DU confirms Pioneer tradition erasures by Division of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence

The University of Denver’s New Vice-Chancellor for Marketing and Communications, Renea Morris, has confirmed to LetsGoDU that at least two long-standing programs under DU’s Division of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence have recently been given name changes which have removed the word “Pioneer” from the names. The same “Inclusive Excellence” team was also believed to have been a central player in a number of other anti-Pioneer activities on campus between 2016 and 2018, including the 2017 so-called “mask ban” that now prevents the unofficial school mascot, Denver Boone, from appearing on campus.

As we revealed in our article last week, the two recently re-named programs are: DU’s nearly 100-year-old student awards program, The Pioneer Awards, which in early 2019 was renamed the Crimson and Gold Awards; and the Pioneer Passage first-year` orientation ceremony which in July 2019 was generically renamed New Student Convocation. Morris asserted that renaming the Pioneer Awards reflects a “decision to refresh our approach”. The Pioneer Passage, which has been a meaningful introduction to DU’s freshman students dating back to at least 2004, was described by Morris as “a relatively new program on campus and [which] no longer exists”. It is notable as well that the Evans Award, the highest recognition the University could bestow, was renamed the Founder’s Medal in 2016, apparently in order to remove the association with DU’s western pioneer founder, John Evans.

Morris claims that there is no “overall effort” to abandon the Pioneer name. However, taken together these changes reflect a pattern of the deliberate scrubbing-away of DU’s Pioneer history from within. The changes also contradict a 2018 DU Board of Trustees email asserting that they are keeping the 95-year-old Pioneer nickname after LetsGoDU revealed that senior administrators were preparing a plan to change the name to “Trailblazers”. Like the proverbial “death from a thousand paper cuts,” DU administrators are slowly and methodically doing the very thing DU claims not to be doing — erasing the Pioneer name from DU.

Indeed, the explanations provided by DU do not provide a solution to the erasures. While Morris asserted that “we need to be more systematic about how we approach naming (or renaming) events going forward”, she provided no plans for stopping these program-by-program re-namings or any assurances that they will, in fact, be stopped. Indeed, by asserting merely that there is no “overall effort” to abandon the Pioneer name, she may have subtly acknowledged that individual DU administrators will be permitted to continue their Pioneer-erasing efforts, one subversive act at a time. Perhaps this program-by-program re-naming will become even “more systematic” going forward, given the clear patterns we’ve witnessed and reported.

What do you think LetsGoDU readers? Register your vote below, and be sure to submit your comments as well.

Do you think DU is going to continue to remove the “Pioneer” name from more and more programs, perhaps as a prelude to removing the Pioneer name altogether?

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9 thoughts on “DU confirms Pioneer tradition erasures by Division of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence”

  1. Sneaky, back door move in the middle of summer! Might be time to rethink my estate gift to DU !

  2. Sneaky back door move in the middle of summer! Might be time to rethink my estate gift to DU!

  3. There has been significant turnover in the DU administration over the last year – a new Chancellor, new Board Chair, new Provost, new Board Members, new Deans and new Vice-Chancellors. Most of them didn’t go to DU themselves, so erasing DU traditions may mean little to them.

    Let them know that we won’t sit around while certain malcontents in the senior administration erase our history and traditions.

    Email: Chancellor@DU.edu

  4. I was a recipient of a Pioneer Award while at DU. It was an incredible honor and one in which I take much pride. However what DU is doing in the name of the Orwellian-speak “Inclusive Excellence” is so incredibly disappointing. “Pioneers” are bold, robust innovators. The folks running the university are clearly not pioneers in any sense of the word. The university has regressed on several levels over the last decade.

    Quit pandering to a vocal tiny minority who do not represent the vast majority of current students and alumni with this ridiculous nonsense. Instead I implore the administration to return the focus to academic excellence, particularly in the fields that can provide marketable value to students like STEM and business. Elevate the academic presence and identify a niche that DU can be an elite leader in. Continue to let the athletic dept find and retain talent. Build a nice campus, sure, but find ways to decrease the student loan burden that hampers many bright individuals who would love to attend DU but cannot justify the price tag. Focus on a lot of things but for the love of God quit pushing this politically correct bullshit that distances the university from it’s alumni (read donor base) and waters down any sense of culture and pride on campus.


  5. Check Denver Boone Facebook. 39 comments, 78 reactions and over 4000 views. Lots of other reactions on Twitter, DU Whiteboard and LetsGoDU web, FB and Twitter. Tradition is important.

  6. Great to see the responses here & on Facebook. DU and the new Chancellor need to take the constructive criticism to heart and restore the Pioneer Awards & Pioneer Passages or risk the wrath of Alumni on social media.

    Clearly Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence needs fresh leadership ASAP and DU needs to reverse the slide in USN&WR Rankings. Time to clean house.


  7. The vote disparity in the poll here is about far more than just program name changes. It reflects a larger lack of trust in our University by some of DU’s most engaged audiences. This is an audience that DU very much needs moving forward.

    The Board (and the Chancellor) need to adjust DU’s cultural priorities to reclaim our Pioneer/Western pride (instead of erasure), and to refocus Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence to a less destructive, more unity-based pathway.

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