A school mascot represents the personalities of its students and community and provides a character with whom they, though different individually, may associate as a group. URBee captured that essence uniquely. He did not instill fear in anyone because he did not try. He was a jolly, stout bee who loved to see his ‘Jackets play their hardest, have a good time and win; he encouraged his fans to cheer for their ‘Jackets. There is nothing wrong with that. As President Seligman said about URBee at a Town Hall meeting last October, “He doesn’t have to be menacing!”
When I caught a few seconds of a college basketball game on television, I was confused to see what I thought was our new mascot. It was, in fact, Georgia Tech’s yellowjacket. I did not think too much about it or our new mascot, Rocky, until I almost walked into one of the many banners of him during Winterfest Weekend. Then I recognized the identity problem that manifested itself in our mascot, which was inspired by the hornet-like designs of other yellow jacketed schools.
We are not a sports school. This is in no way an affront to UR athletes; they play hard, love their games and win. Our teams have been doing very well lately – both men’s and women’s soccer teams went to the NCAA tournament this past year and some of our squash players are nationally ranked – but this school does not define itself by its athletic performance.
We are a school of students who are secret nerds for something, be it ozonolysis, recreational lexicography, Norse mythology or arc welding. Rocky does not convey this vibrancy to our opponents or to prospective students. URBee succeeded as a mascot because he embodied our quirkiness. Rocky does not look capable of holding a stimulating conversation, he definitely does not have the secret talent or odd obsession of a UR student and he may be easily mistaken for someone else’s bee. Like others at this school, I have often explained that I do not go to Rochester Institute of Technology and that there is no such thing as SUNY Rochester. Why would we choose someone as ordinary and uninspiring as Rocky to replace URBee, who distinguished us from every other school?
I am not alone in my dislike for Rocky. A Campus Times online survey, though not conducted scientifically, found that a mere 11 percent of respondents said the name Rocky was Fonzie-cool, while 61 percent said it was not cool at all and an additional 28 percent said it was fairly cool but could be cooler. These numbers, in addition to what I have heard, indicate that Rocky, at least nominally, does not cut it.
URBee has flown to join our school’s previous mascots in the great dandelion field where he may pollinate flowers all day and buzz around with his old school buddies. He deserves a break after his more than 20 tireless years as our mascot. Since we cannot ask URBee to come back from his well-earned retirement, I call on the administration to place Rocky against a new rival mascot and see if he wins. But what rival mascot? The Office of Communications already spent time designing a mascot based on student, faculty and alumni input, and it failed to capture UR’s personality.
I propose that the school open the search for a new student identity to students and leave as much of the identity-searching process to students as possible. Some of us are artists who need to do something with our creative energies; others of us have no artistic skills beyond drawing free-body diagrams but are creative and have friends who can draw. Aside from the decades-long fame that comes with drawing the school’s mascot, the school may entice students to participate by offering an attractive but realistic prize, such as a free meal plan. It is not the administration’s job to tell us – and everyone else – what they want us to embody.
Fleming is a member of the class of 2010.