Schools are in intense conversation about what their school mascot says about diversity on campus.
While reading Sunday’s New York Times, I came across and article about Amherst College’s mascot. Traditionally, the longtime, unofficial mascot for Amherst College has been, Lord Jeffery Amherst. Lord Jeff is a powder-wigged white guy.
The mascot is the public face of the school. Students graduate, school professors and presidents come and go. Even mascots grow old. They may portray an old, out-of-date image of the school.
Way back in the day, Amherst was a mostly white, male college. It is now a wonderfully diverse college of women and men. For many, Lord Jeff seems irrelevant, a symbol of a different time.
So, when the moose wandered onto the Amherst grounds, one day, students had an “Aha” moment. They got ahold of a Moose costume and the Moose made an appearance at Homecoming. Hilarity, drama and a few scuffles ensued. The traditionalist and the moose fanciers had words.
Heated conversation about the message a mascot is portraying has become common. Rutger University was in the news a few months ago about their white, male mascot, the Scarlet Knight. Many in Rutgers very diverse student body wanted a more inclusive mascot – Rutgers used the have the Chanticleer. They may want to return to their roots.
Many schools have dealt brilliantly with diversity and mascot image. George Mason University is one. They are the Patriots. The school colors are green and gold – the mascot’s face is green and gold. He has a classy, well-tailored green tailcoat, gold pants, a big, black tricorn hat and some fabulous, black boots.
Mascots open the conversation about race and image. Ultimately, mascots bring people together. Even the mascots that irritate todays students are doing their job. They are bringing students, faculty and administration together to explore their values and understand the significance of their public image.
It is important work. Sometimes it is the mascot that spurs & embodies change.
Though mascots don’t speak, they have a lot to say.