As Campus Senate continues to weigh the possibility of a mascot change, its members welcomed College Historian and Keeper of Kenyoniana Thomas Stamp ’73 to its Feb. 18 meeting to impart additional historical context on the issue.
The discussion follows President Sean Decatur’s introduction of the possible name change at Senate’s Feb. 4 meeting, though he did not ask members to suggest a new name. Subsequently, a Collegian article on the meeting inspired lively debate among alumni in the comments section, with no apparent consensus reached. Still, it is a change that many students have been asking for for years, calling the current name classist, sexist and transphobic.
The conversation also comes as teams across the country, such as the Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Indians, are considering how their names might be historically and culturally insensitive.
Stamp first clarified that, given there is no actual mascot at athletic events, the Lords and Ladies are not Kenyon’s “mascots,” but merely “nicknames.”
For many years, Stamp said, the College did not have an official team name. Rather, through the early 20th century, Kenyon’s teams were referred to as “the Mauve,” which was then the College’s official color.
While Stamp said the earliest mention of “the Lords” can be found in a 1936 Collegian article recapping a Kenyon football game, the Ladies’ exact origins are unknown, other than its emergence following Kenyon’s 1973 move to complete co-education. Some proposals, he said, included “Hannahs,” a popular option meant to honor Kenyon’s early benefactor, Hannah More, and the “Lordettes,” though the latter did not gain as much traction.
Although the Senate has only been tasked with considering whether to change the names at all, the body weighed several alternatives. While many have suggested that beloved local cat Moxie become Kenyon’s mascot, Stamp was opposed, and instead recommended returning to one former name, the “Hilltoppers.”
“I sort of like the Hilltoppers as a name, but I don’t know that there’s any enthusiasm for that at this point,” he said. “And unfortunately, I don’t know if we became the Hilltoppers, we’d try to have the Hilltoppers and the Lady Hilltoppers.”
Faculty Co-chair Jonathan Tazewell steered away from having two, gender-binary team names in his later discussion of College values, emphasizing that any new name should be gender-neutral. On this, Student Co-chair Delaney Gallagher ’23 said she plans to get input from Unity House Co-managers Micah Smith ’22 and Rory Dreyfus ’22 before the Senate’s next meeting, and, eventually, other student organizations as well.
For now, Tazewell said, the Senate will identify Kenyon’s key values in hopes that a new team name will embody these principles.
“This is an opportunity for us to really ask the question, ‘How do we want to be seen? How do we want somebody to identify with us?’” he said. “‘What kind of symbol not only reflects our history … but also reflects our values about the kind of place that we think [Kenyon] is?”