Puck Swami: A Great Victory for Pioneer Fans, but Big Challenges Still Remain

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We at LetsGoDU were delighted with yesterday’s news that the DU Chairman of the Board of Trustees had sent an email to at least one alumnus announcing that the Pioneer nickname was staying, and inviting the alumnus to share the news. DU also came out with a new internet home page, which reads “We are University of Denver. We are Denver Pioneers”. While these are certainly significant, it is notable that home pages are (obviously) easily changed, and an email to one alumnus is not the same as a public statement. We continue to encourage the Chancellor and Board of Trustees to make a more declarative public statement that can be pointed to in the future. Indeed, with all the communications tools and administrative staff in DU’s arsenal, it is clear they should not have to rely on an alumnus to share their statement.

Still, we are delighted with DU’s preliminary steps.

Our sources tell us that the threat to the Pioneer name was not only quite real, but very imminent. LetsGoDU had to move very quickly to find its voice and to tell this story, be dogged and determined throughout, and had to work very hard to help our readership to respond in an effective way. Thank you to the team of experienced communicators who got this story out, and to all of you readers for responding and letting the administration become aware of the power of Pioneer alumni and fans.

We don’t know how long the name will stay Pioneers, but this will serve as a powerful reminder that any future change to our nickname will be met with overwhelming opposition.

It also will serve as a different kind of reminder to DU – that in the age of social media and nearly instant two-way communications, it is unwise for DU administrators to attempt these kinds of major identity changes without alumni involvement. It’s no secret that many of the DU senior leadership team avoided interacting with us. Either they underestimated the level of passion that we alumni and DU sports fan have about our school identity, or they didn’t want to hear it. Hopefully, this episode has helped them learn that they need to reach out to us the right way, instead of excluding us.

And LetsGoDU and its readers have reminded them that we’re all watching what they do and how they do it, and when they mess up this badly, they will get called out.

But frankly, this is no time to gloat. We still have many issues with the DU administration that need to be addressed going forward. To know that members of the Chancellor’s senior leadership team were actively undermining our Pioneer identity is still deeply concerning to us. We don’t think that should be in anyone’s DU job description.

We hope that there will now be some accountability for the arrogant overreach we have all witnessed. Inclusive Excellence has merit, but it needs to be practiced in an inclusive way that includes all of the DU community, not just for those who claim oppression. We hope DU will redirect those IE people who reductively sought to damage our traditions toward more productive concerns, such as outreach, scholarships, mentorships and opportunities. Senior administrators should never have a carte blanche to simply attack everything they don’t like, or to enlist students to work against the interests of the DU larger community. They should practice unity and not division.

Secondly, the additional allegations of DU senior leadership team malfeasance regarding the anti-Boone “mask” policy has left that policy exposed and without any moral credibility. Accordingly, we hope that the Board of Trustees will revisit the policy during their meetings this week. In light of the disingenuousness LetsGoDU exposed, and the shady back story of how it was created for reasons other than safety, as well as the surge of alumni goodwill that can be anticipated if the policy is revoked, we hope the Board will rescind this debunked policy. The sooner the Board throws it out, or at least makes an exception for a vetted Boone, the more credibility they will gain with their largest audience.

Finally, the appearance of administrative deceit, honor code violations by high level DU administrators and staff, and the ignoring of alumni and fans in this process are hugely concerning to all of us. We hope DU will use what it has learned to clean up its house so that we can trust our university again.

It should be known and remembered that we didn’t choose this fight. We became forced to fight for our 93-year-old Pioneer identity when we were betrayed by our leadership. DU is a much better place today as than it was a few weeks ago, and while we hated revealing some of the things we were forced to reveal, we know that we were right to do it. University employees who lived in fear of the University’s Inclusive Excellence shadow have reached out to us to let us know how thankful they are to us, as they lived in fear of retribution if they spoke out. Indeed, this would be a very good time to look at IE in a much more critical way. For all the good things that it can create, there is a dark side to it that stunts free speech, kills diversity of thought and, apparently, can turn capable administrators into seditious community-dividers.

We look forward to the healing that must take place, but we also remind everyone that we should never have to experience dishonesty, malfeasance and deception from our own leaders.

We hope that DU will work hard to restore our confidence following the betrayals we have experienced as this episode has unfolded.

We also hope that the Board of Trustees will address the contents of this column in their meetings, and will take the actions it needs to take.

DU needs to be better, and we all play a part in that.

Puck Swami is the Internet moniker of a long-time DU fan and alumnus. Her shares his views periodically here at LetsGoDU.