New College Board of Trustees approves “mighty banyans” as new mascot against the wishes of students, alumni

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New College's new mascot, "the mighty banyans," is displayed at the Board of Trustees meeting on June 1. Screenshot taken by Ta'Leah Van Sistine / WMNF News.

New College’s Board of Trustees voted last night to change the institution’s official mascot, despite criticism from faculty, students and alumni.

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New College students were sent a survey in April that asked them to vote on a new mascot. According to screenshots obtained by Catalyst, New College’s student newspaper, options included sea turtles, pelicans and conquistadors, among others. 

But ultimately, the option presented at the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday night had not been in the survey. Interim President Richard Corcoran said the image was only shared with some of the trustees and members of administration before the meeting. 

Rising second-year student at New College, Anna Lazzara, shared her sketch of the new mascot and her inspiration for creating it.

“The New College spirit, for me, is the combination of the supportive community and the stunning natural landscape,” Lazzara said. “Both of these things, I believe, are perfectly represented in the form of a mighty banyan tree.”

An image of a flexing banyan tree and the phrase “the mighty banyans” was displayed on a screen for the board and the audience to see. 

Lazzara said she recognizes the history of New College’s current mascot, the null set, or “[ ],” so she used the brackets as the banyan’s eyebrows. 

Trustee Grace Keenan is the 2023 president of New College’s student government. She was quick to share her contempt for the board’s lack of consultation with the campus community about the new mascot. 

“But I did offer many times to help to make sure that this process was going to be proper and to gain you points with the students, to have that dialogue where you come and you want to show respect to the students, be engaged, work on this together,” Keenan said. “But that didn’t happen.”

According to an article by Catalyst, the mascot survey was supposed to remain open for student input until April 28 but was taken down early. Catalyst staff first noticed the survey was inactive on April 20. 

Trustee Keenan proposed a motion to endorse “the mighty banyans” as the athletic, but not the official, school mascot. With plans underway for a new athletic program at New College, Keenan said she supports the approval of the new mascot for uniforms and other athletic materials. 

But she said she wants students to weigh in, once they return to campus in the fall, on whether the mascot should officially represent the college.

Multiple attempts by Keenan and Trustee Amy Reid, a French professor at New College, to delay a vote on the official mascot were denied by the board. The banyan was soon after approved by a majority of board members as the official school mascot. 

The decision arrives as hundreds of members of the New College community are petitioning for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to reject New College’s reported application for membership. 

Mike Sanderson is an alum of New College and started the petition. During the public comment session at the board meeting, Sanderson shared dismay that alumni weren’t consulted about the new mascot.  

“College sports should bring inclusiveness, integrity, a belonging, leadership and character,” Sanderson said. “The new board is bringing none of that.” 

The petition on Change.org has 523 signatures as of Friday morning.

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