Attention, students, faculty and alumni of the Northwest Conference. In Tacoma, that means you, oh loyal fans of Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound.
You take great pride in collegiate traditions that run deep on your nine Washington and Oregon campuses. The faithful rally around your fight songs, colors, logos, mascots and other iconography.
But now Whitman College in Walla Walla has disrupted NWC tradition with the subtlety of a fire alarm at a frat party. In a self-reflective exercise that collected input from thousands of current and former Whitties, the school's leaders essentially posed the question: Is there anything sacred about our mascot?
The answer was a resounding "no." Not even a mascot based on a historical religious figure – a missionary – was deemed sacred.
Whitman President Kathy Murray agreed with the recommendation of a "mascot working group" to retire the Missionary, after a survey found it to be divisive, subject to ridicule and inappropriate for a non-religious-affiliated school. Survey takers gave it strong disapproval ratings on a Trumpian scale.
“Moving forward, I know that Whitman College will be strengthened as a result of the collective efforts that we are making to be inclusive and welcoming,” Murray wrote this spring in a letter announcing a mascot change.
A second group (because you can never have enough mascot working groups) will come up with alternative mascot ideas, then submit them to a popular vote next fall.
The Fighting Vintners? The Mighty Sweet Onions? Stay tuned.
Whitman has been identified with the Missionary for most of the college's 134-year history. It recognizes the role Christian missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman played in settling the Walla Walla Valley.
These days the word "missionary" often takes on a pejorative connotation, the embodiment of the white interloper running roughshod over indigenous cultures. Indeed, the Whitmans brought a flood of colonists to the region, along with their diseases. But they also brought schools and medicine to the natives, and shared farming skills as well as their faith, before they were slaughtered in the Whitman Massacre.
How odd that the Missionary is held in lower regard than other NWC mascots, including the looting-and-pillaging Whitworth University Pirate.
Missionaries get a bad rap. One of history's most revered women, Mother Teresa, was a missionary. Of all their qualities, however, Mother Teresa and her fellow altruists are not known for ferocity in athletic competition - and maybe that's where people of good faith (or no faith) can agree a mascot change makes sense.
Meanwhile, is it time for UPS to cut the Logger as its mascot? Deforestation is hardly an image that conforms with the progressive North End campus.
And at PLU, the Lute seems obsolete at a time when the school is backing away from its Lutheran heritage. How about the Stormin' Secularists?
Don't get us started on the Evergreen State College and its Geoduck, the most spineless and shallow U.S. college mascot this side of the Banana Slug.
Perhaps it's time for all Northwest universities to appoint their brightest minds to serve on mascot working groups.
Tradition is so overrated.