Two weeks ago, Ole Miss Athletics unveiled the official design for the university’s long-awaited new mascot, Landshark Tony.
Upon Tony’s reveal, media outlets across Oxford feverishly rushed to the defense of the peculiar humanoid shark, insisting that Tony was a wild success among both students and alumni and citing last year’s student vote — orchestrated by the Associated Student Body — that showed 81 percent support of the Landshark.
Despite the misleading polling and selective interviews that have become a staple of how the university does business in recent years, there was something truly peculiar about this decision. Other than a few children who participated in a photo shoot with the new mascot, the Landshark seems to have no supporters besides its design committee.
With the Landshark receiving ridicule from sports commentators, state political leaders and a clear majority of both students and alumni alike, the university has truly outdone itself in yet another episode in its series of brutal self-imposed humiliation, which is entirely the responsibility of university leadership.
Despite how much the flawed message of unity will be pushed in the coming weeks, Landshark Tony does nothing more for our school than to further erode its national perception from that of a football powerhouse full of southern tradition to a politically correct laughing stock in the style of the University of Missouri in 2015.
If the athletics department and the radical administration truly cared about building any further sense of community at the university, they should have consulted all students, not just the over-enthusiastic liberal minority that fanatically orbits the administration’s power structure.
This issue is not about voicing support for one mascot or another, it’s about understanding that the selection of the Landshark continues to lead Ole Miss down a destructive path. I would challenge every single fan, student and alumnus to search out someone who supports this selection and simply ask what he or she hopes the Landshark will achieve because, thus far, that has been far from a clear answer.
This is not to say that the selection of the Landshark will not have a lasting effect on the university, especially with the tens of thousands of dollars the school is bound to waste on promotion, merchandise and the costs associated with inevitable drafting committee for what will become our next mascot.
The only thing I affirmatively know about the future is this: It will be a cold day in hell before I call myself an Ole Miss Landshark.
Will Hall is a senior journalism major from Atlanta.