much with respect to people of color] has slumped badly in recent years.

In 1983, I was a UND Indian Studies professor.  With the late Professor Doug
Wills [Humanities],  and the active support of  Mayor Bud Wessman, and with
the involvement of other concerned and committed people, we were
instrumental in launching the Mayor's Committee on Police Policy.  This
resulted, in the 1984-85 period, in a new police chief -- Chet Paschke --
and an extremely positive shift into the Sun in the whole broad arena of
police/community relations.  Relationships between the police department and
the minority communities, students, air base personnel, and citizens in
general were very good, characterized by a  pervasive and consistent atmosphere of mutual respect. When problems did arise, they were dealt with in a swift and honorable fashion -- very consistent with all principles of due process and social justice in general.

I continued my active involvement in the Grand Forks police situation past
my retirement from UND [1994] and to the very moment we moved in July, 1997.

Not long after that, Chet Paschke retired.

It's obvious that there has been substantial deterioration in this very
sensitive and critical realm.  It's long past the time that concerned
citizens, officials, law enforcement officers -- and all other persons of
good will -- get the whole police/community relations situation, and all of
its collateral relationships, back on track.  It is late -- but it's never
too late.

And it's time to apprehend these killers of Native people  and to vigorously
endeavor, with every ethical resource,  to prevent these tragedies from
happening again -- to any people.

Sincerely.

Hunter Gray [formerly John R. Salter, Jr.]  Retired professor and former
chair, Indian Studies, University of North Dakota; former head Grand Forks
Mayor's Committee on Police Policy; former chair, Grand Forks Community
Relations Committee

[ Present Address:  2000 Sandy Lane, Pocatello, Idaho 83204]

 

For more on the killings of Native men at Grand Forks, North Dakota -- for which no has yet been arrested -- see this followup/update material of mine http://www.hunterbear.org/a_native_rights_sampling.htm




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SOME OF MY SOCIAL JUSTICE CAMPAIGNS AND RELATED MATTERS:

I have always been either a full-time organizer and a part-time professor -- or a full-time professor and a full-time organizer. 

The student body at Tougaloo College, civil rights activist to the core, awarded me -- through Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity -- its Faculty Citizen of the Year Award in 1963.  In 1969, at Coe College,  following our successful union organization of maids and janitors [via my Social Conflict Seminar], I was given the annual Outstanding Faculty Award by the student body.   Students/faculty, staff/administration presented me with an extraordinarily fine turquoise and silver Navajo bolo tie at Navajo Community College [now Dine' College] when I left there for the University of North Dakota's Indian Studies Department in 1981.

At the University of North Dakota [UND], based at Grand Forks -- from which I retired as a full professor and former departmental chair in 1994 -- I was, as I always am, an extremely popular teacher with always large and sometimes huge classes [even Federal Indian Law!]

I was also deeply involved in the UND Honors Program, taught Honors courses over the years, and served a stint as Chair of Honors.  And I was a member of the Graduate Faculty.

And, as always, I consistently organized hard-fought social justice campaigns.  Among those in the North Dakota context:

The successful fight against entrenched and multi-faceted police racism at Grand Forks -- and I served for many years as the primary "spark plug" of the Mayor's Committee on Police Policy and as the advocate for victimized people.

The successful exoneration -- and major religious freedom victory -- for the defendants in the viciously intensive Federal attack on the Native American Church [the peyote faith] at and around  the Devils Lake Sioux Reservation [now Spirit Lake.]  I coordinated  all legal defense -- and all community, regional, and national support.

The successful fight against the UND administration's Faustian pact with Union Carbide to "test burn" dioxin-producing PCBs at UND -- which would have endangered everyone in the whole Grand Forks region.  We ended this whole scheme forever.

The successful fight against broad-based and deep Anglo racism at the reservation border town of Devils Lake, N.D.  A hard-fought and long-going campaign, we made many significant breakthroughs in this 1950s type situation -- utilizing a wide variety of creatively effective tactics.

And I chaired the Community Relations Board at Grand Forks.

In addition, I successfully handled a few hundred individual/ family advocate cases involving virtually every conceivable situation.

And I and others, over the years,  consistently pushed bona fide union organization for UND faculty and staff -- working with AFSCME, NEA, and AFT. I held, along the way, several elected leadership positions -- and we successfully processed many grievances indeed.  [At one point, about 1989, I very publicly denounced UND as "a big plantation" -- a characterization carried widely by news media.]

[I have, of course,  continued my activism all the way through these many many years -- wherever I am.]

When you fight for social justice, you make enemies: I was, of course, subjected to a great deal of incessant Red-baiting by covert cowards -- who also worked assiduously to spread a snake-den full of vile and poisonous canards.

But you also make a great many friends -- and I had an enormous number in the Native community, among working people and in other grassroots settings, with countless students.  And a great many of them are still fine friends to this very  moment.

In 1988, I was honored with the annual UND Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award -- given by Student Government.

In 1989, North Dakota Governor George A. Sinner and the State King Commission, presented me with the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for my historical and on-going social justice activities.

Again, in 1989, the North Dakota State Department of Public Instruction (Indian Education/Equity Programs) awarded me its Annual Civil Rights and Social Justice in Education Award.

