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NDSU president wants revision of school song for 'troubling' cultural references

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President Dean Bresciani, president of North Dakota State University. File photo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 2 / 3
A scan of the Agassiz Junior yearbook for 1908. Courtesy NDSU. 3 / 3

FARGO – The president of North Dakota State University is calling for an immediate revision of the school song due to “troubling” cultural and ethnic references in the third verse, he wrote in an email to campus on Wednesday.

The third verse of “The Yellow and the Green” includes the sentence, “Hushed upon the boundless prairies is the bison’s thund’ring tread, and the red man passes with him on his spoilers’ bounty fed.”

PDF: The Yellow and the Green lyrics

President Dean Bresciani said in the email that he had never heard the song beyond its first verse, and when the third came to his attention, he felt the matter called for immediate attention.

“While some may initially find it an overstated concern, others will find it central to a deep and sober examination of our campus history,” he wrote.

He said the verse is troubling in its references to both minority and majority populations.

After the line regarding the “red man,” the verse continues, “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.”

Bresciani is now ordering that all but the first verse be removed from NDSU websites and publications. He has also asked the provost and vice president for student affairs to form a group of students, faculty and staff to study the song and “offer recommendations on the balance between our history and tradition of the song with contemporary concerns for its appropriateness.”

Bresciani said this issue was brought to his attention through NDSU’s “system for confidential reporting of bias issues.”

Bresciani was not available for an interview Wednesday, spokeswoman Sadie Rudolph said. Rudolph also did not answer The Forum’s questions, such as which phrase was troubling to Bresciani and how many websites and publications will now require alteration.

Grace Lyden

Grace Lyden is the higher education reporter for The Forum. Previously, she interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2014. She welcomes story ideas via email or phone. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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