It is High Time DU’s Divisive Faculty-Led Anti-Pioneer Protests End

DU faculty member and protestor Johnny Ramirez (seen at the rear in the hat) during last Friday’s RAHR protest. Photo: RAHR


We’ve had it. Enough already.

We’re tired of years of DU’s faculty and staff working behind the scenes and now, directly orchestrating protests with the objectives of smashing DU traditions and further dividing the DU community.

It’s time for DU to step up and reaffirm the Pioneer nickname officially, as it should have done a long time ago. The 95-year old ‘Pioneers’ nickname has linked generations of Denver students, alumni, and fans in the long chain of shared experience. It’s time for nickname opponents to shift their focus away from the red herring that is Pioneers to actual on-campus changes that would make DU a better place for all.

The latest provocation for Pioneer fans was a campus protest march comprised of a small group of about 100 students, community-based groups, faculty, and staff on September 25. The protestors this time have named themselves “RAHR” (an acronym for Righteous Anger, Healing Resistance). But unlike actual organic student-led protests, this one was turbo-charged by DU’s paid full-time faculty agitator, Johnny Ramirez, from DU’s IRISE institute, who organized and led the charge calling for ‘Decolonizing DU’ and targeting the ‘Pioneer’ nickname as the primary appetizer to a broad menu of other social justice demands.

His group also covered the large University of Denver sign on University Boulevard with a ‘No More Pios‘ sign and chanted “Pioneers are violent. How long can you be silent?” among other chants and placards (as seen above).

Protestors placed this “No More Pios” banner over the primary DU sign on University Blvd. The primary sign is a gift from the DU Class of 1990, and we’re sure most of them are not amused by these antics. Photo: RAHR

While most of the protesters did wear face masks during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the six-foot social distancing rules that DU and Denver police reminded them to respect, were not respected by the marchers, as the photos show. Some of the social justice elements of the protest were also supported by the University of Denver administration, whose senior officials wrote this letter prior to the march, and some of whose faculty spoke at Observatory Park afterward in support of the marchers.

RAHR protestors blocked an intersection near the DU campus during the Sept. 25th march. Photo: RAHR

RAHR seems intent on leveraging anger, bigotry, division, and resistance well beyond righteous healing. DU has recently hired faculty (such as Ramirez with protest-organizing backgrounds) to train, organize and lead students in the art of professional agitation and protest against DU’s long-held nickname among a host of other ‘demands’. How many other universities subsidize protesters to protest against their very own employers? DU’s self-flagellation is absurd. How will the climate ever improve if a permanent grievance infrastructure must be paid to ensure they are actually “needed?” It’s a silly, circular firing squad that ends with much deeper destruction.

This would surely be more acceptable to us if such resources were also provided to protect and nurture the 95-year-old Pioneer nickname, which is treasured by many students and alumni. But no public help has come from DU administrators since former Chancellor Robert Coombe’s 2008 statement, “We will always be the Pioneers.”

Unfortunately, there cannot be a fair debate right now because the current climate endorsed and cultivated by DU faculty has muted undergraduate, alumni and sports fan voices who support Pioneers. The reality is that many Pioneer nickname advocates are progressive politically – including some voices on this site – and sympathize with many of the other on-campus goals of the protesters, but differ on the nickname “issue” because the nickname is not inherently offensive and Pioneer is more of a verb than it is a noun anymore (not to mention the fact that all western imagery was retired from campus more than a decade ago).

Many of the protesters’ views on this subject are predicated on exaggeration or even straight-up lies. Stating “DU is institutionally racist” when the University has bent over backward to promote diversity, building students of color to over 25% of enrollment during the last 15 years, and spending millions to ensure that racial diversity is a key part of the DU experience, is a huge stretch at best.

The ongoing stripping of “Pioneers” from DU campus awards and events continues to this day – even though most people identify current-day pioneers as leaders and innovators (such as recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who just chose “Pioneer” as her Secret Service code name). Finally, the anti-Pioneer crowd wants to smear and erase Pioneers – denying the many positive aspects of pioneers and denigrating the majority culture – the height of hypocrisy by assigning the very worst traits to one group, while idealizing their own culture.

Ultimately, this is not an issue that allows for compromise. This is about the truth. Pioneers founded the University of Denver and the City of Denver.  A ‘pioneer’ is also used commonly to describe leaders and innovators. That label of Pioneers in today’s lexicon can be described as nothing but a positive compliment. Assigning inaccurate or misleading labels to somehow advance indigenous or underrepresented groups is a cheap way to play on the current polarized political and social environment. And, probably most importantly, it completely diminishes and delegitimizes other highly effective on-campus desires the protesters are working to achieve.

DU’s direct investment in funding, supporting, and now, cheerleading for a small but vocal group in dismantling its own nickname will not bring people together at a time of financial uncertainty during Covid-19. Such institutional endorsement will only cultivate further division.

It’s time for DU to reclaim the Pioneer name.

