Student Association President SJ Matthews issued an executive order Wednesday urging officials to keep the hippo as an unofficial mascot of the University.
Matthews’ order calls for “all students, student organizations and key stakeholders” to “immediately mobilize in defense of the hippo,” which has served as an informal mascot since a former University president purchased the hippo statue that now lies on the corner of 21st and H streets in 1996. The order comes after officials told GW STAR tour guides that stops at the hippo statue will no longer be included in tours at the direction of the Office of the President, according to three student guides who attended the meeting and a slide obtained from the meeting.
“The hippo is a sacred, beautiful and inspiring symbol of this university,” Matthews wrote in the executive order. “The Student Association strongly stands behind the hippo.”
The order urges the SA to codify the executive order “forthwith,” adding that “in order to save the hippo, the ends justify the means.”
Matthews, who is a tour guide, said the announcement from officials at the GW STAR meeting Wednesday is the first she has heard of any push to remove the hippo statue or change its status on campus.
“I’m frustrated by the lack of student involvement in the decision and the fact that this is taking priority over the push to remove the Colonial moniker,” she said.
University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal did not immediately return a request for comment.
A slide obtained by The Hatchet from the tour guide meeting reads, “Based on feedback from University leadership, a stop at the Hippo statue is not included in this tour.”
Three tour guides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because student workers are not authorized to speak with the media, said they are still allowed to discuss the hippo during tours if asked by prospective students.
“I’m disappointed because I think that the hippo as an unofficial mascot is something that speaks to a student culture here at GW,” a tour guide said. “It’s something for the students to bond over and that we have made our own.”
The tour guides said officials did not know why the hippo was being removed from the tour route.
Students took to social media to defend the hippo as an unofficial mascot. SA Sen. George Glass, U-at-Large, wrote, “President LeBlanc will remove the Hippo statue over my dead body” on Facebook Wednesday.
Glass said in an interview that the hippo is one of the only symbols on campus that gives GW “character,” and he hopes the University’s phasing out of the hippo moniker is a “rumor.”
“One of the things that is really annoying to me is that we are a campus and a community that is greatly lacking in character and that is one of the only spots on campus that has it,” Glass said.