The Denver public has spoken loudly, and they clearly don’t want DU to mess with the Pioneer nickname — by a 100-to-1 ratio.
For a University that wants more engagement with the local metro area as a high strategic plan priority, this firm rebuke of DU’s recent efforts to erase the Pioneer name should provide quite a clear roadmap of how NOT to win public favor.
A Channel 7 Denver 360 TV news report gave us our first chance to measure local public reaction to DU’s recent efforts to erase the Pioneer nickname on the DU Campus. And there was an overwhelming reaction on the station’s Twitter and Facebook pages, supporting the Pioneer nickname by a ratio of nearly 100-to-1.
While the public pro-Pioneer sentiments included a blizzard of derogatory and quite frankly inappropriate “snowflake” references, there were a few gems of public insight that DU should think about carefully. For example, Facebook reader Mary Virginia Sotiros called it, “The eroding of the traditions to gain control over our thinking and eventually, our will to control our own lives.” Another Facebook reader, Lee Darter, said, “Why is it in this country that the few that scream the loudest are the only ones heard?” Perhaps Facebook commenter Jean Ridl said it best: “If we erase our history, we’re bound to repeat it.”
DU’s stated Vision is “The University of Denver will be a great private university dedicated to the public good.”
Well, the anti-Pioneer effort, led by a handful of insiders working against the 2018 decision of the DU Board of Trustees, is clearly not welcomed by the public.
Quite the opposite.
The main objections LetsGoDU has to the Channel 7 segment was the pervasive use of western Pioneer imagery (i.e., the unofficial Boone logo in the street polling and Boone clips) in the piece as well as Channel 7’s somewhat crude efforts at street polling.
As we all know, DU does not produce any merchandise promoting western Pioneers (settlers) images, nor are there any statues of western Pioneer symbols around campus. In a part of the interview not used by Denver7, LetsGoDU managing editor Nick Tremaroli explained that “the University has already removed all western imagery” in a reference to Boone’s unofficial capacity as a mascot and as a logo. The use and interpretation of the Pioneer nickname on campus are not about ‘conquest’ or ‘appropriation’. That argument – held by many anti-Pioneer advocates who have likely never even been on DU’s campus – falls flat.
The reaction of local readers and viewers provides a rather large piece of evidence that DU leadership needs to reaffirm the institutional commitment to the Pioneer nickname and move on to much more critical issues impacting campus life by improving student interaction on campus, managing tuition costs, building unity, enhancing school spirit and engagement, and upgrading the school’s academic performance and national rankings.