Tonight at 6 p.m. in Driscoll Underground, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) will discuss a resolution proposing banning the use of club and student activity funding by campus clubs to purchase materials with the image of the Denver Boone mascot.
A student and faculty “task force” formed by student Will Guy and led by Student Body President Sam Estenson has also begun to examine the possibility of instituting a new, official university mascot by next year.
Estenson said the resolution, which will be discussed tonight, proposes that student organizations have 30 days after the implementation of a new official university mascot to phase out all funding for items with Boone’s image.
Estenson also said there is no possibility that Boone will be brought back and re-approved as the official mascot of DU.
“I do not see any future in which Boone will be brought back. We are not entertaining the idea of bringing Boone back,” said Estenson.
“There is a large number of students in the DU community who don’t understand the history of Boone. The idea is that Native American history is being marginalized,” said Estenson. “People argue that the image is cute, that it was drawn by Disney. But the image is unacceptable.”
The resolution has met opposition from student groups and alumni. Sam White, senior class council president and former senate pro tempore of USG, has publicly spoken out in opposition.
“I think Sam, Parker [Parker Calbert, student body vice president], and the entire USG crew have done a very good job up until now,” said White. “Boone has been accepted as a student mascot and no amount of administration or bills USG may write will ever change that.”
Senior Zeke Perez, who acted as Boone for three years, said banning use of student funding on Boone gear and introducing a new mascot would likely not end student use of Boone on campus.
“I don’t know how much it [the resolution] would really do, because the alumni have really done a great job of funding Boone,” said Perez. Much of the Boone gear on campus, including the costume Perez used to wear, is funded through alumni donations.
However, Estenson and the task force created to find a new mascot stand behind their decision.
“The student organization money comes from everyone, it is not appropriate for everyone to pay when some of those purchases can be hurtful,” said Estenson.
Estenson said Tuesday’s legislation was not directly in response to the recent protests of Boone by three members Sof the Native Student Alliance (NSA) at the filming of a DU Harlem Shake video on Feb. 15. However, he called the protests an “impetus” to look at the issue.
USG already has an unspoken agreement against making any purchases of merchandise with Boone’s image, according to Estenson. However, the each organization can currently decide how to spend the money stipulated to them through the student activity fee.
“I understand why students enjoy Boone, but I genuinely believe that if students understood imagery behind Boone, they would not continue to use him,” said Estenson. “The senate has reached a point where we feel it is time to say we will not support him anymore. Yes he is part of our history, but that DU is not the DU we attend anymore.”
However, White disagrees.
“It’s a discussion to be had within the entire student body, not within a group of 30 individuals in which only a few of them have ever participated in school spirit,” he said. “Students are in control of their own school spirit and that won’t change unless it comes from the students itself.”
Estenson is also among those leading a task force assembled by Junior Will Guy to find a new mascot for the university. While the discussion on the current USG legislation began last week, the task force formed three weeks ago.
The idea was originally presented to USG by Guy after he met with the chancellor to discuss the idea of finding a new mascot. The chancellor advised him to meet with USG and explain the idea to them.
Guy presented the idea to USG in fall quarter, and three weeks ago they began official preparations on the task force under the leadership of Estenson.
“I thought I would get a little something going when I met with the Chancellor, and it went way beyond my expectations,” said Guy.
The task force has recently prepared an official mission statement. It reads, “We as a student task force are here because there is no mascot around which students can rally that accurately reflects the University of Denver and its identities, beliefs, traditions and what it means to be a pioneer. We shall facilitate the selection of a mascot that empowers, inspires and celebrates the diversity of the University of Denver community. Remembering our history, while pioneering our future, the new mascot will be implemented by a rebranding of University of Denver merchandise and marketing.”
According to Estenson, the task force is working with leaders from many different factions of campus, including Greek Life, Athletics, the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME), the Office of Student Life, the marketing department and the Provost. All are helping to come up with ideas to find and implement a new mascot. The marketing division is helping to develop an introduction campaign similar to that used to introduce the new logo earlier this year.
Guy said the team is now working on developing an outline for the process. After the first stages are completed, the task force will begin communicating their work to the student body.
“We wanted to make sure we had clear, defined goals for people,” said Guy. “There is already confusion, so we wanted to make sure across the board we could have our bases covered.”
According to Guy, the task force has also started hearing ideas for a new mascot as well, though they are not making any official suggestions at this point. He said they have had suggestions for images such as an astronaut, gold miner, an ox and an elk.
“We want to find something funny and fun, not too offensive,” said Guy. “There becomes an inherent problem with a human-based mascot. You make him look a certain way, and automatically a group will find it offensive.”
The group will eventually open up comments and voting to students on a selected list of mascots.
“We’re hoping that once we provide these alternatives, that everyone will catch on and everyone will understand why Boone isn’t an option,” said Guy. “Now that there has been negative backlash, it is important to say we are coming up with a viable alternative.”
Estenson also said it was important to take time to establish clear goals to the student community.
“There is a lot of misinterpretation about what is going on. Our final goal is to find a new image that is inclusive,” said Estenson.
Identity and Inclusivity
Perez said the loss of Boone could result in the loss of school identity.
While traveling to other states for sports games or to “mascot boot camps,” Perez said the Boone costume was recognizable to many.
“The big thing for me whenever I go to another state people aren’t familiar with me, from what I’ve seen from those out of state and in other parts of the state, it’s definitely a way for them to identify DU,” said Perez.
Perez also expressed concern that the formation of a new mascot and the elimination of Boone would damage the identity of DU as the “pioneers.”
“If you get rid of Boone or any type of pioneer, then what’s the point of being the pioneers?” Perez said. “We have had that name for almost 100 years, if you move away from a human mascot you move away from the name.”
Estenson, however, said Boone no longer represents the image of the University of Denver.
“I am very aware the implementation of a new image is a long process, but we [USG] are in agreement that the longer we promote and allow Boone in this capacity, the more he is hurting the student body and delaying finding an inclusive image,” said Estenson.
Perez also said banning use of student funding for Boone gear and introducing a new mascot would likely not end student use of Boone on campus.
But Perez said he, for one, would be open to the idea of a new official mascot.
“I would be interested to see what they could come up with that represents pioneers,” said Perez. “Regardless, I feel we need a mascot. I think it’s something every school needs. If we were able to decide on one that would be great.”
As for Boone, Estenson also said he would always be part of DU’s history.
“He is in the alumni house now, and he will remain in the alumni house,” said Estenson.
Guy agreed, saying DU needs to find a way to move past Boone.
“I don’t want people to forget our past. But one of the biggest things at this school is redefining what it means to be a Pioneer. It is important where we come from, but what is more important is where we are going,” said Guy.
Boone, DU’s official mascot for 30 years, was eliminated by Chancellor Daniel Ritchie in 1998. Since then, however, students have continued to support the image, and have argued to reinstate him as the official mascot. Though their attempts have been unsuccessful, the visage is still largely used by students on campus, prompting controversy about the history of Boone’s namesake, pioneer Daniel Boone.