DU's decision not to decide on a new mascot inspires petition drive

On Friday the University of Denver's Pioneer Mascot Steering Committee released its decision on the search for a new mascot -- and the decision was no decision. "The research shows that nearly 70 percent of the University community is either receptive or neutral to moving forward with a new Denver Pioneer mascot," the announcement stated, "but at this time the community as a whole is not aligned on what that character should be." But at least "the community has demonstrated a high level of engagement in the University's spirit program."

That's a statement that even some critics of the process agree with.

"This entire episode has brought the students/alums closer together in a twisted school spirit kind of way," says Doug Hirsh, who was the first human embodiment of Denver Boone, the Disney-designed caricature that served as the DU mascot from 1968 until it was banned in 1998. Boone enjoyed something of a renaissance after Chancellor Robert Coombe allowed the figure back as an unofficial school cheerleader in 2008 -- until the student government decided in February to start looking for a new mascot altogether. And bringing back Boone was not an option.

Instead, this summer the 76-member Mascot Steering Committee sent a survey to more than 78,000 members of the greater DU community, asking their opinion on three potential mascots -- the Elk, the Jackalope and the Mountain Explorer -- each of which had two potential looks. And while the Elk and the Mountain Explorer rated the highest, neither achieved any kind of consensus, the committee reported.

After Friday's announcement, supporters of Boone, Hirsh included, and opponents of the process came together again, this time to sign a petition asking DU to stop funding the search for a new mascot. Here's the Stop the Funding for the Mascot Steering Committee petition now posted at ipetitions.com:

This petition is to stop the Mascot Steering Committee from spending anymore of OUR money. The DU Administration raised tuition this past year, lowered professors' salaries, but has spent between $40,000-$100,000 on this project between the hiring of artists and conducting focus groups, only to determine that no mascot is the best course of action. That money even could have actually been spent on things that benefited minority groups on campus or even in the entire Denver area. Instead, it was spent on virtually nothing. We, the students of DU, are not going to sit idly while this committee spends more and more of our money, only to decide on having no mascot for our school.

"As for cost," responds DU spokeswoman Theresa Mueller, "the University hired three designers to draft concepts which totaled about $15,000. The research was about $45,000. These dollars came from the University's investment fund."

And a working group of the mascot committee -- all volunteers -- will continue to use that research, she notes, as they explore ways to unite the DU community by enhancing the current Pioneer Spirit Program.

With or without a mascot.

More from the Calhoun Wake-Up Call archives: "Once again, state tourism boosters have gone back to the drawing board."

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