Free Gophers football tickets meant to ‘improve student engagement’

Not many Black students seemed engaged










The 2013-14 University of Minnesota school year now is in session. Last week, during the school’s sixth annual Welcome Week, nearly 5,000 new students took advantage of  the offer of a free ticket and meal voucher and attended the August 29 Gophers’ home football opener.

However, it is not clear how many of the approximately 400 Blacks and other new students of color were in attendance. During a 75-minute period before the game, this MSR reporter didn’t notice too many Blacks first-year or otherwise who came through   the stadium’s Lincoln County gate. But the few we were able to talk with all looked forward to “having fun” at their first-ever college football game.

“This actually is my first football game. I’m very excited,” admitted fourth-year psychology student Vanessa Uko, Richfield.

“I want to have so much fun,” proclaimed Candace Bunyan, a freshman from Minneapolis, before attending her first Gopher sporting event. “Same thing,” added Cordencitna Kidudd, a freshman from Bloomington.

“We’re here,” proclaimed Raven Johnson from Brooklyn Park, who graduated from the U of M this past spring 2013. She and Colette Bell, a senior journalism major from Kenosha, Wisconsin, were part of the Orientation and First-Year Programs, the

Colette Bell and Raven Johnson
Colette Bell and Raven Johnson

major sponsor of Welcome Week.  Its goal is “to improve student engagement, first year retention and ultimately graduation rates by equipping students with the knowledge and resources to make a

Haskel Black Photos by Charles Hallman
Haskel Black
Photos by Charles Hallman

successful transition from high school to collegiate life.”

The various scheduled Welcome Week activities last week, which included two Multicultural Kick Off events on August 26, were designed to help new students “feel a sense of belonging,” said Orientation and First-Year Programs Director Beth Lingren Clark.

Both Bell and Johnson stressed the importance of getting involved in campus activities, especially Blacks and other students of color. Attending Gopher football games can be a part of that, but Bell added, “I don’t know why Blacks don’t come to football games.”

Haskel Black, a sophomore music education major from Brooklyn Center, said he’s a frequent attendee of Gopher football games. He’s also involved in school activities and believes that has helped him thus far have a good experience at Minnesota.

But he also observed, “I really don’t see a lot of African American students [at these games]. I don’t know why…especially since a lot of the team looks like us.”

With Minnesota’s 28-point victory last week, more than likely the aforementioned first-time game attendees will want to see the team play again in their next home game Sept. 14.


In other Gopher sports action… 

Minnesota (4-0) opens its 2013 home schedule Friday and Saturday by hosting its annual early season volleyball tournament: The Gophers play Ball State at 7:30 pm Friday, and Western Illinois and Duke on Saturday.

Among this year’s returning NCAA statistical leaders are sophomore Daly Santana, the team’s only player of color, who had three double-doubles and led the Gophers in kills in a match last weekend against Georgia State. She is among this year’s returning NCAA statistical leaders — Santana finished 11th nationally in aces in 2012.



Richard Prince’s “Journal-isms,” a regular contributing feature on the, last week included two items involving ESPN.

ESPN is holding “cultural sensitivity sessions” for about 100 staffers after several racial and cultural gaffes were made public by some of its journalists, wrote Prince, who also reported that the four-letter sports network is developing an “African-American-themed or centric [web]site” for Black sports commentary.


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2 Comments on “Free Gophers football tickets meant to ‘improve student engagement’”

  1. As someone tapped in to the BSU on our campus, this is a conversation that is reoccurring among our members. We are increasingly encouraging our members to support athletics because we have members that are a part of our athletics and are looking to us for support as they support us. This is not a simple matter, and it cannot be summed up by attending one game. I think that the larger conversation is in navigating the different communities of African-American students on campus and how they relate to one another. The Black community here is not singular; it has multiple identities, avenues, and cultures within it, and it’s a journey creating space where they can all mesh. Please consider this when investigating future stories on the matter. Thanks!

  2. There are so many opportunities for students (Black and other students of color) to get engaged with at the University of Minnesota other than football games so let’s not let that be the only indicator of engagement. They are participating in research, internships, student advisory committees, study abroad,student organizations, Greek life, and rigorous coursework. With the rising costs associated with college attendance most of them have to work too. As a side note, how many of the athletes are engaged in anything outside of their sport?

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