How colleges continue to move past controversial mascots

Maine became first state to ban the use of Native American mascots in its public schools and colleges

Mascots and nicknames deemed offensive, particularly by Native American groups, have been dropped and replaced in recent years at several colleges and universities.

But controversy persists on some campuses. Though the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign retired its controversial Chief Illiniwek mascot 12 years, the school this summer was still working its way past the issue, WILL News/Illinois Public Media reported.

A university Commission on Native Imagery report recommended the campus hold a ‘formal and public retirement’ of the mascot and develop new campus traditions that are absent of Native American imagery and culture. Supporters of the mascot, however, blasted the report, according to WILL News/Illinois Public Media.

At The George Washington University, some students—including the The Student Association—are urging campus community to retire the Colonials nickname, The Daily Signal reported.

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“I feel like we need to take into account the history of the name,” freshmen Aditi Gupte told the website. “Just the whole history of colonization and everything you don’t talk about … and it’s the same with the Washington Redskins. That name is also offensive, and people don’t even talk about it.”

But not all students see it that way. ““I don’t really see the correlation to how it comes off as, or has racist undertones, and how it implies that colonists were slave owners,” Adrian Elzarki told The Daily Signal. “Our mascot’s been the Colonials for 200 years. So, I think it’s a part of our school’s history. It’s a part of Northeast history. It’s part of American history in general.”

This May, Maine became the first state to ban the use of Native American mascots in its public schools and colleges, The New York Times reported.

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In September, Community College of Philadelphia switched its name to the Lions, replacing the Colonials and a mascot, ‘Colonial Phil,’ whom some found offensive, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

College instructor Brian Goedde told the Inquirer that one of his African American students put it this way: “You know, in the story of American history, I don’t think I’m rooting for the colonials.”

And in May, Long Island University introduced its new Sharks mascot after it combined teams from its Brooklyn and C.W. Post campuses, which had used the names Blackbirds and Colonials, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported.

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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