Chancellor Haefner Requests “Community’s Patience” as Pioneer Nickname Remains In Doubt

While University of Denver Jeremy Chancellor Haefner has yet to commit to keeping the Pioneer name, he has asked for “the [DU] community’s patience” to prepare his response to a small group of protesters who are demanding that DU get rid of the Pioneer nickname by February of 2021.

In a “letter” sent only to selected DU community members and later released (but not publicized anywhere) last Friday afternoon on the Columbus Day Holiday weekend, Haefner asked “for the community’s patience as I continue to work with leaders across the institution to develop specific and measurable action steps, assign responsibility, and create implementation timelines.”Chancellor Haefner’s letter is reprinted in full, below:

Dear DU community members,

Two weeks ago, the student group Righteous Anger. Healing Resistance. (RAHR) held a peaceful protest, which included seven demands. These demands were affirmed through a resolution by DU’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG). The significance of RAHR’s demands and USG’s resolution is, most fundamentally, to combat entrenched systems of racism wherever they may exist, to reckon with our complex history with indigenous peoples and their land, and to provide greater opportunities for all persons of color to thrive on our campus.

I want to state unequivocally that DU takes these demands seriously and that we remain fervently committed not just to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but also to combat racism in all its malicious forms.

I am eager to share DU’s response to these demands with the community, but I also want to ensure that our response is guided by action and commitments, not just promises. As such, I ask for the community’s patience as I continue to work with leaders across the institution to develop specific and measurable action steps, assign responsibility, and create implementation timelines.

It would be more expedient to make promises today, but the DU community—and especially our students—deserve more. It is only through concrete action that we can move forward.

Thank you to all who are working diligently to make DU a welcoming place where all of us can find belonging and thrive.


Jeremy Haefner


Here are RAHR’s seven ‘demands’, taken from its recent poster:

We’re concerned not only that the “letter” was only sent to select members of the community and released in as quiet a manner as possible (there were no social media posts attached to the release on Twitter or Facebook – a red flag for any official release or letter) but also that the language in the Chancellor’s letter may be telegraphing DU’s ultimate intentions. It is important to remain concerned, vigilant, and committed to the Pioneer nickname, as our school has, once again, yet to make such a commitment official.

41 thoughts on “Chancellor Haefner Requests “Community’s Patience” as Pioneer Nickname Remains In Doubt”

  1. Once again, DU is being very selective about its audiences regarding vital communications on an issue that is important to thousands of alumni. Sending this ‘stalling for time’ letter out to the ‘DU Community’ on the Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend and not sending the letter to concerned alumni is borderline disrespectful.

    Unfortunately, the language in this letter suggests that Haefner is pandering to the minority who want to make sweeping changes demanded by certain members of his faculty and a small group of students — all in order to make DU seem more hospitable to minority students.

    One thing is certain – now is not the time to let up on this! Don’t let Haefner think alumni don’t feel strongly about keeping the nickname.

    Pioneer nickname fans need to keep fighting for it, and make their views clear.

    No surrender!

  2. Mark the date. My level of ’commitment’ to DU will mirror their level of commitment to Pioneers. Not sure I want to align myself with an organization that is becoming increasing disconnected with reality and promoting their own demise.

    1. I think they can make up your lifetime of donations with one quarter’s tuition payment from a single student.

      1. Probably not considering many alum fund scholarships and how few students pay full boat.

  3. It’s funny to me that this blog refers to about 100 protestors as a ‘small group’ when this page consists of the same 15 old men repeating the same boring line over and over again. Why didn’t DU send you this letter? Maybe because you are not the present or the future of DU. Maybe because you believe represent all alumni, but you don’t. Maybe because losing your $50 a year donation to the hockey team fund is nothing compared to alienating the next generation of students.

    Go on and tell me I know nothing and that there is a huge community of pioneer-lovers. I’ll believe it when I see evidence like more than a couple likes on your twitter.

    1. You have grossly underestimated the alumni that not only care about this, but are losing faith in the leadership of the University to make a decision about what DU really stands for.
      It’s frustrating & infuriating to see continued drama on this when there are many other things that should take precedence. If you truly, deep-down in your heart believe that the association of the word Pioneer is detrimental to the health of the University and its students – WHY? WHY?! No one is giving it a negative connotation except for those protesting it!
      A pioneer is a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new area. Someone who is pioneering is the first to develop or utilize a new method, activity, or set of knowledge…
      I’ve read many different opinions about WHY Pioneer should be removed. I have found all of these to be just that… opinions, rather than factual evidence that Pioneer association is tearing apart the University’s capability to be an institution that supports and empowers those who seek to learn.

