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George Washington University considers replacing 'Colonials' mascot

The university has used the nickname for 94 years. Now a committee of students, faculty and alumni will decide its fate.

WASHINGTON — In a letter addressed to the George Washington University community Monday, GWU President Thomas J. LeBlanc said a new committee of students, faculty, and alumni will assess whether the school’s “Colonials” nickname of 94 years should stay or go.

While it's generally recognized that the mascot serves as a nod to George Washington’s role as America’s preeminent colonial figure, students asked the university to consider the name’s meaning to international peers who may have experienced negative effects of recent colonialism.

Elyssa Clauson was among the first to sign a student name change petition. She said it's not a knock against George Washington, but as an orientation leader for international students, she said "Colonials" was sometimes a loaded term.

"We always had kind of a hard time explaining to them about the mascot," Clauson said. "Explaining why we were the colonials. And we kind of realized that it wasn't really representative of the student body of GW." 

During her study aboard time, Clauson said she didn't feel comfortable even wearing GWU clothing. 

"Everyone on my program got to wear their university shirts and stuff in Morocco. And I was like, "well I can't wear something that says, 'Go Colonials!' in Morocco," she said. "You know I loved GW and I loved my time there, and I wanted to be able to represent GW."

Clauson likes the potential nickname "revolutionaries."

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LeBlanc also acknowledged that names of buildings honoring figures with well-documented racist views will be reexamined. The university’s board of trustees recommended the process to address the nickname’s future should begin immediately.

“We are now able to move forward with requests to examine renaming of GW buildings or memorials, as well as the Colonials moniker,” LeBlanc wrote. “We are now working to form a diverse and representative group of GW community members who will serve on a Special Committee on the Colonials Moniker, to include student, faculty, staff, and alumni representation, that will assess the renaming request based on the specific considerations established by the [Board of Trustees].”

RELATED: Fairfax High School is changing its mascot from Rebel Pride to the Lions

The moniker committee will be led by D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, who serves as a distinguished professor at the university’s law school.

Black men and women were denied admission to the first commercial theater production at GW’s Lisner Auditorium in October 1946. The movie was directed by the venue’s benefactor, Abram Lisner. Ingrid Bergman, the star of the production, publicly denounced the “undemocratic and un-American practice.”

One of the university’s central buildings, the Marvin Center, is named after former university president and devout segregationist Cloyd Heck Marvin.

“Students of any race or color perform their best educational disciplines when they are happily situated in a congenial and homogeneous group, and the University, in its tradition and social environment, has long preserved this policy,” Marvin said, according to the GW Hatchet. “Consistent with this long-standing observance, The George Washington University does not register colored students.”

See the full letter from President LeBlanc below: 

RELATED: GWU basketball fans reportedly set world record for largest gathering of people wearing tricorn hats

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