Colleges update mascots, mottos, amid pressure from students
Nov. 19, 2015
BOSTON (AP) — Amherst College has turned on its mascot. Georgetown University is renaming buildings. Union College has a new motto.
Faced with growing pressure from students, colleges across the U.S. are updating campus fixtures that have been deemed insensitive or outdated. Inspired by racially charged protests at the University of Missouri, students have demanded tweaks of that type among broader calls for improved treatment of minority students.
Those behind the changes say they're long overdue. Critics say it's another example of coddling by American universities. Here's a look at some recent changes:
Amherst College in Massachusetts is poised to part ways with Lord Jeff, the school's unofficial mascot.
The mascot is based on 18th-century military general Jeffery Amherst. Along with his conquests in the British army, Amherst is known for suggesting a plan to deliver smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans, although historians debate whether the plan was carried out.
Students protesting the treatment of black students at Amherst issued a list of demands last week, including the removal of Lord Jeff from all college memorabilia and imagery. Protesters demanded that the college president condemn the "inherent racist nature" of the unofficial mascot.
College spokeswoman Caroline Hanna said that there are "understandably mixed views about a change to the mascot."
During a recent informal vote, faculty members voted unanimously to leave the mascot behind. A survey by the college found that 52 percent of students want to change the mascot, while 25 percent want to keep it. The rest were indifferent. The school's trustees will take up the issue in January.
Other mascots and nicknames have fallen recently, too. The University of North Dakota adopted the nickname the Fighting Hawks on Wednesday to replace the Fighting Sioux, which the school had previously abandoned. In Pennsylvania, Susquehanna University recently dropped its Crusader nickname.
Georgetown University is renaming two buildings that previously honored slaveholders.
In an email circulated on Saturday, university President John DeGioia said that Mulledy Hall and McSherry Hall, named after former university presidents with ties to slavery, will be called Freedom Hall and Remembrance Hall, respectively, until the school settles on permanent names.
Students protested the names last week, staging a sit-in outside DeGioia's office and declaring solidarity with protesters in Missouri.
In September, DeGioia asked a campus task force to make recommendations about how the school should reconcile its historic ties to slavery. During the protests last week, the task force met and voted to rename the buildings, which house a residence hall and a campus meditation center.
Historic ties to slavery also sparked conflict at Harvard University's law school. Some students want administrators to replace the school's official seal, which is borrowed from the family seal of a slaveholder who helped found the school. Students have yet to bring their demands to the administration.
A NEW MOTTO
Union College in Schenectady, New York, recently tweaked its motto to make room for women.
The original motto is a French phrase that was adopted when the college enrolled only men. Its translation: "Under the laws of Minerva we all become brothers." But because the college has been accepting women since 1970, the motto will now end with "brothers and sisters."
Two students proposed the recent change, following three failed attempts to update the motto since the 1970s.
"We respect the tradition of the words carefully chosen by our original trustees, but it's important that those words now make explicitly clear that Union is a place of inclusion and a shared intellectual mission for all," President Stephen Ainlay said in a statement in early November.
Faculty supervisors over Princeton University dorms will no longer take the title "master," instead being called "head of the college."
The New Jersey Ivy League announced on Wednesday that the change will take place immediately. Dean of College Jill Dolan said in a statement that master is an "anachronistic, historically vexed" title, while the newly chosen replacement "better captures the spirit of their work."
Administrators announced the switch on Wednesday as students protested on campus, demanding better treatment of black students.
The protesters also urged the university to acknowledge what they say is the racist legacy of former school president and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. They want the school to rename buildings and programs named for Wilson, among other demands.
Princeton officials said they're in a continuing conversation with the protesters.