Making it official: Mascot debate ensues

To the audience at the mascot town hall meeting held in McConomy Auditorium last Monday, one thing was certain — Carnegie Mellon needs an official mascot.

The meeting was hosted by the Mascot Task Force, a group of students and staff members who plan to propose an official mascot and mascot graphic for the university. Specifically, the group was soliciting opinions to decide whether to legitimize the university’s current, unofficial mascot, the Scottie dog, or to create a new mascot altogether. Suggestions included a highlander, a lumberjack, “the Tartan Tigahs,” “the Carnegie Mellon Crocs,” “Terry the Tartan,” and, paying homage to Carnegie Mellon’s founders, “Andy.”

Another proposal suggests having one official mascot as well as several other icons that would be representative of the community, such as a highlander or a bagpipe.

Nathan Frank, a first-year economics major and member of the task force, began the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation outlining the group’s goals. The group clarified that it was not planning to change the name “Tartans,” but to establish a visual representation of an official mascot. In addition, the group answered questions via the PowerPoint ranging from the basic “What could the Carnegie Mellon mascot be?” to the weightier “Are gender, race, and Scottish tradition important?” and “What would a costume and design represent?”

“All other icons adopted by the school have been by students,” said Jennifer Church, dean of Student Affairs.

The group stressed the importance of student involvement during the town hall meeting. The meeting’s leaders asked the audience to rate aspects they would deem suitable for an official mascot; for instance, “fierce vs. not so fierce” and “realistic vs. cartoon/caricature,” in an attempt to gauge the kind of visual representation that would meet students’ approval.

Several students weighed in on the issues. Frank defined a mascot as something collegiate, respectable, and representative of athletics and academics. Colin Sternhell, a junior economics major, described a mascot as good, fun, enthusiastic, and supportive of its teams. Andrea Hamilton, student body vice president and a senior in art and ethics, history, and public policy, wanted a mascot that would attract fans and as well as younger children.

What members of the audience didn’t know was that the Scottish terrier or Scottie dog that is seen on apparel in the Carnegie Mellon bookstore is a clip art design that is not licensed and does not represent an official icon of Carnegie Mellon, such as the official wordmark or official seal.

“The old Scottie dog clip art has been grandfathered in,” said Jay Marano, the university’s licensing coordinator and a member of the task force.

The task force held its first meeting last semester and has held four or five meetings to date. Over the course of the year, the group has discussed the background and history of mascots, the history of Carnegie Mellon icons, and the steps necessary to propose an official mascot that would best represent the interests of the Carnegie Mellon community. The task force has also sought the views of alumni.

The task force is co-chaired by Church and Susan Bassett, Carnegie Mellon’s athletic director.

Since 2005, there have been several changes in Carnegie Mellon’s Athletics Department that have brought the issue of an official mascot to light, according to the task force. First, Bassett was named athletics director and has been working toward increased athletic recognition. In addition, student athletes have been pushing for an icon that could represent Carnegie Mellon athletics, and the administration is open to supporting a formal proposal.

The task force will continue to hold meetings throughout the year to involve students, administrators, faculty, and staff in various capacities to create a mascot that would best represent the campus community.

The task force welcomes all suggestions and can be reached via e-mail at (carnegie-mascot@).