Union College mascot to change, for the better?

Bianca Ring, Opinions Editor

On February 1, Union College Communications and Marketing announced that they would be changing the school mascot. They requested that suggestions for a replacement mascot be submitted through a link attached to the email, and submissions are still being accepted until February 24. Currently, Union’s mascot is the Dutchmen, which the email explained was not chosen by the college itself, but given by reporters covering college sports in the early 20th century. The mascot was eventually named Dutch the Dutchman, with the student body being referred to collectively as the Dutchmen or Dutchwomen.

Union Communications and Marketing listed many reasons for changing the mascot in their email, with a more specific exhaustive explanation on their official website. They pointed out that most students and faculty don’t feel a strong connection with the Dutchmen mascot, and it is not commonly shown on Union merch or marketing material. The college is undergoing a general branding update “to strengthen how we communicate Union’s distinctiveness and the power of a Union education to prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public,” and part of that is updating the neglected mascot. 

Many students and staff were excited by the chance to choose a new mascot, suggesting things like The Union Squirrels, referencing the abundance of squirrels that reside on campus. Daniel Greenman ‘23, the News Editor for Concordiensis, suggested the Union Trimesters, highlighting a unique aspect of education at Union. Another nickname that similarly references a unique Union tradition is the Union College Minervas. Minerva, the Roman equivalent to the Greek goddess Athena, would be a powerful and appropriate mascot. Union’s academic and athletic organizations would each be well represented by Minerva as a symbol of both intelligence and strength. 

Union College Professor of Physics and Astronomy Francis Wilkin suggested “Evie the Electron,” citing Schenectady’s roots as a city built around the General Electric company. Schenectady is the Electric City, after all, and Union has a long history of contributions to help the city live up to this name. Professor Wilkin also added that Evie the Electron being a girl would emphasize that STEM is not only a field for men, and that Union is proudly represented by many women in STEM. Personally, I appreciate this particular reference to Union’s history a lot more than the reference to some of our founders’ Dutch heritage. 

Another suggestion, from Kali Jauregui ‘24, is the Union College Orcas. She stated that “I just think they’re cool, they don’t really have anything to do with Union college but it would look sick on a sports jersey.” I think a little cartoon orca wearing a red Union College scarf would be a great symbol to put on Union merchandise. Orcas are also aggressive, powerful animals, which feels like a respectable mascot for our sports teams.

Some people, however, have responded negatively to the change. A few people are still attached to the name, as some athletic teams still use it. Others have accused the college of pandering to “wokeness.” Union did acknowledge the history of Dutch settlement in the area as not entirely positive, as the Native populations were driven out of their homes by Dutch colonizers. However, this is not the college’s stated reasoning behind changing the name, it is simply one issue to be considered out of many. In the FAQ section for the nickname change, Union responds to accusations of “caving to wokeness,” stating that “we are simply proactively taking the opportunity afforded by our broader branding update to explore whether there are better nickname and mascot alternatives for the future.” The Dutchman nickname is in reference to the Dutch who settled the land that Union resides on, but the college itself doesn’t have strong ties to Dutch heritage anyway. Having a mascot that is more relevant to Union College and what it stands for is not just an example of virtue signaling to appease a liberal audience. In fact, Dutch Hollow will retain its name, which should appease anyone who finds it very important that our campus celebrates the accomplishments and heritage of the Dutch people.  

Another accusation from people upset with the change is that Union is trying to be more inclusive to nonbinary identities. Students are sometimes referred to as “Dutchmen,” or “Dutchwomen” after the college became coed in 1970. Nowhere on their website has Union College stated that this is the reason behind the mascot change, nor have they mentioned gender at all in this conversation. As far as I can tell, this argument is a figment of the imaginations of people who go out of their way to be annoyed by gender inclusivity. There’s nothing wrong with a gendered mascot, but there are many issues with Dutch the Dutchman. 

I can only assume that the people who are so adamant about keeping the name Dutchmen have never seen our official mascot costume. There is a good reason most people aren’t familiar with Dutch– he’s hideous. His dilapidated haircut and zombielike stare strike fear into my heart. He isn’t even terrifying in the funny, lovable way that some mascots are, like Gritty from the Philadelphia Flyers. From the bottom of my heart, I never want to see this man again. With a changed nickname, Union will have the chance to design an aesthetically pleasing mascot that will look good on sports jerseys, flags, and other merchandise.

Dutch the Dutchman, Credit to Union College Class of 1998 Facebook