At George Washington University, the powers that be are apparently capitulating to students who protested against the school’s mascot, the “Colonial,” as the student center, which used to be named “Colonial Central,” is now called the “Student Services Hub.”
As Kara Zupkus of Young American’s Foundation reports, “While the official mascot remains the colonial, the university recently renamed ‘Colonial Central,’ the student center focused on registration and financial services, to the ‘Student Services Hub.'” Zupkus adds, “The student group ‘Colonial Army,’ which draws students to attend sporting events for the school, rebranded itself ‘George’s Army.'”
Last spring, a referendum to change the mascot was passed, as 54% of students approved of a change. In May 2018, students launched a petition to change the mascot. The petition stated, “The use of ‘Colonials,’ no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only students of the university, but the nation and the world at large. The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression. Alternative nickname recommendations are ‘Hippos,’ ‘Revolutionaries,’ or ‘Riverhorses.'”
Campus Reform reported at the time, “Rachel Yakobashvili, a petition organizer, told Campus Reform that she started the petition because ‘it was time for students to be able to voice their concerns and desires in a more public and organized manner.'” Another petition organizer, Andrew Hesbacher, told the GW Hatchet, “It’s very wrong for us to call ourselves an open and welcoming university when the name means such demise and terror for students who could possibly come here.”
The “Colonial” was named the school’s official mascot in 1926. The GW Hatchet ran an editorial in 1926 that stated:
Dissatisfaction has been expressed for the past several years with the nicknames usually associated with the George Washington University’s athletic teams. Some years ago the name “Hatchetites” was invented for the team and it, or some corruption of it has been used ever since. Now the terms “Hatchetities,” “Hatchetmen,” “Hatchets,” “Crummen,” “Axemen,” “Tongmen,” and so forth, are all very well, if not entirely euphonious, but they hardly carry the dignity that our team should bear.
In the place of the names the University Hatchet suggests the use of the connotation “Colonials” for the teams of the Buff and Blue. What name could be more fitting? This, the school named after George Washington, and having as its colors the Continental Army buff and blue, the colors of Colonial America, should be entitled to bear the name of “Colonials” if any school is so entitled. George Washington University, in its antecedents, is a colonial school. Dating back to very early post-Revolutionary days, it was founded when the term “colonial” still applied to an era which was then passing. Let us then, in just regard for our precious heritage, adopt as the name for the warriors wearing the Buff and Blue the term “Colonials.”
In 2000, GWU president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg brought a statue of a hippo to campus; it has been the unofficial mascot ever since.