George Washington Univ. says it’ll stop using ‘colonial’, but not until a year from now 

The Washington, D.C.-based college will use Colonials until a new mascot label is introduced in its 2023-2024 school year. 

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The word “colonialism” conjures up images of control and subjugation of one group over another, typically of whites over persons of color, a divisive that concept has affected global politics throughout history for hundreds of years.

George Washington University — recognizing that the use of the term “Colonials” as its mascot moniker divides its campus community and can “no longer serve its purpose as a name that unifies” — is retiring the name. 

According to The Washington Post, the D.C.-based college will continue to use Colonials until a new mascot label is introduced in its 2023-2024 school year. 

The George Washington University Colonials mascot performs on the court in the second half against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the first round of the 2019 Atlantic 10 men’s basketball tournament at Barclays Center. (Photo: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

George Washington University established committees in 2020 during the summer of racial justice protests to consider shedding the moniker and changing the name of its campus community center. The center was previously named after Cloyd Heck Marvin, a former GWU president and segregationist. The building is now known simply as the University Student Center. 

“I was impressed by the principled and collaborative approach of the special committee, and it was clear this process was driven by research and robust engagement with the community,” Mark S. Wrighton, GWU’s interim president, said in a statement. “While some may disagree with the outcome, this process has determined that changing the moniker is the right decision for our university.”

The choice to do so was made, in part, because of a survey conducted of more than 7,300 GWU alumni, students, faculty and staff. The results were very close with 44 percent for removing the name and 43 percent for keeping it, yet only 25 percent said it makes them feel included. 

In use since 1926, Colonials is the name of the school’s sports teams, as well as its health center. It is also the name of campus cash, which is used for meals and laundry service. It will be retired when a new mascot name is chosen. 

“For supporters, the term refers to those who lived in the colonies, especially those who fought for independence against England and, with bravery, courage, and against all odds, secured democracy for the United States,” according to a March 2021 report the special committee submitted to former GWU President Thomas LeBlanc.

“For opponents, ‘Colonials’ means colonizers (both here and abroad) and refers to those who stole land from indigenous groups, plundered their resources, murdered and exiled Native peoples, and introduced slavery into the colonies.”

The Post report notes that university alumni were more in favor of keeping it, while current students were more for removal. 

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