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Vulgar taunts land UMD students in hot water

DULUTH, Minn. - A repeat of student fan behavior that included bigoted and offensive chants during a University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey game will result in removal from the game and possible revocation of season tickets, UMD officials say.

A group of fans in the UMD student section at the Oct. 17 game against Minnesota State Mankato were heard across the arena shouting a chant that included an anti-homosexual slur and another chant that included a vulgar insult during the game.

"I couldn't believe that I heard it," said Alyssa Longley, a UMD freshman who attended the game with her parents. "There's not one person that couldn't have heard it."

Longley was seated across the arena from where the chants originated.

"Group mentality took over; they ended up portraying UMD as a vulgar and clearly not open-minded place to be, where I feel very comfortable on this campus being a lesbian," Longley said. "I am treated really, really well here. They didn't show that ... at that instance."

Longley's mother, Kathy Longley, sent an e-mail to several UMD administrators complaining of the incident, but a response from UMD was already in motion, athletic director Bob Nielson said.

He arrived at the game toward its end and heard part of the final chant.

"It caught me: 'Are they saying what I think they're saying? If they are, that's an issue,' " he said.

A written apology was sent to Kathy Longley, and an e-mail from Nielson went out to UMD student season ticket-holders, who make up the majority of students attending the men's games, Nielson said.

The e-mail warns students that those who violate Western Collegiate Hockey Association, National Collegiate Athletics Association and university policies regarding fan behavior -- including racist and sexist language and profanity -- won't be tolerated. Violators -- and possibly the entire fan section -- will be removed from the game and they could have their season tickets revoked, Nielson said. The student chants at the Mankato game were cited.

Police who staff the games will be more attentive to the student section, said Bill Wade, vice chancellor for university relations and development, who oversees athletics.

No one has admitted to starting the chant, Nielson said, but a meeting was held with several student season ticket-holders to talk about the behavior and what students can do at games to prevent it.

Wade said this is the third incident related to offensive chants in the 12 years he's been in his position.

"It's not a frequent occasion, but a serious one," he said. "It bowled me over."

About 450 UMD students have season tickets to the UMD men's hockey games.

Kathy Longley wrote in her e-mail to UMD that she observed many parents and young children at the game, including the "Little Chippers" youth hockey team that played during an intermission. She asked UMD to take a firm stand against intolerance.

"These words were extremely derogatory toward women and gays and lesbians," she wrote. "Prejudice does not go away on its own and, left unchecked, can spiral into dangerous situations."

Jana Hollingsworth is a reporter for the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.