34 thoughts on “It is High Time DU’s Divisive Faculty-Led Anti-Pioneer Protests End”

  1. Great article.

    The faculty & quite a few administrators have been prodding the anti-Boone & then anti-Pioneer fervor for years. They orchestrated turning students of color against our school to push their political agenda & grievences. It’s well documented that our young alums of color hate DU. I’ve sat through a DU sponsored Zoom session where they said they will never donate to DU. It’s a very toxic environment.

  2. Dunker thinks you are 100% correct. In the past 10 years, sports fans actually call us Pios. Student parents refer to their child as “My Pio”. These parents on the whole are extremely liberal, but they have common sense. Most importantly, the “Main Stream Media”, refer to us as Pios or Pioneers. (Now mostly Pios) This is the same Media that supports and puts their money behind what many claim to be a liberal agenda. Why waste energy on what I believe is a rather benign cause. Save it for causes which benefit humanity.

  3. DG, do our athletes of color hate DU? I’ve never heard an inkling of that for more then 40 years. This is Dunker, as if you didn’t know.

  4. Johnny, Nice Language on the signs from your classy group polarizes us Pioneer Faithful. First Class is not your MO. Very divisive and unprofessional. You are a leader? As a DU alumnus, I work with more mixed races and cultures than you do. Go some where else as you are not an innovator or a positive influencer for change. Do some honest work for a change.

  5. You can always send a letter to the chancellor with a copy of those eloquently worded signs. I sent a polite letter letting him know that’s not how I want to see staffers (remember, they are not tenured and work at the pleasure of the school) represent us to the community. If you were thinking about it, here’s his email.

    Jeremy.Haefner@du.edu

  6. [Raises Hand] Two donors.

    There have probably been a few athletes over the years that hate “Pioneers.” I only know of one specifically many many years ago.

    Every student knows we are the Pioneers when they arrive on campus.

    John Evans was not at Sand Creek. IMO 95% of the student protesters wouldn’t know that. He was in Washington DC at the time. This was before cell phones & social media and there no known evidence that he knew about the attack beforehand.

  7. With a pandemic and the risk of losing 75 million dollars, DU is actually paying employees to smear the university and move against an ‘official’ nickname? Forget the protest, Ramirez should be let go (feature photo above) for not maintaining adequate social distance and touching people. BTW, DU’s COVID-19 status moved to YELLOW the day of the march.

  8. Thank you for exposing the truth about the divisive, vitriol and hate led by members of the once distinguished faculty and school I have grown to love and support in many ways. I had a recent conversation with a distinguished Alumnae/friend who I have attended many hockey, gymnastics, and lacrosse games with ‘this is certainly not the DU you attended, loved and generously supported for years and years.’ Terribly sad’ he said.

  9. As a Denver native and longtime hockey season ticket holder, I’ll remember this when DU comes begging again for donations. This is an opportunity for the new leadership to denounce the hatred regardless of its origin.

  10. A longtime alumnus I know was so angry about Ramirez’ protest that he called DU to withdraw a $500,000 estate gift that may well be a seven -figure gift in the future. He didn’t object to the protest, which is everyone’s right to exercise – But he did (quite rightly) object to DU’s new practice of financially supporting IRISE, as they try to rip away DU’s Pioneer tradition.

    It’s one thing to be an arsonist, but it’s another when the owner of the home gives the arsonist the torch…

    It’s time for DU to wise up and stop funding this sabotage. Reclaim the nickname, and they will find something else to bitch about.

    And it’s time for all of you to let your University know that you are fed up with this kind of crap…

  11. Yeah, this stuff is ridiculous. The only hatred on campus is from these people, whose only mission is to bring attention to themselves, who give zero fucks about DU. It is about time for the Chancellor to take a stand and fire this idiot.

  12. While exercising your First Amendment rights is laudable, making defamatory declarations and demands are laughable. This group clearly has an issue with a negative interpretation of a school sports nickname. But, if they view the nickname as violent and oppressive, why would they want to replace it with another symbol of violence? Also, making demands upon DU is a bullying tactic, and should not be acceptable.

    I think the time for DU to decide about their sports nickname is looming large. Will DU submit to the demands of a small group of unhappy students and faculty? Would that make these people happy? Probably not.

    Oh, and everybody who disagrees with me is Hitler.

  13. Those signs must have went over real well in the Observatory Park neighborhood! Like a good neighbor DU was there!!! Way to partner with the community!

  14. My thoughts have mirrored those on this forum for the better part of several years now, and this article (nicely done btw) only further solidifies them. I am frankly disgusted by the vitriolic assault on not just the Pioneer nickname but the culture of the campus at large. Another poster put it perfectly: the only hate is coming from these people who clearly are miserable people in their own right with nothing to strive towards except tearing down what others have created. Unfortunately this same perpetual victim mentality has permeated the country and little benign things get blown way out of proportion. This isn’t a liberal vs conservative issue. If you want to fight injustice go find something that is truly injust. The Pioneer nickname is not causing anyone any harm. And yes, this is a hill many of us are willing to defend.

  15. I’m beginning to think we are fighting a losing battle. We are now living in a society where vocal minorities rule. Our university is being brought to it’s knees by these malcontents who can’t find anything better or more meaningful and productive to do.

