The Colonials has been the mascot at George Washington University for almost 100 years, but now a student at the college is trying to banish it from campus because it is “offensive” to “international students who have experienced the effects of colonialism.”
The student-led newspaper GW Hatchet (not the focus of any protest thus far) reported:
Sophomore Rachel Yakobashvili said she and two other students launched the first petition ever on the Student Association’s advocacy website GW Voice last week to encourage the University to consider new mascot options, like “Hippos,” “Revolutionaries” or “Riverhorses.”
More than 200 students have signed onto the petition as of Wednesday, and if the petition hits 500 signatures, SA leadership will be required to respond.
“It’s hard to have school pride when the thing that you have to be prideful for is so offensive,” Yakobashvili said.
She said she understands that it’s expensive to change all campus branding when making the switch, but said it’s necessary to make GW inclusive. She said the organizers haven’t heard any pushback from students who want the Colonial mascot to stay.
Ironically, if the hippo replaces Colonials, the new mascot would represent the African mammal considered the most dangerous on the continent, where it kills an estimated 3,000 humans a year, according to a travel website:
It might come as a surprise to many to find out that the biggest and baddest of the African wildlife is, in fact, the hippopotamus. With its potbelly and somewhat adorable face, it’s quite difficult to think of the hippo as a dangerous creature. But the hippo is regarded as Africa’s most dangerous predator as it attacks and kills over 3,000 people yearly.
Also, this is not the first time the Colonials — a George Washington-style soldier in “buff and blue” school colors — has been targeted.
Another student, sophomore Andrew Hesbacher, who helped launch the petition, told the student newspaper that when he attended a study- abroad orientation in April, where staff told students not to wear any clothing with “Colonials” on it anywhere outside of Europe because “citizens of those countries would be offended by the history of the word.”
“It’s very wrong for us to call ourselves an open and welcoming university when the name means such demise and terror for students who could possibly come here,” Hesbacher said.
Annabel LaBrecque, the co-president of GW Students for Indigenous and Native American Rights, signed the petition on behalf of the group. She said the removal of the mascot has been a goal of the group since it formed last fall, according to the student newspaper.
“The indigenous communities and their allies here just don’t feel welcomed,” LaBrecque said.
The university website states that the Colonials date back to 1926:
The name “Colonials” came into use in the fall of 1926. An editorial in the Hatchet from October 27, 1926, explained the new nickname:
“Dissatisfaction has been expressed for the past several years with the nicknames usually associated with the George Washington University’s athletic teams. Some years ago the name “Hatchetites” was invented for the team, and it, or some corruption of it has been used ever since. Now the terms “Hatchetities,” “Hatchetmen,” “Hatchets,” Crummen,” “Axemen,” “Tongmen,” and so forth, are all very well, if not entirely euphonious, but they hardly carry the dignity that our team should bear. In the place of the names the University Hatchet suggests the use of the connotation “Colonials” for the teams of the Buff and Blue. What name could be more fitting? This, the school named after George Washington, and having as its colors the Continental Army buff and blue, the colors of Colonial America, should be entitled to bear the name of “Colonials” if any school is so entitled. George Washington University, in its antecedents, is a colonial school. Dating back to very early post-Revolutionary days, it was founded when the term “colonial” still applied to an era which was then passing. Let us then, in just regard for our precious heritage, adopt as the name for the warriors wearing the Buff and Blue the term “Colonials.”
The Washington Post reported that some students might not support the change.
Caroline Hakes, a freshman who is director of public relations for the GW College Republicans, said her group believes administrators should listen to student opinion and make the decision from there.
“There’s obviously a contingent of students that feel the mascot should be changed, that it’s not representative of modern times,” she said.
Her group hasn’t taken a position, but she said, “I think the reason that people would disagree is that this is a part of our school legacy, our school history. There are people that would argue you can’t change history just because it makes you uncomfortable.”
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