AAS Holds Mascot Forum
Issue   |   Wed, 11/04/2015 - 02:50

Students and staff met in Cole Assembly Room for a forum on the college’s mascot hosted by the Association of Amherst Students on Monday, Nov. 1. The discussion addressed the possibility of eliminating and replacing the current unofficial mascot, the Lord Jeff.

During the first hour and a half of the forum, participants discussed whether the Lord Jeff should remain Senator Sam Keaser ’17E began the discussion by reviewing the contents of a recent letter published by the senate, which announced its opposition to the Lord Jeff as unofficial mascot.

Most students who spoke at the forum expressed views in favor of changing the mascot. None of the students at the forum made on-the-record statements defending the Lord Jeff.

“The primary argument for replacing the mascot is that the values the Lord Jeff stands for run deeply counter to the spirit of inclusiveness we claim is central to our mission,” said AAS Senator Shruthi Badri ’16, who supports changing the mascot. “There would have to be a really good argument to retain a symbol that alienates and demeans a substantial part of the student body, and I’m afraid ‘the current mascot is just fine’ or ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ just don’t cut it.”

Badri also noted that Dartmouth College, Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst had all changed mascots deemed to be offensive in the 1970s.

Molly Jordan ’16 expressed concern over the moose, a proposed alternative mascot. “It is clear that the Lord Jeff is no longer a unifying mascot. Just as we expect the mascot to be unifying, the process by which we change our mascot must also be unifying,” Jordan said in an email interview after the meeting. “Acting like the moose is our new mascot without the consent of the rest of the student body (or the president or the trustees) is alienating.”

Proponents of a change cautioned that no mascot would satisfy everybody.

“I don’t think we’re going to find something that everybody loves, and that’s unfortunate,” Asa Goodwillie ’16 said at the meeting. “But in 10 or 20 years when it’s become a tradition, then everybody will love it because it’s been there.”

Tania de Sousa Dias ’13, an admissions fellow for the college who has visited Native American prospective applicants, warned that the current mascot is discouraging them from applying.

“The mascot is deeply alienating and deeply offensive to Native American students,” she said. “[They] are really not considering Amherst to extent they could because of the mascot.”

Other students discussed aspects of the process of changing the mascot. Ben Fife ’16 said that if the current mascot were to be eliminated, the transition to a new mascot should occur quickly so that athletes do not have to play without one.
Keaser said it would be important to respect the will of the student body.

“If students vote against what you and I want, I think it’s our duty as members of the community to accept what students vote for,” he said. “We might not get exactly what we want, and that’s OK.”

In the second part of the meeting, participants proposed ideas for a mascot that may replace the Lord Jeff. Ideas included the Royals, the Trailblazers, the Frost and the Moose. The possibility of allowing each sports team to choose its own mascot was also discussed.As published in its letter, the AAS plans to hold a non-binding vote this semester on whether to remove the Lord Jeff. According to Keaser, based on the results of that vote, the process of choosing a new mascot may begin this spring.

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Comments
Dick Banfield '46 (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/06/2015 - 11:13

I am dissturbed that no song is being sung after a touchdown. I have never been in favor of Lord Jeffery because that is a beautiful song and we need a powerful song after a touchdown. Believe The Student should be behind some song. I favor "Old Amhersts Out For Business." The team needs to hear from the crowd that we're proud of their effort, not some recorded music.
Tomorrow's game will give us an opportunity. Go Amherst. All the best, Dick Banfield rijoban AT aol dot com

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