Turning a new feather

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April 6, 2010

5:32 PM

The mascot search is finally over, and we can probably all agree: thank god it’s not the Pug. The College of William and Mary announced the result of its 16-month process to create a new mascot earlier today, and they’ve chosen the Griffin, the mythical creature that combines the head of an eagle with the body of a lion. We have to say: we like it — although we’re mostly just happy that the long and arduous search is finally over.

Now, of course, there’s going to be backlash against the College’s physical representative. Few students will be bowled over by the Griffin, since the available choices were — rightly — made public months ago. But, frankly, none among the five finalists would have debuted to universal approval. Instead, we have reason to believe that, after the unavoidable knee-jerk reactionism has died down, the Griffin will prove a decent-enough choice for the College.

As opposed to a mascot based on a simple pun, or one that puts a glaring spotlight on the College’s past misfortunes, the Griffin is an option that speaks to the identity of the College. It combines the symbol for America, the bald eagle, with that of Britain, the lion, thereby pointing to the dichotomous foundation of our institution. It also points to a host of other dualisms central to William and Mary’s identity — the diverse interests of its students and the moniker of “Public Ivy” — among them.

Of course, the timing of this decision could definitely have been better. The mascot was originally scheduled to be announced this past fall at Homecoming, but as was typical of the generally non-transparent process — another issue for another day — was inexplicably postponed. The mascot now, unfortunately, arrives when many of the sporting events at which it could have appeared have concluded, leaving student opinion of the mascot to only fester over the summer.

We understand and commend the desire to incorporate as much input from the community as possible, but every month the process dragged on meant more money spent on the search in a financial climate that tolerated no room for wasted expenses. Surely, student input could have been integrated in such a way as to allow for a relatively swifter, not to mention less wasteful, decision.

But there is something about the Griffin that seems like a natural fit with the College, and on second glance we think it might be the feathers. Poking out behind the Griffin himself are two wings — one green, one gold — that harken to the logo we lost in 2006. It’s probably the most clever aspect of the Griffin’s design, allowing that, down the line, the feathers might again be incorporated into the symbolism of the College. This subtle allusion merely shows the degree to which the Griffin sums up the various parts of our College’s identity, in a way that seems less piecemeal than part of a unique and distinctive whole.

Now it’s up to the campus community to accept the Griffin, and we think it should. We’re willing to admit it is difficult to accept something that was, in a way, arbitrarily imposed, and acknowledge that some may not even try. But, as new classes of students enter the College to see the Griffin excitedly exhort the Tribe — a nickname we are happy to see the College retain — we believe the Griffin will soon become a welcome and reputable symbol. Although it took a while to get here, we’re on Team Griffin.

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