clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Don't mess with the mascot!

New, 37 comments

The University Student Assembly voted to have multiple mascots "to support ethnic and gender diversity by adding multiple Scarlet Knights that could be black, Latino, Asian, female or third gender in addition to the existing Caucasian Scarlet Knight". We might have a problem here.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Have you seen the New York Lottery commercials where people look back at their young, past selves and sort of question what they were doing? Like here....

I'm sort of thinking about the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) in those terms, based on their recent vote to come up with a more diverse - and perhaps several versions of diverse - Scarlet Knight.

Oh, those kids!

Except, they're serious. Emmet Brennan, student assembly parliamentarian, commented in the Targum:

"What we were thinking — the way the bill's laid out — it's not defined that we need an Asian knight, a black knight, a Latino knight," said Brennan, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student. "That we would really leave it up to the different student organizations ... and basically the student body as a whole to determine how many knights they'd like and what these knights would represent."

What would the Knight represent? It would represent Rutgers. Like it does now. On athletic fields and courts. It is not a political statement. It is, for heaven's sake, a cartoon character! This has even got me agreeing with (gasp!) Steve Politi:

And Politi's comments are on point:

The primary purposes of a mascot are to pose for photos with 8-year-olds, make adults laugh whenever possible, and record hilarious ESPN commercials.

Unless a university is stubbornly defending an offensive nickname and mascot, traditions at a university are a good thing. Nobody should be offended by a knight. Unless they're a dragon.

College students have different perspectives than adults; their view of the world is fairly focused on what happens on campus. And it should be. But Brennan, who supported this bill before the RUSA, hit a point that cannot be ignored:

The bill has not yet been unveiled to alumni, but Brennan said backlash is "inevitable," and that the student assembly anticipated anger from alumni, which is why the current mascot would not be eliminated and more mascots would be added.

"I mean, obviously you're going to have people who are going to say, you know, we're destroying tradition," he said. "It's inevitable. There's always going to be people who complain, but I think we won't receive that much pushback because we are keeping the current knight. We're just, I think, taking pride in our current diversity as a school as we are now, but also recognizing where we were."

Yeah, alumni pushback. I'm raising my hand as an alumnus who thinks this is not a good idea. What exactly is broken that it needs to be fixed? The RUSA references the change in the Alma Mater (I do not sing the new words!) as how "tradition" has been altered. But what gets proven by creating multiple Knights? The mascot is the symbol, not one with several versions.

Political science lesson on the RUSA:

Mission statement: We strive to address and to solve the problems of students on and off campus to create a better student experience for all Rutgers students.

Uhhh, again, where's the problem they're trying to address?

And what they do:

RUSA exists to not only serve Rutgers students, but to also empower the student body to be all that it can be. From mobilizing students to affect change on campus and in our communities, to working with university administration, faculty, and staff to help students with their daily lives, RUSA is committed to the student body and will work hard to live up to your expectations.

Okay, empower students to be all that they can be. Good and noble ideas. But how is this helping students with their daily lives? I'd think working for fewer or no tuition hikes would be good. How about lobbying for more student aid?

Let's take this to its ridiculous extreme. So you've got multiple mascots, or mascot buddies, that represent other ethnic groups. Which mascot gets to perform at any particular event? This year, on September 5, Rutgers hosts Norfolk State, an Historically Black College. Again, which mascot do we break out? The black Scarlet Knight, in recognition of our opponent's history, or the white Scarlet Knight, or some other one? I mean, NSU is over 83% black. Would having the white Knight be offensive? Would a black Knight be pandering? And their Spartan looks.....well, neutral.

And, the last three times we played them, it didn't seem to matter to Norfolk State what our mascot looked like; they were more concerned about the 59-0, 31-0, 38-0 scores by which they lost.

This is not a battle worthy of fighting. The Scarlet Knight is who he is. ....a caricature.  And a representative of Rutgers.  Not representative of Rutgers, but a representative. MSU's Sparty is who he is. Purdue Pete and Herbie Husker are, too. And, yes, I know those schools can't compare with Rutgers in terms of diversity. We all know Rutgers is one of the most diverse universities in America, and we can and should embrace and celebrate that. But let's not trivialize it by creating a gaggle of Mini-Me Knights.

Don't mess with the mascot!