Eighty-one percent of students voted in support of changing the official Ole Miss mascot from the Black Bear to the Landshark, the Associated Student Body announced Friday night. More than 4,100 students voted in the OrgSync poll over a four-day period that ended Friday evening.
ASB President Dion Kevin III said he was pleased with the outcome of the poll.
“I would consider the campaign for this poll successful,” Kevin said. “Obviously, there were things that could have been done better in order to increase voter turnout and build a little more unity behind it all, but overall, I think we were successful in gauging student opinion on the Landshark.”
Kevin said that while the ASB expected the majority of voters to support changing the mascot to the Landshark, it was surprised by not only the level of support but also the total turnout.
“We were expecting the majority of students to vote in affirmation of their support for the Landshark, but the margin of support was unexpected,” he said. “The turnout of student votes represented a sample size of around 20 percent of undergraduate students, which was higher than expected.”
ASB Vice President Elam Miller said the turnout provided important data.
“While we wish we could have gotten every student to vote, a sample of 20 percent of undergraduate students is a statistically useful sample,” he said.
Although a majority of students who participated in the poll voted in favor of changing the mascot, the vote does not mean the Landshark is now the official mascot but simply that the student body endorses the change.
“It is important to remember that this was just a poll to gauge student opinion on the Landshark,” Miller said. “The vote is just the first step in having a serious conversation about changing the mascot.”
In order for the Landshark to become the official mascot for Ole Miss, university officials would have to agree to the change.
Kevin said he hopes the results of this poll begin the process of the university reaching out to other groups like alumni, faculty, staff, graduate students and season ticket holders.
“If similar results come from those other groups, I hope that the university begins making the transition to the Landshark as the official mascot,” Kevin said.
The next steps toward changing the mascot involve the ASB reaching out to the university.
“The Associated Student Body will begin developing an official body of language which reflects the results of the poll and then present it to the university, hopefully all before the homecoming game,” Kevin said. “From then on, we hope that students will still play a role in the mascot transition if the university decides to go that direction.”
Kevin said things like the design of the mascot and the level at which a new mascot would be implemented during game day have not been discussed.
This is not the first time the ASB has brought up the mascot debate.
“The mascot has been a topic of conversation for decades, so the conversations this year were only unique in that they led to an ASB-facilitated poll to gauge student support for a particular mascot,” Kevin said.
While Kevin said he was pleased with the results of the poll, some students have voiced disapproval with how the poll was conducted.
“Many people felt that options other than ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ deserved to be on the poll,” Kevin said. “Others felt that 4,100 students was not a large enough sample size to mandate an official decision from the student body, despite its statistical significance.”
Despite facing student backlash, Kevin said he appreciated that the poll allowed student voices to be heard in the mascot debate.
“If the university decides to change the mascot to the Landshark, we’re excited that students got to play a part in such a historic change,” Kevin said.