Pondering a Plethora of Pugnacious Proboscidea
I was never taken with the whole mammoth movement. The idea that the perfect Amherst College sports mascot would be a creature renowned for being slow, dim and dead… Well, what can I say?
Things got even stranger when the college hired a design firm that produced the currently ubiquitous logo. They gave us an image of a beast sporting a nose, its eyes cast downward and its hackles raised. The surly lug is pitched forward, one leg aloft, and appears ready to charge — unless it simply keels over due to its oversized cantilevered tusks.
I expect this logo, like the choice of mascot itself, is a done deal. And the “mammothification” of the college proceeds apace. It seems that wherever one turns these days, one runs into the wooly beast. For ease of reference, let’s give it a name: conjoin the first few letters of “mammoth” and the last few of “Amherst” and there you have it: Mammherst. The “h” is silent.
Now, the Mammherst logo is everywhere. Banners of Mammherst hang from every dorm. Frost Library once wrapped itself in a mammoth mantle of Mammherst. Newsletters and posters sport Mammherst peeking out from somewhere on the page. In daily emails, Mammherst glowers under the signatures of college officials. New faculty are invited to Mammherst-themed dinners, and new students are welcomed as members of the Mammherst herd. Even emergency instructions feature Mammherst telling us how to deal with a shooter.
Though the situation is extreme, we should not get carried away by the rumors. I don’t believe, for instance, that President Biddy Martin’s position will soon be titled mammoth-in-chief, or that the Board of Trustees is considering renaming the institution Mammoth College. But reliable sources have informed me that the college’s phone number will soon be changed to (413) MAM-MOTH (626-6684); that later this year a new academic program will be inaugurated in “Mammoth studies”; that anti-mammoth speech will soon be regulated on campus; that the college’s “Hymn to Amherst” will henceforth conclude “With eye and mind and trunk”; and that come the college’s bicentenary, a new motto will be unveiled: “Mammuthum Irradient.”
It can all seem a bit strange. Last I checked, we were an institution of higher learning, not a mammoth-themed social club. What has this pachydermatous creature got to do with teaching or research? Strange indeed. That is, unless you think that we’re all going the way of the mammoth — so really, why not embrace it as our guide, as our doomed lumbering herald of things to come?
Mammherst! Mammherst! Nightmare of Mammherst! Mammherst the loveless! Mental Mammherst! Mammherst the heavy judger of men!