George Washington Colonials
Though the mascot was originally intended to honor George Washington, students claim that it too closely relates to the oppressive history of white Americans (Image via GWToday)
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George Washington Colonials

A student-started petition has suggested ‘hippos’ or ‘riverhorses’ in places of the Colonials, a term they claim is too deeply tied to systemic oppression.

At George Washington University, more than 200 students have signed a petition to rid the school of the mascot and its nickname because they find Colonials extremely offensive.

The students say they object to the Colonials’ connection to colonization and “systemic oppression,” according to the group’s petition. The petition states that “Hippos” or “Riverhorses” would be more acceptable.

Teri Webster from The Blaze reports that the Colonials mascot has been around since 1926 and was a nod to the university’s namesake, George Washington. The original intent was to reference colonial America and the Continental Army.

Across the nation, students are taking offense to everything from school mascots to park statues, often running successful campaigns to get them removed. The petition states that “the historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression.”

George Washington Colonials
A student petition urging the school to reconsider its mascot has garnered over 200 signatures, as well as plenty of nationwide attention (Image via The Blaze)

Andrew Hesbacher, a sophomore, said, “It’s very wrong for us to call ourselves an open and welcoming university when the name means such demise and terror for students who could possibly come here.”

Rachel Yakobashvili, a sophomore, told the university’s newspaper that she and two other students launched the first petition ever on the Student Association’s advocacy website, GW Voice, last week.

By Wednesday, more than 200 students signed the petition. If it receives 500 signatures, the Student Association president will be prompted to respond.

“Colonialist, terrorist, murderer. In a lot of places that’s what colonials mean to people,” Hesbacher said. “Why would we continue to call ourselves that?”

According to Dave Huber from The College Fix, Andrew Hesbacher, along with Rachel Yakobashvili and Emma Krasnopoler, started the campaign after being warned at a study-abroad orientation not to wear anything with “Colonial” on it outside of Europe.

“Citizens of those countries would be offended by the history of the word,” they were told.

Hesbacher says the hippo has a long-standing history at GW and it wouldn’t be too out of the question to change the mascot. Students have been talking about changing the mascot for years. Hesbacher said it was time to make the change a focus instead of a “side conversation.”

George Washington Colonials
This statue of a hippo, found on the George Washington campus, is one example of the school’s connection to the animals (Image via George Washington)

The organizers for the removal of the Colonials mascot said they wanted to wait until they have a demonstration of student support to bring the issue to administrators.

Annabel LaBrecque — the co-president of GW Students for Indigenous and Native American Rights (SINAR) — said she has spoken to students and faculty who agreed that the mascot is offensive to students, and she signed the petition on behalf of SINAR.

“The indigenous communities and their allies here just don’t feel welcomed,” she said.

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