Student Association President Ashley Le responded Wednesday to a petition urging administrators to change the University’s nickname – the Colonials – to a less “offensive” figure.
The petition, which was posted on the SA’s petitioning platform last month, hit the 500 signature threshold required to prompt a response from SA leadership May 6. Le said in a statement that students have “loudly emphasized” how the Colonials nickname has impacted their experiences both at GW and abroad, when students “are requested not to identify themselves as Colonials out of respect to citizens of countries with colonial histories.”
“I commit to empowering students’ voices whenever and wherever possible in the hopes of improving the student experience,” Le said in the statement. “As we seek to build a student-focused community, their voices are the most important and should be elevated across mediums.”
The petition calls on the University to abandon GW’s 92-year-old nickname in favor of something less “offensive” to both domestic and international students. Some students suggested for the name to change to a hippo – a nod to the University’s longtime unofficial mascot.
Le said in an interview last week that she will discuss students’ concerns with Tanya Vogel, the director of athletics and recreation, and Lorraine Voles, the vice president for external relations, before speaking with University President Thomas LeBlanc. She said she has no official stance on changing the mascot.
Le said in the statement that she will work to facilitate discussions among students, faculty and administrators “as we consider available options to move forward.” She said she will also advise students to reach out to their representatives if senators bring forward legislation about changing the nickname next academic year.
She added that while the petition focuses on the Colonials nickname, “it can be part of a larger movement to push our University closer toward its stated mission” of creating a community of cultural and intellectual diversity.
“Our University’s pride comes from our students’ ability to influence changes, starting right here at GW,” the statement reads.