The University Echo
Thursday, 11 January 1996 p 1 & 4

Chief may be sending final smoke signals
Committee structure reportedly in place to send mascot packing

by J. Erik Gray and Heather Wilson
The University Echo

Chief Mocanooga may be catching the last train out of Chattanooga.

A committee has begun work on a plan to decide if UTC's mascot should change.

Chancellor Frederick Obear said he believes there will be a formal plan to change or keep the mascot within two to three months. "We are still in the fact gathering stage and the plan was to discuss for an academic year," Obear said. The committee has met several times and discussed ways to institute a new mascot, according to university officials. Committee members include administrators, coaches and at least one student.

However, the chancellor and the dean of students gave conflicting reports on how the committee will operate and when and if the mascot will actually be changed.

Obear said he has asked Dr. Charles "Rocky" Renneisen to head up a committee to explore changing the mascot and to "run interference" among the various groups and organizations who may have an interest in changing Chief Mocanooga. But Renneisen said Wednesday afternoon that he has not been told whether or not he will actually head up the committee. In addition, Renneisen said he believes students should have an opportunity to vote on any changes.

As reported in the Nov. 16, 1995 issue of The University Echo, the Student Government Association conducted a straw poll about whether or not the students wanted to keep the Chief. Of the 256 students who voted, 189 students wanted to keep the mascot.

The mascot came under question several years ago. In the spring of 1994, members of the Association for the Awareness of Indigenous Peoples sponsored a forum to discuss if the mascot was a racist symbol and derogatory to Native Americans. Following the forum of about 40 people, the group sponsored a petition drive to discontinue use of the Indian as a mascot.

Chief Mocanooga has been the symbol of UTC athletics for almost a century, and recently the only issue opponents and proponents have discussed is the problem. University officials are now urging that what needs to be discussed is a solution. They say change is inevitable.

tom kunesh, of the Chattanooga Intertribal Association, wants an open discussion with university leadership to help come to a solution to the problem.

"I don't want to intrude on the university except to show what is racist and see that it gets changed to something that is not," kunesh said.

When asked if he felt if it would be appropriate to change the mascot to a more culturally correct version, kunesh responded by saying, "The university is not aware of the Native American culture or heritage. They have not done anything for the culture.

"They don't ask Native American speakers to come to campus to talk about the racial cleansing that took place in Chattanooga, and in my opinion they don't have the right to anything Native American."

Dr. Nick Honerkamp, professor of anthropology, said he believes that the mascot controversy is a problem because people object to it.

"My take on the situation is that a mascot should rally people together. The Chief is not doing that. So change it. I really don't feel that it is a complex issue," he said.

"Another concern of mine is using a human for a mascot. Personally, I don't want to be used to make crowds cheer at a football game," Honerkamp said.

The University Echo was given a list of criteria by university officials that a mascot should have:

  • The mascot, logo and nickname should be appealing to the students, the university community and the general public. It should represent the school in a positive manner.
  • The mascot should represent the spirit of the nickname and logo.
  • The nickname and logo should have a good marketability, such as with t-shirts, posters and other promotions.

  • The mascot logo should be non-human. The personality of the person wearing the mascot outfit should be hidden. The personality of the mascot should take the forefront. A full costume hiding the person is suggested instead of a half-costume (like the one worn by the present Chief).

These criteria have been laid down by many universities who are having concerns about the changing of their mascot.

The University of Utah, the Running Utes, changed their mascot this past week. The Utes were a Native American tribe in the area. The mascot was changed to a red tailed hawk. Utah kept their nickname and logo with the feathers draped from the "U"

St. John's University and Marquette University recently changed their mascot as well as their nickname. SJU changed from Redmen to Red Storm. MU changed Warriors to the Golden Eagles.

Last November, the Illinois Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights upheld the right of the University of Illinois to keep the "Fighting Illini" nickname and Chief Illiniwek.

University officials said they realize that the indigenous people of this area, the Cherokees, were not warriors, as portrayed by UTC. The Cherokees were farmers.

***Editorial Comment: Start saving your Mocs memorabilia, folks.

The University Echo
Thursday, 11 January 1996 p5

Changes in store for mascot,
students urged to take action

After years of faithful service to the university, Chief Mocanooga is being run out of town on a rail.

The cries and moans of the politically correct have led to the downfall of UTC's favorite son. It is hard to decide what is the worst thing about this travesty: that the administration bowed to the pressure of outside special interest groups or that the student body does not seem to care.

Very little uproar over the Chief has originated from the student body. Most of the outcry has stemmed from outside groups following the popular countrywide trend of attacking mascots. Elsewhere, the University of Illinois and the University of Utah have faced similar battles over their Native American mascots. Incidentally, the Illini have recently won a court battle in favor of keeping Chief Illiniwek intact.

The administration has taken a passive role and waited for someone else to lead in this issue. Unfortunately, the student body has not taken the initiative to meet this challenge. Therefore, all action in this has come from those who are fighting against the Chief. Those who are happy with the Chief are content to sit back and maintain the apathetic status quo. Soon, from their comfortable seats in the arena, they will be watching a new mascot.

The students need to get involved. Tell Chancellor Frederick Obear, Dean Charles "Rocky" Renneisen and other faculty members how you feel about your mascot. If you don't want it changed, tell them so. If you do, tell them that, too. Then get involved in a committee that is orchestrating the change.

The University Echo
thursday, 11 january 1996
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
615 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga TN 37403