    2. I’m not an alum, but my kid and $ go there.

      DU is a great school, and the word Pioneer can be defined many ways. While many pioneers were white, many were immigrants, and from lower income classes looking for the chance to make and build a better life. In the context of the US and Denver, it is the possibility of a new beginning, innovation and entrepreneurship. The argument of who was here first doesn’t apply, everyone is from somewhere else. Besides, what makes this country great is different people from different places.

      Keep the Pioneer mascot because it stands for good principles and is the ethos for innovation and the courage to pursue new frontiers. Add some additional scholarships, but stop blaming the past and trying to right wrongs completely out of context.

    3. Again 85% of the protestors were either faculty looking to start drama, or community organizers invited by said faculty. What does that leave you with? 15 overdramatic students who have an impotent rage for a non-issue. Also the members of this blog represent hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations given over the last few decades. What do you bring? A drum circle and poster board with profanity on it? Cool story Xir. LOL

  4. Can you imagine sitting in these meetings with Faculty & Admin and hashing through these issues?

    We know, that they know, that “Pioneers” is the drop dead issue for alumni. Donations can & will be affected. They can’t afford it, so look for the other issues to be addressed.

    1. You think the administration and faculty are sitting around a big table hashing this out? This is barely a concern at the moment since keeping the campus safe and enrollment steady during a pandemic is a pretty demanding task.

      And it’s a drop dead issue for the few readers of this blog, which I expect are outnumbered by the student activists 5:1. You’re like the people who believe in the ‘silent majority’ when you’re really just a vocal, but tiny, minority.

      1. LOL bro you have like 8 people like the RAHR and IRISE facebook and insta posts. Who’s really the minority? Calm down and eat a Snickers… unless Snickers did something to piss you off too.

  5. The Chancellor in the letter above said, “I continue to work with leaders across the institution to develop specific and measurable action steps, assign responsibility, and create implementation timelines.”

    That sounds like a lot of Committee meetings to me.

    Over thousand people reacted to the Denver Boone Facebook posting last week. And 554 commented overwhelmingly in favor of the Pioneer name.

    DU lost a $500,000 donation last week. Alums who donate far more annually to DU than the annual cost of tuition reached out to DU as well.

    Let me repeat, changing a western themed nickname like Sooners, Cowboys, Pioneers or Red Raiders has not been done because of the obvious backlash from alumni. Whoever goes first will find that donations will be hammered. That is a fact.

    1. The quote from the chancellor means nothing. If there aren’t dates and names, then it is just a tactic to make it sound like he is taking it seriously.

      And of course people who follow the Boone page want the name. I bet if they posted something on the RAHR page, there would be exactly the opposite response. That’s not at all an accurate sample and you know it.

      And what $500k donation did they lose? Was is just someone on social media saying they were about to, or is there an actual story about it? Internet hearsay is the easiest thing in the world to make up.

      You said “Alums who donate far more annually to DU than the annual cost of tuition reached out to DU as well.” That literally doesn’t make grammatical sense. In case you were trying to say that alumni donations make up more of the budget than tuition payments, you are sorely mistaken. DU is heavily tuition-dependent.

    2. Yeah big D but I thought DU wasn’t using the nickname in a Western sense? Like I thought this is egregious because Pioneer means someone who does bold things? 🤷‍♂️

  6. Correction: Red Raiders is a derogatory term for Native Americans, not a “western-themed” mascot.

  7. It wasn’t until 1936 that Texas Tech fans and students came to be called “Red Raiders.” Collier Parrish, sports editor of the Lubbock Morning Avalanche, gave the team its new nickname because of their all-red uniforms and rigorous coast-to-coast schedule.

  8. ‘ok Boomers’ lost me after ‘old white guys’ comment. And, based on OKB statements, they will sever their university connection when they graduate from DU and become an alum. There are currently 6,000 undergraduates and close to 50,000 alumni along the front range alone. Keep discounting alumni voices at your own peril.

    1. yes, that is the ridiculous thing…this small group of people have absolutely no ties to DU, no love for DU, and will have nothing to do with DU when they graduate, move to another university, or whatever. Board of Trustees would be out of its mind to put their “DEMANDS!” ahead of the opinions of people who have a life long love and affiliation with DU.

  9. ok boomers:

    I am a real person (my name is not important) and an alum who has donated well into the $ix figures over the past 50 years.

    My current estate plan includes a $even figure plus donation to the university.

