NDSU President Censors School Song Over Racist Lyrics

ndsu north dakota state university NDSU president dean bresciani

In an email blast to campus today North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani announced that he was censoring parts of the school’s song (parts which apparently aren’t used very often) over some of their racial references.

“Our school song, the ‘Yellow and the Green,’ has been a long-standing and broadly enjoyed tradition of our campus since 1908,” Bresciani wrote in the email. “Typically it is only performed through its first stanza; to be honest I have never heard it beyond that and I suspect most in our University community are like me.  However, through our University’s system for confidential reporting of bias issues, I’ve learned that the third stanza contains a variety of cultural and ethnic references (toward both majority and minority populations) which by contemporary standards are troubling.”

Bresciani goes on to say he’s ordered the “immediate removal of all but the first stanza from NDSU websites and publications.”

Here are the full lyrics to the song. I’m sure you won’t have any problems picking out the problematic words:

Ho! a cheer for Green and Yellow,
Up with Yellow and the Green;
They’re the shades that deck our prairies
Far and wide with glorious sheen,
Fields of waving green in springtime,
Golden yellow in the fall—
How the great high-arching heaven
Looks and laughs upon it all!
Here in autumn throng the nations,
Just to gather in the spoil,
Throng on freight-cars from the cities,
Some to feast and some to toil,
Then the yellow grain flows eastward
And the yellow gold flows back;
Barren cities boast their plenty
And the prairies know no lack.
Hushed upon the boundless prairies
Is the bison’s thund’ring tread,
And the red man passes with him
On his spoilers’ bounty fed.
But the Norse, the Celt and Saxon
With their herd increase, and find
Mid these fields of green and yellow
Plenty e’en for all mankind.
Ho! a cheer for Green and Yellow,
Up with Yellow and the Green;
They’re the shades that deck our prairies
Far and wide with glorious sheen,
Fields of waving green in springtime,
Golden yellow in the fall—
How the great high-arching heaven
Looks and laughs upon it all!

There’s nothing explicitly racist here, really. Just an archaic racial term that doesn’t ring quite right to modern ears.

We don’t call Native Americans “the red man” today any more than we call black people “negroes.”

And “the Norse, the Celts and Saxon?” That was probably exclusionary even back in 1908 when the lyrics were written and North Dakota was a much more ethnically homogeneous place.

Really, this is just a reminder of how ponderous and boring most school songs are.

But yeah, the lyrics to be updated, though sending the existing lyrics down the memory hole on official NDSU media seems a bit extreme. Yet probably in character for ham-handed, overly-P.C. campus bureaucrats.

Here is Bresciani’s full email:

 

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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