Student perspective

Sunday, May 2, 2004

By Adam Schaefer

Throughout the past month I have noticed that the Southeast Missourian has been inundated with letters and opinions expressing discontent over Southeast Missouri State University's possible retirement of the Indian nickname and mascot. The majority of these comments have been made by alumni of the university and members of the community. However, there has been a glaring absence of opinions from the students.

As the current president of the Student Government Association, I feel it is important to add the Student Senate's perspective to the dialogue. As it has been previously reported, the Student Senate voted in favor of a resolution in support of retiring the Indian nickname. The political correctness of using the Indian was discussed at length, and the Student Senate took the time to gain a historical perspective of the use of Native American mascots. In addition to considering the appropriateness of using an Indian, the students also took into consideration the university's current usage of the nickname.

It was mentioned in the Student Senate and confirmed by a Student Government Association student survey that the university does not market or use the Indian mascot often or effectively enough and that if the university is unable to market the Indian due to current social pressures, then a change should be made. It became abundantly clear to the Student Senate that the issue of the political correctness of the Indian name is one that will not go away and will not be solved by maintaining the status quo.

Current students are unable to have the traditions in which alumni who graduated before the late 1980s were able to take part . As a result, many students have developed a use-it-or-lose-it philosophy. In addition, the resolution that was passed included a line that stated that the purpose of a nickname and mascot was to unite the student body and instill pride, things that the current name does not provide for students.

The students' decision was made with background knowledge and what was deemed to be the best option for current and future students. It was not necessarily a direct representation of all student sentiment. The Student Senate performed its role as elected representatives who make informed decisions that will best benefit the student body and not decisions driven by emotion. In this case, it was decided that a change is the most beneficial option the university has.

The vote did not include an alternate name, just the recommendation that the process of change include a multitude of opportunities for students to have input. The current process has involved and will continue to involve students. I have seen students on campus become excited over the possibility of a new nickname that the university can use and the students can be proud of.

I believe it is essential for the student perspective to be added to the flurry of debate over the current nickname. Students are yet another stakeholder in this issue that should be considered by those who are on both sides of this issue.

Adam Schaefer is the president of the Student Government Association at Southeast Missouri State University.

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