This semester, rumors have spread across campus that Alma College may be in the process of removing the school’s longtime mascot, Scotty. Although the rumors remain prevalent, it appears that the college does not have plans to remove Scotty entirely any time soon.
While some students, faculty and staff are upset about the idea of removing the figure, others are open to the idea of finding a new mascot to represent the college.
Hank Wickley, a 2020 Alma graduate who now serves as Assistant Director of Admissions addressed the rumors.
“There has been talk about changing our mascot, but not getting rid of Scotty completely. A lot of the plan seems to be more use of the big tartan ‘A’ that you see around campus [and] on athletic uniforms. I don’t know when or how the college plans to make any of these changes,” said Wickley.
“We don’t want Scotty to go away, but we might want to have a mascot that more students and student athletes can identify with. Not everyone on campus looks at a big muscular white guy and feels connected to him, so I think the goal is to make something more relatable for everyone,” said Wickley.
Wickley believes that Scotty will always have a place at Alma College, but explained that the college has discussed letting its students select an additional figure to represent Alma College.
“There has been talk about providing a bunch of choices and then putting it up to a vote for students to decide,” said Wickley. “Again, nothing is official and all of those could very well never happen, but those are some things I have heard about. I think either way, Scotty won’t go away and will still be a part of our identity.”
Natashia Swalve, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology and Sociology would like to see the school consider a new mascot and she even has some thoughts on what it should be.
“I have been and will always be pro-highland cow,” said Swalve. “They are woolly, friendly, have horns and are cholesterol-friendly – everything you could want in a mascot.”
Andrew Pomerville, Director of the Center for College and Community Engagement and Senior Chaplain embraces what Scotty represents but understands that other members of the Alma College community feel differently and believes those voices should be heard.
“A mascot is an opportunity to demonstrate who we are and what we believe. I do not believe our current mascot is the only way to do that,” said Pomerville. “Hearing critique from students, staff, faculty and alumni about ‘Scotty’ helps me understand and support the idea of revisiting the idea of a new mascot. I love the involvement of the students in this process.”
Adam Short (’24) understands how some people may view Scotty as an offensive figure. “I do feel Scotty could potentially be a problematic stereotype of Scottish people, though I am not myself Scottish and can’t fully speak to this personally. I have heard discussions around campus that many Scottish exchange students have mentioned Scotty being a poor representation of Scottish people,” said Short.
Although Short feels that students’ concerns about Scotty are valid, he does not entirely agree with one of the points some students have made about the mascot.
“Some people argue he represents toxic masculinity. While I can sympathize with this point, I think the fact that Scotty does wear a kilt helps counter this slightly. It gives Scotty a mix of feminine and masculine traits,” said Short.
Like many members of the campus community, Short has thought about what kind of mascot might be a good fit for the college and has even considered different ways the college could choose this new figure.
“Alma could poll the student population on [whether] they think Scotty should be replaced and what he should be replaced with. I have heard people around campus suggest either the Scotty Terrier or a Highland Cow, since it does not impact Alma as ‘The Scots,’” said Short.
Short also thinks it could be useful to consult with Scottish college students to choose a new mascot. “Doesn’t Alma also have a ‘sister school’ in Scotland? Maybe they could work with that school to make a new mascot, considering they are actually Scottish students,” said Short.
Luke Losie (’22) is in favor of keeping Scotty as the college’s official mascot and enjoys learning about the unique mascots Alma College has had. “I think [Scotty is] great. He was elected in the 1920’s, replacing the fighting Presbyterians,” said Losie. “If they change it again, they should go back to them.”
Madeleine Kim (‘25) does not believe Scotty should be viewed as different from other mascots representing specific ethnic groups, comparing the use of the figure to Central Michigan University’s longtime use of “Chippewas.”
“I believe that it is completely fair to judge our ‘Scotty’ the same way one might judge Central’s ‘Chip,’” said Kim. “It would only be fair to have all mascots that depict an ethnic group be removed – whether or not that mascot depicts a minority ethnic group.”
Kim does not want the concerns surrounding the mascot to be taken lightly. “If someone is offended by something, they [have] a valid reason for it and there are likely others who feel the same way,” said Kim.
It is [evident] that these mascots are based on stereotypes and whether or not those are ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ stereotypes shouldn’t matter,” said Kim. “What matters is that because stereotypes are formed by outsiders, they are not a way to represent a culture or heritage.”