At this point, it’s hard to defend keeping the Lord Jeff as our mascot. Lord Jeffery Amherst advocated genocide against Native Americans. By celebrating him as our mascot, we tacitly condone both the man and his actions. Not only does this conflict with the values of any modern-day liberal arts institution, our designation as the Jeffs is a cruel irony in the face of increasing pushes for more diversity and representation from Native American students.
Amherst is not alone in the legacy of racist college mascots. Dartmouth College abandoned their unofficial mascot, “the Indians,” in favor of “Big Green” (or “Keggy the Keg” depending on who you ask). Stanford University also went by the “Indians” before officially dropping it for the Cardinal in 1981. But unlike its peer institutions, Amherst is still just as stubbornly tied to our racist mascot as the Washington Redskins.
Many on this campus understand that the Lord Jeff’s time is long over but don’t yet believe we have a viable alternative. The Moose is more than a viable alternative; it is the community solution we’ve been waiting for. For starters, the Moose has already gained more than 1,100 likes on Facebook. The Moose-scot (the official spelling is up for debate) would fit nicely within the NESCAC: In addition to the Ephs, who are in actuality purple cows, we compete regularly against bobcats, polar bears, white mules, camels, panthers and large elephants (Jumbos). It’s easy to imagine first-years excitedly putting on antlers, running to the field on homecoming day and taking selfies with a student in a moose costume. A moose isn’t silly. What is absurd is the Wesleyan University Cardinals competing against an embodiment of colonialist ideals.
Tradition is not an excuse for something so indefensible. If given the choice today for a new mascot, one would hope that the whole student body would pick the Moose over the Lord Jeff. Then why can we not replace him today? Is the fact that “moose” isn’t easily pluralized a good enough reason to continue implicitly celebrating our racist legacy as an institution, town and country?
The Moose may not be perfect, but no alternative will be right for every single member of the student body. The Moose has united students, faculty, staff and administration more than any other potential mascot, and it is hard to believe that any alternative mascot will attract a stronger following in the foreseeable future. Now what we need is a final push from all of us to reject the legacy of racism, colonization and exploitation that the Lord Jeff represents.