Vitter, Bjork explain mascot at ASB Senate, Landshark resolution passes

Posted on Oct 11 2017 - 8:01am by Maddie McGee and Rachel Ishee

A resolution to adopt the Landshark as the official mascot passed 29-15 -1 Tuesday evening on the ASB Senate floor. Before the vote, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Athletics Director Ross Bjork fielded senators’ questions regarding Friday’s announcement to change the official mascot to the Landshark, effective for the 2018 football season.

Some senators wondered why the process to officially adopt the Landshark seemed rushed. The ASB-sponsored poll to gauge support for the Landshark closed Friday, Sept. 29, and the university issued its official announcement last Friday, just a week later.

Vitter said the university had been conducting research for changing the mascot, and the poll provided additional support for the change.

“The Landshark has grown, and it’s a commonly accepted symbol now,” Vitter said. “We wanted an official process to bring people together and make a decision. We sought to find a balance, and I think we reached that.”

Bjork said the ASB-sponsored poll was only one facet of the research the university used.

“The ASB put out a four-day window, and we took the results and added it to the rest of our analysis,” he said. “We also grabbed a lot of anecdotal evidence. We do what’s called a ‘Rebel Road Trip,’ and everywhere we go, people ask us why we don’t just get rid of the bear. For me, that feedback has been happening over the past 5 1/2 years.”

Other senators asked how university officials planned to implement the mascot change without turning the university into a laughingstock.

“We have to take extreme ownership over the Landshark,” Bjork said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time, but we think we can get back to the unification piece and people can be positive about this.”

Vitter also said Colonel Reb was retired 14 years ago and is not an option for mascot.

“The reason the original decision was made was because Colonel Reb was found to be non-inclusive and offensive,” he said. “As Ole Miss Rebels, we care about everyone in our community, and the image of Colonel Rebel violates our creed.”

Although some senators were concerned with the way Vitter announced the mascot change on Friday because he did not discuss it with ASB Senate, many senators seemed supportive of Vitter and Bjork’s decision to attend and participate in Tuesday’s meeting. 

“I thought that it was very important Chancellor Vitter and Vice Chancellor Bjork showed up to Senate tonight, because there were so many concerns within Senate about our organization being circumvented,” Sen. Julia Grant said. 

“I’m happy they showed up, and I’m happy that they actually do care in a way that they will actually show up when the student body is questioning them,” Sen. Tristan Estrada said. “When it was a time to question them, they went there and they answered.”

Once Vitter and Bjork had left the meeting, the senators debated their original resolution to change the mascot to the Landshark.

“The mascot change is not legitimate until students have their say,” Grant, one of the resolution’s authors, said. 

While many student senators agreed the Landshark should be adopted as the official mascot, they did not agree with its selection process.

“I’m disappointed that the chancellor overstepped Senate,” Sen. Katie Davis said. “But at the end of the day, the Landshark will still be the mascot no matter what.”

An amendment to revise the original resolution was proposed and passed in a 41-3 vote. The resolution was amended to say that the ASB Senate accepts the university’s decision to make the Landshark the official mascot of the Ole Miss Rebels.

“In the beginning, I was against how it was worded, because I wasn’t going to lie to the students who voted me in and say ‘Hey, we did think of it first,’” Estrada said. “But when they amended it, I was all for it because they stated what was actually happening. I didn’t want to lie to the students.”

While ASB senators felt the announcement may have been rushed, they are happy to see the Landshark as the official mascot.

“Their decision to announce Friday was one made after discussing with a lot of different parties, such as students, alumni and athletics,” Sen. Nekkita Beans said. “I feel like they did it while we had the momentum and while we were excited. Had they waited for us to announce now, the momentum would have been lost.”