Defining identity at the University of Denver

Homecoming weekend is soon to arrive on the University of Denver campus. It’s a wonderful time to see DU friends, walk the campus in its fall glory, cheer on the top-ranked DU hockey team and celebrate the bonds we all share as fellow Pioneers. From the newest first-year students who have been a part of our community for only a few weeks, to the oldest alumnus or DU fan, we’re all part of a pretty big family. How big? Well, there are about 11,600 students, 1,300 faculty and 1,700 staff on campus, but the DU community is much, much larger when you include the 100,000+ living DU alumni around the world, the parents and families of our students, and the many others who choose to support our school, including DU’s neighbors, its sports fans, its donors and event attendees.

As in any community or family this large, there will be many voices speaking about our school and its sense of identity that have ramifications that go well beyond the campus bubble. This week, the DU Native Student Alliance (“NSA”) announced that it is starting a campaign called “No More Pios” with a goal of changing the school’s nickname, the Pioneers.  While we certainly recognize that the NSA has a right to express their views, we believe this issue isn’t just about Native students or school nicknames or mascots or even sports. It’s a larger issue about shared identity, history, culture and unity. And it’s about how our university administration protects and advances our legacy. We are living in fractious times, and we need more unity in our university and our country than ever before.

We at LetsGoDU have been a big part of the mascot and nickname issues at DU for many years, representing what we believe to be a positive, additive and inclusive approach to celebrating our school’s history and traditions, as they are the powerful tools that create the emotional bonds all of us can share.

And while some may feel tired or fatigued about this issue after years of debate, we want everyone to know that this issue still matters to us, and should matter to every Pioneer, past and present. LetsGoDU has been here, and will continue to be here, after many students, administrators and even chancellors have moved on, and we will continue to share, advocate for and protect our traditions, identity and beliefs:

-We believe that every culture, identity and history is important — no one’s history should be erased;

-We believe a Pioneer is a positive force for good, and a worthy moniker for the founding of our school, our city and our state;

-We believe there is positive room for everyone under the Pioneer tent;

-We believe in free speech and civil debate, and that our university is a great venue for these conversations as we continue to learn from each other.

We’ll be keenly interested in advancing the debate once again in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, let’s all enjoy our homecoming weekend.

And go Pioneers!