    You may feel this is small potatoes, but should the Pioneers name be eliminated I, for one, will write DU out of my future plans.


    1. Think about all the good your money will do to give future students the awesome experience you had. And you’re going to deny them that…over a word?

      1. It’s not just a word, folks.

        It’s our identity – and it is as serious and precious to many Pioneers as many minority students’ ethnic, national or hometown identities are to them. I’ve had my Pioneer identity for nearly 40 years now, and that’s a very long time, and I assure you that it has grown in importance over that time.

        Personally, I feel far more allegiance and affinity to ‘Pioneer’ than I do to my own ethnic, national or hometown identity, and I know I’m not alone. I freely chose this identity by going to school at DU, I don’t want that to be ‘cancelled’ by people who do not share my love or affinity for that, and that’s why I will fight so hard for it.

        In my mind, when you accept your offer of admission to DU, you are also accepting of the Pioneer family identity. You may not love it, but many do, and if it is that is painful for you, there are many other schools out there that might be a better fit. You don’t get to change it just because you may not like it. There is no shame in being a Pioneer, and Kamala Harris’ recent selection of the name as her code name proves to me that any offensive nature inherent in the name is overblown.

        On a big scale, once you take away that identity, you slice 150,000 DU alums from their school/shared experience. School loyalty is but one of the traditions that tie generations together. Take that away, and a good chunk of them won’t be coming back. It’s not just donations that would be lost with a name change. DU has 95 year of brand awareness/equity in “Pioneers” that would take decades to rebuild, and that loss of national equity is worth millions of dollars. It would also cost millions to build a new identity, and that money could be better spent on other things.

  10. DU will lose millions in donations. If you don’t think that’s true, you need to talk to the people in DU’s Advancement Office because they receive the emails & phone calls.

    That’s the beauty of being a “Student Activist”. They get to drop bombs around campus and then walk away while the collateral damage reverberates throughout the university.

  11. They won’t make a decision until the revenue stream is stable again.There will be a big push of fund raising and talk of the college campus experience. When it’s all done and they think they can sneak it through…they will.

  12. Decision lays in the hands of the Board of Trustees. As long as the BOT has a Alumni representation it will be hard for them to change Pioneer. Whatever university falls of the “western nickname” sword first & feels the sting of alumni donations, will lay the blueprint for future change.

    Interesting that the word “Pioneer” & “Chief” have Latin & then French roots hundreds if not thousands of years before outraging the Woke Mob.

  13. Keep thinking it’s only “15 old men”. We are generations of Alum! Us boomers aren’t real good on the interwebs so some of us actually just call, email or have lunch with DU administrators. Ask them(DU admin) if they have lost donors, because they have!

  14. When will the tens of thousands of alumni, supporters of DU, and 95% of student body who think this is ridiculous, submit their own DEMAND for the board of trustees and chancellor to reaffirm the Pioneer name forever by a date certain? Certainly much more clout behind such a demand. As immature and childish as this demand game is, two can play at that game. Has the honorable LETSGODU considered circulating a petition with our own demands that must be met or else?

    1. Anon – We’d like to think that demands and deadlines are the wrong way to go about generating positive change. Time will tell which strategy works in practice.

  15. If one 4-5 digit donor gives elsewhere that may go unnoticed. However a couple hundred of similar donors leaving DU out of their estate for the next several decades and that’s a large financial hit. DU would be utterly stupid to cater to a small group of people who actively hate the University and its identity. They will never be future donors even if all demands are met. Conversely those who take pride in their university and being Pioneers are the ones who are generous with their efforts and also engage in the campus like attending hockey games which enhances the vibrancy of the place. It would be incredibly stupid to continue on this path catering to the most radical whiners who reflect the thoughts of maybe 0.01%. But alas there are some on the board who do not have a spine and others who are naively sympathetic to the cause… so I have my doubts about how this gets handled.

  16. Ok boomers-stay in your lane. Your man bun and skinny jeans seem to be cutting off much needed oxygen.

  17. Well at this rate my end of the year donation might happen in 2021 or not….No problem not writing a check in these times.

  18. Dunker here. RAHR should spend their energy raising money for minority scholarships. I would donate after I became secure that Pioneers would remain our nickname. . I seriously doubt any possible applicant chose to not attend or apply to DU because of the Pioneer nickname. Most applicants don’t know the nickname or could care less. Once in school it becomes a proud and easily cherished nickname. Tons of parents refer to their kids as “my Pio”. These parents are the immediate generation of new donors. These parents would be stunned and dismayed with removal of Pioneers. As for me; no PIOS=No more donations.

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