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.
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