The George Washington University (GW) “Colonials” moniker used by its athletic teams and long criticized for glorifying colonialism, slavery, and racial discrimination will soon be no more.
The board of trustees determined that “Colonials…can no longer serve its purpose as a name that unifies.” The university said that its sports teams will continue to use the name until a new moniker is introduced, which is planned for the 2023-24 academic year.
Calls to change the moniker – which was adopted about 100 years ago – started around 2018 when student activists launched a petition to change it. The following year, school officials assembled a student task force to research the impact of the name and to deliberate about possible changes.
The school announced in a recent press release that the trustees factored in how the name did not represent the institution’s values, the controversial history of the term “colonial,” and even George Washington “firmly” rejecting the word, among other considerations.
“We have evolved over our 200 years as an institution and a community,” Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs Alan Bracey said. “Today, the moniker no longer does the work that a moniker should — namely, unifying the campus behind our academic and athletic institutional aspirations.”
An Inclusive Process
The announcement comes after student leaders renamed several GW public gathering areas in recent years, including a student center named after former college President Cloyd Heck Marvin who supported racial segregation and tight controls over students’ freedom of speech.
Students have recommended possible alternatives to “Colonials” such as the “Revolutionaries,” “Riverhorses,” and “Hippos,” the GW Hatchet reported. The school has used the Hippo as an unofficial mascot since 1996.
According to the press release, the next steps in the name change process include soliciting input from the GW community and getting creative recommendations for the new mascot through a partner firm.
“A moniker must unify our community, draw people together and serve as a source of pride. We look forward to the next steps in an inclusive process to identify a moniker that fulfills this aspiration,” board Chair Grace Speights stated.