Which mascot will you choose?

Marra Clay, Publisher

The Whitman Blue Ravens? The Whitman Appaloosas? The Whitman Blues? The Whitman Sockeyes? It’s up to you  to choose. The college community has the chance to vote on the new college mascot now that the Mascot Working Group has released the four final mascot options. However, many students feel that the options are lackluster.

In early September, the Mascot Working Group started soliciting ideas for a mascot after deciding to abandon the Missionary this past April. According to an email sent to the community this past Monday, Oct. 17, they received over 1,500 different mascot suggestions. In the email, the Mascot Working Group released the final four options for the college’s new mascot: Appaloosas, Blue Ravens, Blues or Sockeyes. The community has the opportunity to vote on these four mascots through a ranking survey.

Junior Tim Howell was the only student representative in the Mascot Working Group, and according to him, the process for choosing the four options was extensive. The working group discussed many of the values that the Whitman community holds, and then analyzed mascot suggestions accordingly.

“What we tried to figure out in the beginning stages was what represented the college…later on in the process we started going through names that we thought would fit,” Howell said.

The email from the Mascot Working Group emphasized the goal that the four final options will demonstrate Whitman’s values. It read, “We believe any of these mascots would achieve our goals of bringing together the Whitman community, instilling pride in Whitman and reflecting the shared values of our community.”

Despite this positive perspective, many students have mixed responses to the mascot options. The Wire turned to students and staff for their thoughts on the options.

Senior Eva Geisse questioned whether or not the final four mascot options properly fit the campus.

“I’m not over the moon about any of them,” Geisse said. “When I think of three out of the four of them, I don’t think Whitman. The Blues was the only one that when I thought of it I thought of Whitman and driving into Walla Walla. But, outside of Walla Walla not many people will know what the Blues are.”

Staff member and alumni Brian Acosta (‘16) also had issues with The Blues option. “The biggest concern that I have is that the Missionary mascot kept reminding us of where we came from. If we change it to the Blue Mountains then we only get a geographical sense, not a historical sense.”

The Indigenous Peoples Education and Culture Club (IPECC) played a significant role in mobilizing students last year to remove the Missionary mascot. IPECC member senior Zoey Kapusinski is worried that the Appaloosas could create some cultural insensitivity because appaloosa horses have a strong historical significance with the Nez Perce people. The American breed of appaloosas was developed by the Nez Perce tribe, but the breed was stolen by the U.S. Cavalry following the Nez Perce War of 1877. Since then, the breed has become popularized in American horse breeding.

“I love that Appaloosa was inspired by Styx,” Kapusinski wrote in an email to The Whitman Wire. “[But] I’m wondering if there’s still some extractive/culturally insensitive element with Appaloosa.” However, Kapusinski emphasized that any new mascot is a step forward.

“Regardless of which mascot is chosen, I think they’re all better than Missionaries,” Kapusinski said. “I know that as a high school student, I would have been legitimately more inclined to make Whitman my top choice with a mascot that was not the Missionaries.”

Illustrations by Claire Revere.
The four final mascot options are the Appaloosa, the Blues, the Blue Raven, and the Sockeye. Illustrations by Claire Revere.

All of the mascot options have varying critiques across campus. Some students feel that the Blue Raven is not unique enough to represent the Whitman community, and others feel that the Sockeye is too unique and silly. Many students noticed that the Blues, while they have regional significance, are nondescript and may have a questionable relationship with mental health (“I have the blues”). Many students did not know what an Appaloosa is.

Howell, who plays for the men’s basketball team, noted that it is important for the Whitman community to keep in mind the athletic significance of the mascot when voting.

“When it comes to the mascot, it represents the college as a whole but it mainly represents the athletes. When you think of the mascot you think of the athletes,” Howell said.

Howell thinks that it will be important for the new mascot to balance athletic and non-athletic parts of campus.

“[When representing the student body on the Mascot Working Group] I tried to make sure that the mascot was something that students could have pride in and rally around, in athletics and also the college…It’s all about trying to find something that represents athletes and non-athletes too, but is something that is still cool and creative and something that people can get behind,” Howell said.

President Kathy Murray feels as though these four options all have the capability to fit the values of the college today, and is pleased with the final mascot options.

“I like them all. The point was that by the time we sent [the survey] out, that the leadership of the college was in agreement that we could be any one of those four and be happy. And I would be happy with any of them,” Murray said.

Voting for the mascot will continue through Sunday, Oct. 30, and the final choice will be announced at a later date by Whitman’s Office of Communications.