Southeast Missouri State University’s Mascot/Nickname Study Committee has created a Web site to solicit ideas for a new University mascot/nickname. The site is located on the Web at http://www2.semo.edu/urelations/mascot.
In recent months, several organizations connected with the University, including the National Alumni Council, Student Government and the Booster Club Board, have voted to recommend to the University administration that the nickname/mascots of Indian and Otahkian be retired.
In light of these recommendations, a Mascot/Nickname Study Committee was appointed with representation from the National Alumni Council, Student Government, the Booster Club, the University Athletics Department, students (including student athletes), the Clerical-Technical-Service Employee Staff Council, Professional Staff Council and Faculty Senate.
On March 3, 2004, this group voted unanimously to recommend to the president and the Board of Regents that the mascots/nicknames be retired with dignity and honor and that a new mascot/nickname be selected. The committee, chaired by Dr. Ed Leoni, professor of health, human performance and recreation, is continuing to meet to pursue a new mascot/nickname.
The decision and vote to retire the mascot/nickname was difficult, but committee members voiced several reasons for their decision.
Many Native Americans find the mascot/nicknames offensive. Over the past 10 years, the University has hosted numerous Native American guests, including speakers, performers and artists. The vast majority have indicated that they found the University’s nickname to be offensive to Native American beliefs and cultures.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee has conducted a study and published recommendations indicating that institutions using athletic team nicknames relating to Native Americans (such as Indians and Otahkians) should consider changing those nicknames to avoid being offensive to members of that ethnic group. Southeast discontinued the tradition of using mascots in Native American costume and related symbols in spirit activities in 1985. During the past decade, the University has discontinued efforts to market clothing and other merchandise marked with those symbols and does not mention the mascot/nickname in literature designed for prospective students.
The University’s Strategic Plan, adopted by the Board of Regents, outlines the goals and objectives of the University, including a mission of inclusiveness and diversity.
Committee members believe the issue isn’t one of political correctness, but is one of having a nickname/mascot that can be depicted in costume to boost school spirit and that the Native American nickname/mascot has become unacceptable educationally, politically, morally and religiously.
Members of the committee are canvassing University constituents for input as to possible recommendations for a nickname and/or mascot. Committee members say a university nickname is an additional or substitute name, usually descriptive in nature and given in pride, fun and affection. A mascot is any person, place or thing adopted by a group as a symbol or for good luck and traditionally represented by some sort of costume. A nickname and mascot can be the same, such as the Tigers represented by a costumed Tiger as mascot. However, they can be different as is the case with The University of Alabama Crimson Tide nickname, which uses an elephant as the mascot.
Those who have ideas can use the Web site to both send recommendations to the committee and to view those recommendations that have been submitted via the Web. Those who do not have access to the Web can mail recommendations to Leoni at One University Plaza, MS 7650, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701 or contact University Relations at (573) 651-5910.