New mascot name faces challenges in beginning stages

by Rob Stewart

After deciding to change the mascot, the task of deciding on a new mascot remained.

Though former president Stephen Jennings’ decision to change the mascot was made without public input, he did open the search for a new nickname to Simpson community members.

In April 1992, the 24-member task force made up of students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni came forth with a verdict. Dennis Hunt, vice president for development and college relations at the time, served as chairman of the taskforce.

“We met for several months and we collected lists after lists with hundreds, if not thousands of nicknames,” Hunt said. “We had lists of every bird, mammal, reptile, weather pattern, bush, tree, flower, color and fish.”

A student submission was chosen and the athletic teams were, from that moment on, known as the Simpson Storm.

“It was a real and frustrating challenge and had there been a different collection of committee members at the final meeting, Simpson College would have a completely different nickname today,” Hunt said.

Shortly after the new nickname was announced another taskforce was appointed to pick a new mascot to go along with the nickname. The Thundercat was later chosen as Simpson’s mascot. However, the Thundercat costume was stolen shortly after and Simpson has been mascot-less ever since.

According to a 2003 article by Professor Bruce Johansen, appearing in the academic publication Simile, since the early 1970s, 1,250 of the 3,000 elementary and high schools and colleges with mascots or nicknames derived from Native Americans have changed them.

However, despite the numbers of converted schools, the issue still rages today.

In February 2002, an intramural college basketball team at the University of Northern Colorado named its team the “Fightin’ Whites.” The multi-racial group of students intended for its name to criticize the Fighting Reds of nearby Eaton High School. The “Fightin’ Whities,” as it came to be known in the media, used a white man in a business suit as their logo. The nickname and mascot were coupled with the team’s saying, “Everythang Gonna be All White.”

The nickname became a national debate as the “Fightin’ Whites” put whites in the place of Native Americans. According to Johansen, many people found the nickname and mascot to be an ineffective comparison to the issue of Native American mascots.

In an April 23, 2001 article in the NCAA News, Rex Veeder, interim director of the St. Cloud State University American Indian Center, commented on the harm caused by collateral damage – the spectator practice of using ethnic slurs or other race related attacks to demean the other team or mascot.

“Sometimes the only things more offensive than what a school creates for itself [are] what its opponents create against it,” Veeder said.