Letter to the Editor 11-25-13
This letter is regarding assessing our mascot and logo. You are probably aware of the controversy in the news about the Redskins. An increasing concern over the Redskins moniker being racist and offensive to Native Americans has in effect brought to surface the Rebels in national debate. I am requesting setting up a committee of students, faculty, alumni, stakeholders and government officials to have a conversation about our symbolism.
Our Sports and Media, class taught by exemplary University of Nevada Las Vegas Professor Dr. Robert Bellamy, has been discussing the issue and I believe this is an opportune time to review how we are portrayed through our iconography. Let’s take proactive measures and evaluate our mascot and logo.
The NCAA is reviewing offensive logos and nicknames. Students have encouraged that we must also address removing verbal and non-verbal statements that solicit racism. Hey Reb, Rebels has a history of links to the confederacy. Multiple Confederate flags were flown at a recent UNLV tailgate, which sends a message. Is this message similar to recent images of the confederate flag staked in front of the White House? If not, then why would we want ‘unofficial’ confederate messages against northern Nevada UNR; the south lost in the Civil War and then they became resentful of the loss. In the same vein, Historian Eugene Moehring who wrote History of UNLV describes the university’s characteristics when he said, “Southern Nevada resented the treatment it was receiving in the legislature and at this school (lack of funding) from Northern Nevada.”
In learning about the history of our mascot, I found that the most controversial group in U.S. history that uses the Confederate flag is the Ku Klux Klan. They became highly visible and active shortly after the end of the Civil War (after the loss), in which Dr. Manoucheka Celeste said “It’s not by accident that the KKK uses the confederate flag; it served as a symbol of the desire for the south to rise again, to return to the previous social order.”
We have removed the confederate flag and weaponry from the ‘Hey Reb’ mascot itself;’ the signature gray hat worn by southern soldiers’ remains and we are referred to as the “scarlet” team to distinguish us from Northern Nevada UNR. A sampling of UNLV students stated that they think ‘Hey Reb” has not changed enough. I personally think Hey Reb more closely resembles a confederate soldier than that of his wolf predecessor Beauregard. There was a brief transition from the expressly confederate Beauregard to the minutemen, which represent Rebels, but in a very different way than ‘Hey Reb’. The minutemen were among the first people to fight in the American Revolution. That mascot was quickly squashed.
The University of Mississippi’s confederate battle flag was the first to go, and then their mascot “Colonel Reb” “The Rebels” a plantation looking mascot made the necessary change into the “Rebel Black Bear.”
Recently, the Smithsonian held a symposium titled Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports. From our National Museum to Congress we can anticipate a range of discussion on how we, the University, are representing ourselves. Twelve term Congressman Eleanor Holmes Norton and 9 other members of Congress contacted Redskins owner and NFL Commissioner, “The perpetrator doesn’t get to say the term is [isn’t] derogatory, who gets to say that is the recipient of the term,” Norton said. When interviewed about the Redskins, Congresswoman Holmes was also questioned about the Rebels. Whether we like it or not we have been pulled into the discussion, which is why it’s better to take proactive measures.
What type of cultural appropriation and symbolism are we disseminating to our community? ‘Scarlet! Grey! Every day!’
According to the Office of Diversity Initiative Oct 9, 2013, spokesperson for the Black Professionals Alliance Hillery Pichon said that after a campus climate survey at UNLV, they found African American students, faculty and staff felt the most disenfranchised. To make campus climate changes we must assess the immersion of our messages, images, and symbols and receive feedback from the African American student population.
Office of Decision Support accounts that only 7.9% of the undergraduate population is Black/African Americans. 57% of UNLVs degree seeking undergraduate students report being part of a racial or ethnic minority. Black colleges and universities have produced about 25% of all black college graduates, though they represent only 3% of all U.S. colleges and universities.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT: THEN AND NOW
Andy Kirk, UNLV historian said it best, “The world loves Las Vegas, but there is a persistent desire to see Las Vegas as the “other,” a place out of place and without a history. The popular myth of Las Vegas is that it sprung from the mind of a gangster and was built in the middle of nowhere for no good reason.”
In 1959 Archie C. Grant Hall was named the Las Vegas regent who championed a separate state college in Southern Nevada; the establishment of University of Nevada, Las Vegas was instrumental. Now, we are set to transform our school into a Carnegie-designated top tier research college. This is not the only change we are making.
UNLV declared we are raising more than $500 million ourselves, in part to build a significant on campus football stadium. Various articles have stated that 2.0 Mega stadium UNLV ‘Now’ has “no anticipated price tag.” 2.0 will overflow from UNLV into the Las Vegas community. A new UNLV sports stadium will be an international phenomenon, which is why this is an especially appropriate time to discuss the possibility of re-branding our University as an entire entity.
The UNLVNow Economic Impact Report states that “families, school districts, and cities across Southern Nevada would be lost if these events were not held in the region.” The report further explains that “local governments will also be produced beyond that which would otherwise exist if the new mega-events center were not built.” Let’s take into account the messages we decide to communicate along this transition. We are creating new historical context for future generations.
According to Vegas Inc, in 2012 a record 39.7 million people came to the city for vacations and conventions compared to the 1.37 million people who live here. Every time tourists look up 2.0 “Now”, which will facilitate more than sports games, an article of the stadium and a detailed history of UNLV’s mascot populates.