But, hold on to your hats!  Or, perhaps no surprise at all.  When I retired from UND, its only tenured Native American prof [after several of the most pervasively unpleasant working years I've ever put in -- but the students, as always, were great !],  I was not awarded the title of "Emeritus" by the Anglos in the Indian Studies Department or the other local "powers that be."  Given routinely to virtually all other UND faculty and administrators, absolutely no reasons have ever been given me for this denial -- despite many requests [including media requests] over the intervening years for such.

The UND administration, which, when it wishes to do so, has never displayed any reluctance to involve itself in any university matter,   has publicly taken the position -- to media and to others -- that there is nothing it can do in my emeritus situation.  This, I should add, is consistent with its general reluctance to defend my academic freedom during the period that I was a teaching professor at UND.

A great many people -- Native and non-Native -- continue to be very disturbed by the denial of emeritus status and the refusal to provide any reasons for such.    Local media continue to discuss my strange situation -- and supportive former students and other friends call into talk radio on the matter.

The current UND administration, headed by President Charles Kupchella and Academic Vice-President John Ettling, has been of no help whatsoever.

A letter -- reprinted just below --  was sent by Ms. Lisa Carney to The Grand Forks Herald  in the early spring, 2000. 

The Herald inexplicably refused to print it. Of course, it gave no reasons.  It later ran an ostensibly "balanced" story on my lack of emeritus status -- an article replete with inaccuracies,  omissions, and several very basic distortions.  But, even with these many limitations, the Herald article confirmed the fact that no one at UND would provide any reasons whatsoever for its denial of emeritus status to me.

The basic reason for the denial of emeritus status is, obviously, my long and controversial -- and very effective -- history of social justice activism.

A number of good people circulated Lisa Carney's letter to a broad audience.  Ms. Carney is a former student of mine and a long-time labor and civil liberties activist [among other things, a key steward in the Teamsters.]   In addition, several other documents follow.  At the bottom of the second -- immediately following -- UND page, there is a link to additional material.

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These are a few excerpts from one of many, many extensive media interviews I gave on the deplorable wages/hours/working conditions situation at UND -- and the compelling need for militant and effective unionism: from The Dakota Student, October 24, 1989, front page.  [Hunter Gray/John Salter, Jr.]

"Much of this state has a plantation ethos, developed and shaped initially by the huge bonanza farms," Salter said.  He said these anti-union sentiments have sent many of the state's most active labor proponents west to states like Idaho, Washington, and Montana. . ."

"There is a very basic, consistent, and eternal human quest for a full measure of bread and butter and for a full measure of liberty, all over the world, including North Dakota."

According to Salter, effective trade unions are the key to securing this full measure. "They're absolutely critical," he said. "They are the most critically needed organizations. The worker's best and only protection is his or her union."

He said more and more people are realizing this, especially after what he termed the "hideous layoffs" at UND's Rehab Hospital in Grand Forks.

According to Salter, there had to be other alternatives than a mass layoff.  "They [the administrators] should have spotted this as an economically dysfunctional situation long before they did," he said.   "This should serve as a warning to everyone."

"There's a long way to go.  The wages and working conditions at the University of North Dakota for most employees are deplorable," he said. 

He said that in addition to poor wages in relation to national and regional levels, most faculty are under-equipped, overworked, have little job security, have poor grievance channels and almost no benefits.  He said a defeat of the tax measures on December 5 will further compound the problems, but faculty and staff must protect their rights. [Note by HG/JRS: The tax measures were defeated.]

"Under no circumstances should any of us, faculty or staff, let the university presidents and the State Board of Higher Education work out their financial problems at the expense of our job rights, and we aren't going to let them do that," he said.

Salter said religious and community leaders need to do less fence straddling and be more vocal in regard to social justice issues. Still, he said, the real impetus will have to come from the grassroots level.

"You have to take your rights sensibly and vigorously," he said.

According to Salter, this includes the right to strike and the right to engage in collective bargaining, even though the State Legislature hasn't approved it.

"The right to bargain collectively is a natural right, not one that needs to be given by the Legislature," Salter said.   "You can't wait for approval. Nothing would ever happen."

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So, the issue of Emeritus status --

I took "retirement" from UND at the beginning of the summer, 1994, and realized very soon thereafter that I was not listed anywhere as "emeritus."  I then made several fruitless efforts over several years to determine definitively what had happened -- writing to UND officialdom.  It was not until I received a  letter dated February 10, 2000, from then Vice-President for Academic Affairs John Ettling, that I was formally notified that I had been denied emeritus status. And absolutely no reasons were given.

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Here is one of many strong letters of support sent on my behalf during my very difficult years at University of North Dakota:  from Ms. Susan Mary Power, Standing Rock Sioux, author of the best-selling novel, The Grass Dancer [1994], and the forthcoming novel, Strong Heart Society. Susan's mother, Ms. Susan Kelly Power -- herself the daughter of Ms. Josephine Kelly, former long-time chairperson of the Standing Rock Sioux -- made supportive telephone calls on my behalf to UND in the turbulent Spring, 1993. 

 

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MUCH MORE ON INDIANS AND INDIAN STUDIES AND THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA ON THE NEXT PAGE

 

 

 

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