George Washington U. to Drop Controversial Nickname, Considering Replacements

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George Washington University, the largest institution of higher education in Washington, D.C., is dropping its Colonials nickname and has narrowed the replacement down to four options. 

ABC news reported Monday that GWU's sports teams were the source of controversy when students said the name had a negative connotation regarding violence toward Native Americans and other colonized people.

The original list of replacement names started at 10, and now the campus community has narrowed the list down to four after receiving "nearly 20,000 points of feedback from the GW community," according to a university news release.

"It has been energizing to see so many members of the GW community participate in the development of our new moniker," said Ellen Moran, vice president for communications and marketing. "As we begin this next phase of feedback, I hope all GW community members continue joining us in this deliberate and thoughtful process for developing the new moniker."

The shortened list includes the "Ambassadors," "Blue Fog," "Revolutionaries" and "Sentinels."

The next phase of the renicknaming process, which runs from March 20 to April 28, will include feedback from students, faculty, staff and alumni. During this phase, the community will have a chance to view "hype videos" of each name option and be able to select branded merchandise for each moniker option.

According to the university's student-led newspaper, The Hatchet, calls for the change of the moniker began in 2018 when students launched a petition urging university officials to change the "extremely offensive" name that ended with nearly 550 signatures. In 2019, the student body held a referendum where around 54 percent of students voted in favor of changing the name, according to the newspaper.

Students and alumni criticized the Colonials moniker during the Diversity Summit in the fall of 2019 at an event hosted by the "Anything But Colonial Coalition," citing the nickname reinforced a “divisive hierarchy” and made the University “complicit” in centuries of colonial violence and repression, according to The Hatchet.

The Hippo served as an unofficial mascot for the university, according to the student newspaper, but due to trademark troubles, it was never official.

The GWU renaming joins the many athletic teams who have recently undergone brand changes due to negative racial connotations, including Cleveland pro baseball team's change from Indians to Guardians and the Washington football team's change from Redskins to Commanders, ABC News reported.

While some athletic teams are changing their names, some teams, like the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs, argue their teams' original names are crucial to their history.

The George Washington University board of trustees will announce a new nickname for its athletic teams by the 2023-24 academic school year. The university mascot, George 1, who has been around since 1948, will remain the same, ABC News reported.

The school's official guiding principles released in January for the new moniker outline three themes, "Shaping the Future," "Free to Be Bold" and "At the Center of Power," and three personality traits, tenacious, electric and open, for the new moniker to embody.

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