The terrier replaces the Fighting Scot, criticized for representing European imperialism
Zach Perrier, Cartoonist
Last Thursday, March 30, The College of Wooster announced that the Highlander mascot for the Fighting Scots, which was introduced a half century ago, was no more. In the midst of a continuing drastic redesign of the College’s image, a panel picked from the campus community decided to replace the mascot introduced in 1973 with a Scottish Terrier. The reveal event received much fanfare and advertising on social media and throughout campus. Students, donning laminated flags with words such as “Strong,” “Kind,” and “Fierce,” packed into the bleachers of the Timken Gym on March 30 to witness the event. Golden spotlights and a fog machine created the backdrop for a podium and projectors. Grace Lindgren ’24, Roman Labrosse ’24 and Alexis Neal ’26 opened for the event, three students who were involved in the rollout of the mascot.
Interim President Wayne Webster took the stand to discuss the rationale behind the new changes. Webster noted the ongoing precedent for sports teams and programs to move away from people-derived mascots, from nearby colleges such as the Kenyon Owls and the Capital Comets (not without protest for the alternative Capital Capybaras), to national teams like the Washington Commanders and the Cleveland Guardians. The decades-old Highlander mascot was similarly deemed outdated. According to the event’s presentation, 51% of students polled in a survey responded that the old mascot did not represent them. Rather than an argument about cultural appropriation of Scottish people, the reasoning for the mascot change stemmed more from the power dynamic of the Highlander mascot itself. The website for the new mascot succinctly states, “A symbol of European imperial expansion, the Scottish Highlander fighter no longer represents the current and future Wooster.” Although the Highlander was introduced 50 years ago, the mascot webpage also notes that it was not until the 2013-2014 academic year that the Highlander became heavily ingrained in the iconography of the College.
Other speakers at Timken Gym built off of this criticism of the Highlander. Interim President Webster connected the comments made throughout the event to the push for greater diversity and inclusion on campus as outlined in the College’s ongoing “Connect, Create, Discover” Strategic Plan. Amy Heasley Williams, Athletic Director at the College, emphasized the connections across athletes and non-athletes as intrinsic to the mascot change saying that “we want to offer an environment that welcomes everyone, athlete and spectator alike.” Rich Danch ’89, Head Golf Coach and member of the mascot working group, said that the Scottish Terrier will “embody Wooster’s distinctive spirit,” and is both competitive, yet inclusive. Other students, Tyler Leibert ’24 and Alex Walker ’24, ended the event.
Drawing on archives and athletic programs detailing other mascots throughout the College’s history on top of an extensive student survey, the committee decided that the Scottish Terrier, which has served as a longtime secondary mascot, will now be the official face of the Fighting Scots. Associate Athletic Director Libby Ladrach, who spoke at the event, noted in an email to the Voice that “many representatives from the Athletic Department, including coaches, administrators and students were involved from the beginning of the process.” In addition, Ladrach stated that students in Dr. Christina Welsch’s FYS class provided initial research that went into the mascot selection, and afterward a “working group largely consisting of staff in marketing and athletics” sorted the logistics and implications of the mascot change. Ladrach and Williams both confirmed that the Highlander will be removed from the Scot Center in the near future and placed in the appropriate archives.
The promotional video of the mascot announcement was very forward in the rationale for the change, emphasizing both diversity and tradition. Students and alumni string together the need for a more inclusive mascot that is indicative of both the athletes that play and the greater campus. President Webster states in the video, “…no single human can attempt to represent all the diverse identities of our thriving Wooster community. That we come together as Fighting Scots to rally behind a new mascot but a very familiar friend. A friend that has served as a source of pride for generations of Fighting Scots and will be sure to do the same for generations to come.”
The presentation then revealed the new logo of the Scottish Terrier created by Columbus-based Slagle Design. The firm has designed mascots and logos in the past, including the Capital Comets. Slagle did not design the actual costume mock-up also seen at the end of the presentation. The costume was designed and will be manufactured by Street Characters, Inc. from Alberta, a company which has made a wide variety of mascots for colleges, schools, companies and professional sports teams.
This was in contrast to the announcement video created by Kenyon College, whose analogous announcement presentation only featured footage of an owl taking flight sandwiched between highlights of sporting events. While students in the Kenyon Collegian were quite vocal on their opinions of the original team names, the gender-specific Lords and Ladies, the formal announcement makes no mention of inclusivity. Collegian opinion pieces differed from Kenyon’s announcement, as they argued that the original names were both classist and transphobic. Capital was similar to Wooster in that the announcement and committee findings of their mascot heavily leaned into inclusivity and moved away from a mascot that they deemed connected to war, colonialism and conquest.The day after the reveal, the Voice created a poll to see what the campus community, including students, staff and faculty, thought of the new changes. The volunteer-based form provided a little insight into opinions after the event. In terms of the mascot logo and its aesthetics, most of the respondents were receptive. Over half of the respondents either strongly or slightly agreed that they not only like the new mascot but also found it more inclusive. The respondents were split on whether or not they liked the Scottie Dog more than the original Fighting Scot, with about 43% agreeing with the statement “I like the new mascot more than the original Fighting Scot,” and about 39% disagreeing with said statement. Where respondents were more negative was regarding the statement “I like the new mascot costume.” 59.1% of respondents to the poll either strongly or slightly disagreed with this statement, whereas 23% agreed in some capacity and 18% were neutral.