Will UNLV have a permanent concession at 2.0 Now Stadium? UNLV stadium may potentially hold 55,000 plus fans, if a quarter of fans bought tee shirts that would be 2200 articles of lifelong advertisement.
According to UNLVs Newscenter, the impact of UNLV “Now” Mega Events Center could add approximately $393.2 million and the indirect impact could add about $600 million to Las Vegas.
“New technological advances clearly are of little value to countries that have very few skilled workers who know how to use them. ECONOMIC GROWTH closely depends on the synergies between new knowledge and human capital, which is why large increases in education and training have accompanied major advances in technological knowledge in all countries that have achieved significant economic growth,” said Gary S. Becker, Economist and Professor at the University of Chicago.
I think that although the NFL is expanding its teams and global presence as indicated by NFL.com, even with a new stadium they may be reluctant to allow expansion or host an NFL team here in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is known for being the sin city of the United States consisting of transients, prostitution and gambling. Las Vegas has not been known for the wholesome, family orientated community that is associated with football.
In the entire State of Nevada, we do not have one nationally recognized sports team. A nationally recognized on-campus stadium is anticipated to elevate UNLV to a new league and attract top players, students and teachers. Incoming students considering going to school in Las Vegas want the same things students at prestigious universities and private schools want; sports being popular, yet education being a main determinant. UNLV FAQ states 5 departments have been cut (the African American Studies Department was not inclusive of that fact) two undergraduate degrees cut, 1,000 fewer class selections and an increase of per credit student fees of 44 % and a total tuition increase by 73 at UNLV since 2007 . The FY 12-13 Budget Cut Impact Summary indicates 120 faculty positions lost, including tenured faculty.
The expenditure of public money to build a sport facility and the stadiums’ ongoing overhead from providing power, sewer services, infrastructure and stadium improvements is expensive. A new stadium is a substantial investment, which is why this transitional time is favorable to look at all aspects of our expansion. National attention also brings greater scrutiny to a new stadium. This is why everything must be reviewed, including: colors, branding, mascot, logo, recruiting tactics, coach and staff.
Economist Gary S. Becker said “Tangible forms of capital are not the only type of capital. Schooling, a computer training course, expenditures on medical care, and lectures on the virtues of punctuality and honesty are also capital. That is because they raise earnings, improve health, or add to a person’s good habits over much of his lifetime. Therefore, economists regard expenditures on EDUCATION, training, medical care, and so on as investments in human capital. They are called human capital because people cannot be separated from their knowledge, skills, health, or values in the way they can be separated from their financial and physical assets.”
U.S. News & Word Report ranks UNLV as the nation’s sixth most diverse campus for undergraduates. Although we are celebrated for our diversity, we do not have an African American Studies Department. As is quoted from the UNLV website, “Afro-American Studies Program is being placed in moratorium due to a shortage of resources and low enrollments.” When expanding our university we must have faculty, representatives and students from the African American community that can expressly contribute their academic experience, ideologies and perspectives. Addressing ‘Hey Reb’ who is the spokesman for campus culture is a great way to start.
All of the 1st tier research institutions have well developed African American Studies departments. Jean Comaroff, Alfred North Whitehead Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology referenced Victor Turner’s Forest of Symbols. The author describes that “Symbols as I have said produce action. Groups mobilize around them, worship before them. While referential symbolism grows with formal elaboration in the conscious, condensation symbolism strikes deeper and deeper roots in the unconscious, and diffuse its emotional quality to types of behavior and situations apparently far removed from the original meaning of the symbol.” “We make the assumption that African Americans have to consistently speak out and say it’s inappropriate, rather than having a broad multicultural spectrum. Let’s have a universal conversation, rather than putting the burden on African Americans,” said Dr. Celeste.
I believe that investments in human capital increases performance. When integration finally arrived in the 1960’s, it moved relatively quickly across the conference. The main reason for this is that the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare began threatening to pull federal funding from schools not in compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There is a historic importance for the integration of football and the advancement of education. We want to reposition our symbolism to represents triumphs for all of our players.
An excerpt on UNLV’s Facebook describes that “all sorts of experts and prognosticators, along with millions of amateurs competing in office pools, will attempt to predict the outcomes of all 67 of the tournament’s games with Mascotology, which breaks down the entire NCAA tournament field by looking at who would prevail in a hypothetical meeting of mascots.” Some current students may not be aware of any racial undertones of ‘Hey Reb’ and therefore may not find it offensive, however there is and remains back data.
The magnitude in which we broadcast through our shirts, apparel, gear, symbols, products and nicknames is persistent and will be integrated for many generations to come. According to Assembly Bill 335 UNLV Now will “attract and retain large sports and entertainment events in the largest tourism market in the State and assist the Las Vegas area in its continuing competition to remain a premier center for entertainment in the world. A universally recognized heroine is the mascot for UNLV.
I am requesting setting up a committee of students, faculty, alumni, stakeholders and government officials to institute a full assessment of our Mascot. A proposal: Jehanne d’Arc, fearless warrior, who brought victory and ended the Hundred Years’ War. Many different articles of literature describe her riding with her men as a sort of inspirational mascot, brandishing her banner in place of a weapon.