|President Cofer's Letters to Alumni and Friends|
|President Cofer communicated twice with ULM's alumni and friends to explain ULM's position and actions to be taken to address the mascot issue.
In November 2004, the NCAA asked 33 schools, including ULM, to submit self-evaluations explaining why their use of Native American imagery was not “hostile and abusive.” In response to the request by the NCAA, ULM conducted an exhaustive self-study that detailed positive practice relative to the mascot.
Subsequent to the self-study, the Minority Opportunity and Interests Committee and the NCAA Executive Committee adopted a new policy at its August 2005, meeting to prohibit NCAA institutions from using hostile or abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, imagery, or nicknames at any of the NCAA’s national or regional championships. The University of Louisiana at Monroe was included in that policy. In essence, the NCAA rejected ULM ’s self-evaluation.
The NCAA stated, "Colleges and universities may adopt any mascot that they wish, as that is an institutional matter. But as a national association, we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we control."
The policy takes effect February 1, 2006. At that time, institutions with student-athletes wearing uniforms or having paraphernalia with hostile or abusive references must ensure that those uniforms or paraphernalia are not worn or displayed at NCAA championship competitions; nor will such institutions be permitted to host any NCAA championship competition. The committee also strongly suggested that institutions follow the practice of not scheduling athletic competitions with schools that use Native American nicknames, imagery or mascots.
The NCAA did state that institutions could appeal the NCAA’s decision if a “namesake” tribe formally approved use of a university’s mascot, name and imagery. The mascot adopted by the university in 1931 did not reflect any specific indigenous tribe of northeast Louisiana or south Arkansas, but rather was generic in nature, inculcating the quality characteristics of the entire Native American culture.
After being notified by the NCAA of ULM’s placement in the rejected category, the University, following the directives stipulated by the association, embarked on an effort to obtain support from the three tribes that are recognized federally in our part of
Recognizing the importance of prior “namesake” tribal support in any appeal decision by the NCAA, we asked the NCAA if they would reconsider our formal appeal to continue using the Indian mascot if a local Louisiana Native American tribe supports that use. In a letter dated December 15, 2005, Dr. Bernard Franklin, Senior Vice President for Governance and Membership, stated that “ . . .the use of a generic Native American reference like ‘Indians’ or ‘Braves’ cannot be mitigated by the concurrence of any Native American tribe.” He further added, “. . .while the support of the Coushatta Tribe would likely be sufficient to endorse the university’s use of the official tribal name (Coushatta), it does not suffice as an endorsement of the use of the generic term “Indian.”
Due to the importance of this issue, I asked George Luffey, long-time supporter of ULM , to chair a Mascot Committee. The committee is comprised of representatives from each of the university’s constituencies, including students, faculty, alumni, ULM Foundation, L Club, Indian Athletic Foundation, Alumni Association, coaches and student-athletes. It is our intention to provide the committee all of the information regarding this issue and ask that they make a recommendation to the ULM administration concerning the future of our mascot. It is an extremely delicate task that we ask of George, and we already owe him a debt of gratitude for accepting the challenge.
In addition, we are maintaining contact with Arkansas State University and sharing information on a regular basis on the mascot issue. I am confident that our Mascot Committee will review material and strategies of our Sunbelt Conference colleague.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe is on the move academically and athletically. I believe it is important to communicate fully with you about this issue. That is why we are establishing a Mascot website that will include a copy of the Institutional Self-Study, letters to and from the NCAA, information on area mascots, and up-to-date information on the committee and its recommendations. The link to the website will be available January 2, 2006, on the ULM homepage at www.ulm.edu. It is our intention to continue to involve all of the university’s many constituencies in this process. ULM values your opinions and input, and we promise decisions that reflect the exciting future of our institution, its students, faculty, staff, community, and region.
James E. Cofer, Sr.President
LETTER DATED FEBRUARY 3, 2006
When I wrote to you last, ULM faced three options related to the NCAA’s decision to restrict the use of Native American mascots and imagery. I responded by appointing a committee chaired by George Luffey and composed of students, student-athletes, "L" Club members, Indian Athletic Foundation members, faculty, staff, alumni, the ULM Alumni Association, the ULM Foundation, and friends. Their charge was to gather advice and input from their constituencies and to make a recommendation as to how the university should proceed. To facilitate openness and cast as wide a net as possible, the committee members held meetings and open forums with their groups. On campus, for example, we hosted two forums for students, one for faculty, and one for staff members. The committee also created a mailing address, web page, and email address so alumni and friends who are far away could still make their voices heard.
The consensus of the committee was that, although we value our heritage and have always tried to treat the Indian mascot with respect, adopting either of the other options jeopardized ULM Athletics and would only prolong the inevitable. The university will accept and implement the committee’s recommendation.
As we begin the process to create a new mascot for ULM, your input remains critical. On January 30th, the mascot committee began taking nominations from the public through a form available at the mascot committee’s web page. In addition, you may communicate with the committee via email and regular mail. Both addresses and the mascot nomination form are easy to find from the ULM homepage (http://www.ulm.edu) by clicking on the mascot committee link.
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