Students at George Washington University are demanding the school change its mascot, the “Colonials,” arguing the nickname may “discourage” students, due to not being “inclusive.” Students suggest changing the mascot to a “hippo” or “riverhorse” instead.
The initial call to change the George Washington University (GW) mascot, currently the Colonials, began in 2018, but resulted in no change. Now, student senator Hayley Margolis, is seeking to restart the push to remove the Colonial, according to The GW Hatchet.
Margolis hosted a panel last week — sponsored by the GW Student Association — to discuss whether or not the GW mascot is “inclusive,” by engaging in “critical conversation about GW school spirit and what the GW Colonial connotes.”
“Together, let’s decide if the colonial is the best identity for community school spirit,” reads the event description, insisting that students, staff, and community members should discuss “what it means to be a colonial in an academic, historical, and contemporary context.”
Margolis told The GW Hatchet, that GW’s team name, the Colonials, may discourage students from having “inclusive” school spirit, as the mascot might make them think about oppression and the hatred of a different race.
“We’re a very diverse institution,” added Margolis, “There are students that, if we were back in Colonial times, wouldn’t have been represented or treated equally. School spirit is something that should be based on equality.”
The petition that had originally circulated last spring calling on GW to change its official mascot had garnered just over 500 signatures.
“We, as students of the George Washington University, believe it is of great exigence that the University changes its official mascot,” states the petition, “The use of ‘Colonials,’ no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the University, but the nation and world at large.”
“The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression,” continues the petition, “Alternative nickname recommendations are ‘Hippos,’ ‘Revolutionaries,’ or ‘Riverhorses.’”
Associate professor of sociology, Fran Buntman, also finds the Colonial mascot questionable, but for different reasons.
Buntman says that President George Washington was an anti-Colonial, who fought against British control of the 13 colonies, adding that the term “colonialism” is oftentimes misattributed to Washington’s era.
“It’s always mystified me as to why GW would want to be associated with the idea of colonialism, let alone celebrate it,” said Buntman.