By Brian Edsall and Tara Guaimano
Shootings have become disturbingly frequent.
Such tragedies have generated fear and sorrow throughout the United States and the rest of the world—considering recent events, Marist College has decided to rename ‘Shooter the Red Fox.’
Marist College’s mascot of nearly four decades has been renamed to ‘Frankie,’ a move which Assistant Athletic Director Andrew Alongi says was necessary considering the “influx of violence.”
“The thing that made the change necessary in our minds was the shooting at Las Vegas’s country music festival,” Alongi said. “Multiple members of the athletic administration continued hearing in the coverage ‘the shooter’ before they could identify the assailant by name—I think that was where the association was made.”
Marist released their official statement through their Office of Marketing and Communication regarding the name change on Tuesday, Nov. 14—this is after students already discovered the news through a Poughkeepsie Journal article.
"We felt this was the right time to make a change: Marist wants its athletics program to be associated with positive experiences and not in any way linked to the incidences of gun violence that have sadly become too common,” it stated.
The name ‘Frankie’ was chosen to “honor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose childhood home and Presidential Library and Museum are in close proximity to our location and whose digital archives the College is proud to host,” according to the statement.
“I think that when you make a change of this magnitude, there’s going to be naysayers. There’s going to be the traditionalists who feel that things should remain the same,” said Alongi. “It will take some adjustment from the entire campus community, including myself, but I think it’s something that will be inherently positive moving forward.”
Alongi and the athletics administration believe that the name ‘Frankie’ will be more encompassing of the Marist community as a whole, in contrast to ‘Shooter’ which only referenced basketball.
Earlier this year, the SGA released an April Fools joke stating a mascot name change from ‘Shooter the Red Fox’ to ‘Gary the Groundhog,’ owing to the significant amount of groundhogs inhabited on campus. Unknowingly, a similar situation would soon follow.
How Some Students Reacted
How The Media Reacted
This change was made exclusively by Marist College’s athletic department—Marist’s Student Government Association (SGA) and Marist’s general student population were not informed about this decision, according to Student Body President, Matt Marotti.
The SGA released an article and held an open forum for students in the days following the decision.
The decision process—particularly the neglect of student input at a college which values a sense of community—has sparked considerable opposition from the student body.
An online petition was formed by senior Kathleen Zdankowicz on Nov. 14, expressing concern with the name change and frustration regarding intercommunication between the administration and students.
“A mascot represents a body of students—to change the name of our mascot without even telling anyone just seemed unfair,” said Zdankowicz.
She emphasized that the student body is simply upset with abruptly changing a beloved part of Marist College. “[Shooter is] an icon on campus—changing his name is breaking a Marist tradition, and this school is rooted in tradition,” she said. “I am proud of us as a student body for coming together to defend something we feel strongly about.”
Senior Anthony Tucciarone also stood outside of the James A. Cannavino library on Nov. 15 for the majority of the day, urging students to sign his petition.
“I’m a little upset that the athletic department didn’t confront any of the students about it, or take a poll,” said Tucciarone. “It is a shame that this name has to be tied to thoughts of violence, when it clearly hasn’t been that way for the past 38 years.”
More than 800 signatures have been collected from the two petitions as of November 16.
“I think it was unnecessary,” said Billy Hild, class of 2014. “The name change was made for sensitivity reasons, and the amount of people who ever had an issue with it is probably negligible to nonexistent.”
“‘Shooter’ refers to to shooting baskets, or shooting goals,” added Zdankowicz. “It has no correlation to gun violence...we can differentiate between ‘Shooter’ referring to sports, and a political issue, such as gun violence.”
“I get the sense a lot of alumni are going to always refer to [the mascot] as Shooter anyway,” Hild added.
In Nov. 2015, Marist College encountered a shooting threat of its own, causing the college to enter a lockdown. A City of Poughkeepsie teenager was accused of posting threats via Twitter to “shoot up” the college. He was was sent to Dutchess County Jail on $50,000 bail or $75,000 bond on a charge of making a terroristic threat, a felony, according the Poughkeepsie Journal. Ironically, his name is Frank.
Marist has made many politically-associated decisions in recent years, ones which have been controversial amongst students and alumni alike, including the men’s basketball team’s decision to play Duke’s Blue Devils in North Carolina last November and the marching band’s decision to play at President Trump’s inauguration.
Controversy involving mascots has previously reached the national level. In June 2014, the United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled six federal trademark registrations for the Washington Redskins, stating that the name and logo were “disparaging.” Mascots such as the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, and Florida State Seminoles have also sparked debates.
This year has witnessed a horrifying number of mass shootings. As of Nov. 16, the United States has witnessed 318 mass shootings within the first 320 days of the year with 13,619 reported deaths resulting from gun violence - on pace to surpass the 15,083 gun-related deaths in 2016, according to the nonprofit corporation Gun Violence Archive (GVA).
According to a CNN report, the United States owns nearly half of the estimated 650 million civilian-owned guns worldwide. Additionally, the United States makes up less than five percent of the world’s population, but holds 31 percent of global mass shooters.
“I think our philosophy at Marist is that we want every touch point of our mascot to be positive,” said Alongi.
This story has gained national and international attention, receiving coverage from Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, NowThis News, the Chicago Tribune and the Toronto Star.