Student vote goes against SEMO nicknames

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Southeast Missouri State University should drop its Indian nicknames and find a new name and a mascot that will boost school pride, student leaders say.

The school's Student Government recommended such action on a 24-3 vote Monday night after two hours of discussion.

Any final decision rests with the university's board of regents. Student Government joins the school's National Alumni Council, which recommended the same course of action in July.

Students said university officials have ignored the Indian and Otahkian nicknames for the school's sports teams for 18 years. The university hasn't had an Indian mascot since 1985.

"This is not a decision of political correctness," said student senator Paul Norman.

Students said it's a practical matter because university administrators long ago elected to scrap an Indian mascot and refrain from depicting the Indian on hats, T-shirts and other school merchandise.

Student senator Ross McFerron said the university needs a mascot to help market the Cape Girardeau school and boost school spirit. He said the Indian nicknames aren't mentioned in any of the promotional literature that the school distributes to prospective students.

Laura Hockensmith, a student regent, said the current situation is a "marketing disaster."

Student senator Brian Whitehead is a member of the cross country and track team. "I don't feel a connection to the Indian," he said.

Student senators said some students don't even know the nicknames of the school's sports teams. "That's sad," said Student Government president Adam Schaefer.

But student senator Adam Hanna said there's nothing wrong with the nicknames of Indian for the men's athletic teams and Otahkians for the women's teams. He said a new nickname or even having a mascot won't boost school pride.

"Harvard isn't known for its mascot. We don't need to be either," Hanna said.

Senator Julie Hixson, who also opposed dropping the nicknames, said a survey of 683 students conducted last week found only 25 percent favored a change.

Some senators decried the antics of members of a fraternity who paint their faces and chests red and perform their version of an Indian dance at university basketball games. Some senators said it was offensive to American Indians.

But a few senators said it showed school spirit.

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