Mascot must be changed to cultivate community, belonging

Tangie! The tangerine
By Rosalie Zuckermann

A new mascot would change college perception, foster identity, and better represent students

The mythos of Lewis & Clark, of the Oregon trail and the pioneers who walked it, seems to be an important cultural narrative to Oregon — a narrative equivalent to the ’49ers of California or the pilgrims of New England. It is a narrative so celebrated that Portland’s public square, NBA basketball team and our school have all been named after it. 

But the fact of the matter is that our name and mascot do not represent us, and in that misrepresentation, they prevent the fostering of that school spirit, which is so important to small liberal arts colleges. 

Lewis & Clark is a poorly chosen name, not just because of the colonial ambitions of its bearers, but also because, as people, they neither represent nor contributed anything to our institution, they never stepped foot in Portland. 

Even if for some reason we needed to be named after European explorers of the Oregon Coast, others such as James Cook and Juan de Fuca would make just as much, if not more, sense, at least representing our college’s focus on international exploration (although I in no way support a Juan de Fuca college). 

However, these men, like Lewis and Clark, will never make any real sense as the name of our institution because they in no real way represent it. What’s especially harmful is that Lewis and Clark’s image already bears so heavily in the national imagination that it extinguishes any attempt at the formation of a college identity. 

When one hears “Lewis and Clark,” nobody’s first thought will be the college in Portland. We have a strong campus culture, but our name will never conjure an image of that culture because of the image already tied to the explorers. 

If we are to be a respected institution, then we need to choose a namesake that respects our institution. Let LC students create their own identity instead of sloppily appropriating loose themes of exploration from an irrelevant colonial enterprise.

The Frank family’s gift sale of Fir Acres to Albany College along with their equity-minded use of the estate as a market space for Jewish vendors in Portland makes Frank College a potential alternative to Lewis & Clark, although the name should ultimately be decided upon by the student body. 

I understand that changing the name of any institution — especially one with national accolades such as the #1 Environmental Law program and 21st best student paper — is difficult, especially as people begin to associate the name with its excellent academics and mentorship. I believe the best compromise is to change the name of our mascot. 

I have never heard an LC student refer to themselves with pride as a Pioneer. Doing so can often feel uncomfortable. Our mascot fails as a mascot because it is not adopted by, but rather forced upon, the student body. It is not consensually utilized as a symbol of the college and thus fails as a mascot. 

Even if the institution argues that a Pioneer is a “positive description” of someone, there is no real reason why we should be called the Pioneers, as opposed to the Innovators, or something such as that. 

If we are using the term “pioneer” to mean someone who innovates, why use the word that is chiefly associated with Western expansion?

Although a new mascot would need to be decided upon by the student body, my suggestion is the Tangerines (students would be referred to as tangies). The mascot is inspired by the use of oranges to represent Albany College in the “Orange Peal” yearbooks. 

This way, the college can honor its past through the use of one of our original mascots, while maintaining the orange color scheme used throughout the design and architecture of our college. The sweet and friendly nature of the orange represents the welcoming character of our student body. 

The orange is a symbol of gift giving, optimism and bounty, being featured during Christmas, and as a feminist and pro-LGBTQ+ symbol in some Passover seders. This fits well with our college’s values of kindness, collaboration and perseverance. In my mind, the most convincing reason for the orange is that it is very liberal arts-y. I could very easily see us identifying ourselves with the Tangerines in a way that we never will with the Pioneers. 

Alternative ideas include the Lewis & Clark Roses and the Lewis & Clark Fighting Moss.

A change of mascot could radically change how students viewed themselves in relation to the college. A representative mascot allows the student identity to be reciprocally tied to the college’s branding, as opposed to being in direct conflict with it. Students would define the college from the bottom-up, as opposed to marketers defining us from the top-down. First years would enter the college excited to discover what being a Tangerine is all about. 

Our campus mascot would change from a historical artifact begrudgingly tolerated by students to a feature of the college eagerly embraced by our community.

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