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Page prepared at 13:07, 3 JUL 96

  "Inappropriate' UTC Mascot Axed

"Inappropriate' UTC Mascot Axed

Free Press Staff Writer

UTC Chancellor Frederick Obear today put an end to the sometimes heated debate around the controversial mascot, Chief Moccanooga.

"The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will discontinue the use of Chief Moccanooga as a mascot, effective immediately,' Dr. Obear said in a statement released to the Free Press.

"The discontinuation of Chief Moccanooga as a mascot is done with the knowledge that the University community will identify a mascot capable of continuing with great success Chief Moccanooga's crowd-energizing mission.'

The mascot has come under fire by American Indians who found it offensive and university staffers who deemed it "inappropriate in an institution that values and celebrates diversity,' the chancellor said.

Over the past year, a number of forums were hosted by various campus organizations to debate the issue.

Dr. Obear said many campus-based organizations, including the Student Government Association, the UTC Alumni Council, the Faculty Council Executive Committee and the Chancellor's staff have recommended that the university find "a suitable replacement' for the Chief.

This course of action, Dr. Obear added, also gets a nod of approval from the two students who served as mascot, key members of the athletics department staff and presidents of many student groups.

Dr. Obear believes that the students' use of the mascot was never intended to cast American Indians in a negative light.

But, "it is also clear that real and deep offense was taken by some,' he said.

Perhaps the most offended by and outwardly critical of use of the UTC mascot was Tom Kunesh, spokesman for the Chattanooga InterTribal Association.

"We feel UTC has made a good and proper decision,' Mr. Kunesh said. "The university is in touch with the issues of race and diversity. This will show Chattanooga in a very positive light.'

Dr. Obear said, "I find it appropriate to question whether the representation of a Native American as a caricature or as an athletics mascot is compatible with UTC's commitment to the dignity of all people and to their sense of inclusion in the broader society.'

The chancellor's action does not affect the use of the nickname Moccasins for UTC's athletic program and image.

The terms "Moccasins' and "Mocs' refer to Moccasin Bend, a landmark on the Tennessee River, and to the rich American Indian culture of the area, Dr. Obear said.

"UTC is proud of that regional heritage and looks forward to opportunities to recognize and celebrate it,' he said.

Dr. Obear said he will appoint a broad-based campus committee to review proposals for a new mascot and make recommendations this fall.

"This is a move which will preserve the best of UTC's athletic heritage,' he said.

"This is a move which will bring us closer together as a community, both on and off the field of competition.'

Prepared at 13:07, 3 JUL 96
Copyright 1996, The Chattanooga Free Press