The Controversy Over the “Burning of the N”

Photo by Bryce Mills.

   Though it occurred on September 24, many people remain upset over a controversial Facebook post made by Marty Sabolo, the NSU Director of Residence Life, regarding the Gypsy Days Burning of the N ceremony.
   Sabolo’s Facebook post, which included an image of the burning N, read, “I’m not making any political statement but I work for a University that has a tradition of burning an ‘N’ as part of their Gypsy Days… Yes, they burn a gigantic letter ‘N’. Let that one sink in.” He goes on in a connected comment to state, “Thank God it’s not a lower case t.”
   Once he was aware of the affect his post had on those associated with Northern, Sabolo soon removed his post from Facebook. However, several NSU students had already seen and taken screenshots of it, and it quickly circulated throughout the Northern community.    Numerous NSU students, faculty, staff, and alumni took offense to Sabolo’s post, along with at least two other of his connected comments. It was believed that his posts painted a negative picture of the Northern community. In the days following the posts, some alumni even contacted the university calling for Sabolo’s resignation.
   Up to this point, Sabolo has not spoken publically of the incident, but in a recent interview, he further explained his side of the issue, stating “I am from a different part of the country where we are really sensitive towards the letter N, and that is what caused me to question the tradition.”
   At the start of fall semester, Sabolo held a meeting with NSU Resident Assistants (RAs) in which he urged them to be aware of what they chose to post on social media, for it may cause controversy. When asked if he expected the RAs to question these instructions, given his own recent social media controversy, he responded, “I didn’t listen to my own advice. Hopefully [the RAs] learn from my mistake.”

A lot of students felt attacked …This is something that we took very seriously.
Jory Kunzman, Student Association President

   When asked if he intended to issue a formal apology to the Northern community, he replied, “No, I don’t believe a public apology would be necessary. Anyone that is angry with me can come to my office if they would like an apology.”
   During a September meeting held between Sabolo, Student Association President Jory Kunzman, Student Association Vice President Katie Graham, and Student Association Faculty Advisor Dr. Elizabeth Haller, he was approached with an offer to write an open letter of apology to be published in THE EXPONENT so that the Northern community would have a chance to read his side, but he refused the offer.
   Of that September meeting, Kunzman comments, “We gave him a chance to speak his side. He apologized to those of us present.” He also asked the Student Association to pass along his apology to the rest of the Student Association Senators.
   According to Kunzman, the Student Association has prepared a statement regarding the controversy, but they have yet to decide on its publication.
    “A lot of students felt attacked,” said Kunzman. “When you have a lot of pride in something that someone else attacks, you yourself also feel attacked. This is something that we took very seriously.”
   Some students were so upset by the post that they took matters into their own hands. Dakota Feller, a student at NSU, sent a letter to the editor of the Aberdeen American News voicing her stance on the issue. In response, a reporter from that newspaper attended a special session of the Student Association (all meetings are open to the public) held specifically to discuss the controversy, and in the October 3 issue of the Aberdeen American News ran the story “Burning of ‘N’ Heats Up at NSU” that covers the issue.
   As he offered, if you would like to seek an apology from Sabolo, he can be reached Monday through Friday during his office hours in Student Center 222.

Adam Schultz
Staff Writer