Indian mascot creates stir for student media in Minn.

MINNESOTA ‘ The student government at St. Cloud State University passed and then rescinded a motion requiring a conduct code violation be filed against any student-media organization that uses American Indian nicknames and logos in news content.

The motion passed on Nov. 1, but was rescinded a week later following a formal request by Nathan Church, vice president of student life and development. Church asked the student government not to impose regulations on content of student media, explaining that the motion violated their First Amendment rights.

‘Part of my involvement was also to emphasize that a free press is critical to the functioning of a democracy,’ Church said. ‘Furthermore, a free press had actually promoted in significant ways the development and acquisition of very broad civil-rights movements in our country.’

Church successfully explained to a majority of student senators that even though they wanted to take a strong stance supporting American Indian civil rights, they could not accomplish this goal by placing a prior restraint on student media. He said the discussion that followed served as a lesson in the importance of an independent press.

‘If you attack the freedom of the press then you are actually undermining one of the greatest tools and allies you have to get this issue out,’ Church said he told the student government.

The issue of universities using American Indian logos and nicknames as mascots has generated attention at St. Cloud and other universities in its athletic conference. During a game against the University of North Dakota, whose mascot is the Fighting Sioux, several St. Cloud students staged a protest.

Church asked all student media to reconsider the use of American Indian nicknames and logos in stories. The university’s radio station already has a policy regarding their use; however, the television station and the newspaper do not.

Student radio station KVSC has a policy not to broadcast American Indian nicknames of other schools. UTVS, the television station, does not have a policy but students are considering adopting one, general manager Kevin Nagle said. The newspaper, University Chronicle, leaves the use of American Indian symbols and names to the discretion of the reporter or editor.