    Isn’t it ironic that we have Creech and the athletic department begging for loyal Pioneers to donate money to the Athletic Covid Relief Fund, at the same time we Pioneers are under an all out attack.

  16. No, it is not a losing battle. Once someone in authority stands up to the BS and realizes that it’s not a smart long term decisions to make changes based on the “demands” of a small mob that doesn’t have the best interests of DU in mind, then sanity will be restored. Looking at you Chancellor Haefner, After all of the University of Missouri silliness a few years ago, some prominent administrators at prominent institutions (can’t remember which ones without researching) said “enough is enough.” That is all that it takes. It’s a no-brainer, when you look at the equation of whose opinion is more important to DU–the opinions of 50 students and a couple faculty who are apparently paid to pad their resumes with protests, or the tens of thousands of alumni, vast majority of students, and general public who think that this is a ridiculous sideshow. It’s an easy equation, and the Chancellor just needs to show the proper cahones to put this ridiculous distraction to rest. So write to him, tell him how you feel. I did.

  17. Please read this article printed in the Clarion. It is obvious that the left wing has taken over all lines of communication and forcing the direction our university is being directed to follow.

    Dr. Haefner is under unbelievable pressure brought on by these radicals. We must let our voices be heard and not let them lead the silent majority down the path to ruin….

    I believe he knows not to’ bite the hand that feeds him’, but we must keep reminding him that we will not be there when the university comes to us with their hand out looking for donations should the Pioneer name go down in ashes due to a few loud, foul-mothed malcontents.

    https://duclarion.com/2020/09/r-a-h-r-protestors-unite-in-support-of-nomorepios-and-marginalized-communities/

  18. The Clarion article cited above is appalling and LOADED with factual errors (I stopped counting after six and I’m sure the final count would end up well into the double digits). Hard to believe it was written by the Editor-in-Chief. It is also clearly a one-sided opinion piece written under the guise of a news story. The Clarion today is clearly staffed by self-selecting student social justice activists who aspire to advocate for each other, and not for the larger DU community. There is obviously no clear adult supervision to what they print and no quality control mechanisms in place to assure any kind of objectivity or fact-checking. It’s a very bad paper that has slipped dramatically from years ago, when it was once responsible, balanced, fact-checked and supervised.

    The press run has dropped to only 1,000 per issue and the paper isn’t read very much except by the small circle of Social Justice warriors and affinity group members who run it, as well as their friends in DU’s student government, who are also largely SJWs and affinity group members. This is also the same crew who pat each other on the back with the University’s Crimson (formerly Pioneer) Awards each year by lionizing each other as DU’s best. Because of the pernicious brand of cancel culture they run, students who do not follow the SJW playbook no longer work at the Clarion, and no longer run for the student government. The Greek system is in retreat, and most kids at DU today are afraid of the social justice orthodoxy, and want to avoid any chance of being tarred as a racist, so they keep their heads down, drink their beer, get their degree and get out of DU without too much student involvement. The resulting media and student government at DU have turned against the mainstream, and this is DU’s reality. Until students with different viewpoints care enough to be involved, this is what you will see…

  19. The intolerance, hatred, and ignorance these days is pretty staggering. Sad thing is, people like this are apparently not smart enough to consider and process opposing viewpoints. I’m all for liberal college campuses, but that liberality has been hijacked and morphed into a form of intolerance that isn’t much better than whatever things that groups like this are railing against. Which is fine if you chalk it up to the ignorance of youth. But when you have a department of the school encouraging this kind of intolerance, the line is crossed and something needs to be changed.

  20. I’m neither a DU alumni or even really a fan… I am a UND Fighting Sioux, but it’s funny how similar our issues are. The Sioux Name and Logo were bestowed on the University by the SIOUX NATION. their logo was designed by Bennet Brein, a native American Artist whi honored the Sioux with the design & Colors of the Fighting Sioux Logo… but because of the noise and hate of people on the left, the name was removed, and the SIOUX NATION’s desires were ignored. The push to Eradicate instead of Educate is the same for you, that we saw there. Hang Tough Pio’s and we’ll see you on the Ice!

  21. Thank you for the words Colorado Fighting Sioux. It’s an issue with mutual interest in that the Souix and Pioneers are part of our university identities and help form the rivalry. No Souix and no Pioneer and there is something obviously missing from what makes the rivalry special on the ice. Hope your admin pulls their heads out of their behinds as well so we can return to kicking each other’s ass.

    1. I hope so…short of Kicking Minnesota’s butt, there is nothing better than the UND-DU rivalry in my mind…Love to hate you guys (I’m sure the feelings mutual) because I know that it’s ALWAYS going to be a tough game…Whoever wins, worked their ASSES off on the ice…nothing else is acceptable from either team. Good luck shutting this down. It’s ignorant and below the standards of EDUCATION that DU is known for.

  22. This battle is not over, folks.

    Many people have been fighting at multiple levels, and I encourage you not to get tired or surrender.

    Keep fighting!

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