Why is Union doing this now?
At their best, nicknames – and the accompanying mascots – are pride points for a college community, connecting alumni across generations with current and future students. The College is in the midst of a comprehensive branding update designed to strengthen how we communicate Union’s distinctiveness and the power of a Union education to prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public.
Examining whether Union’s current Dutchmen/Dutchwomen nickname best portrays the image Union wants to project to the world is a natural outgrowth of that work. Our current and prospective students show little affinity for our nickname and we are confident our community can help us find a more effective moniker.
What exactly are you looking to change?
We are seeking alternatives to the use of Dutchmen and Dutchwomen, which often is used to describe Union's athletic teams, as the College's nickname.
Additionally, we are hoping that a new nickname brings with it opportunities to create a mascot that will serve as a dynamic visual representation of the new name, and which would be something we could use to promote the College in a variety of ways - including on merchandise, social media and at athletic events.
What’s wrong with Dutchmen? After all, the region where Union is located was founded by the Dutch.
It’s true that this part of New York is associated with Dutch heritage, but by no means is the region monolithic in regard to those who have settled here. In fact, the region also is the ancestral homeland of the Iroquois Confederacy, which is thought to date back to the 15th century, well before the first Dutch explorers arrived.
Additionally, there is no direct tie between Union College and the genesis of its current nickname. The use of Dutchmen began in the first half of the 20th century when local sports writers adopted the term as a colorful way to refer to the College’s athletics teams. After women were admitted to Union in the early 1970s, use of the term Dutchwomen began.
So, is the College definitely going to replace Dutchmen/Dutchwomen?
At this point we are simply asking the question as to whether Union can do better than what we have in terms of a nickname and mascot.
We feel strongly, however, that creativity and passion of the Union community, can provide us with some strong alternatives.
If we change the nickname, what does that mean for other Dutch-related references or traditions on campus, such as the Dutch Hollow dining hall or the firing of the cannon at football games?
This work is designed solely to determine whether Dutchmen/women continues to be the best choice as a nickname for the College.
It is in no way intended as a means to discontinue traditions such as the firing of the cannon or remove all references to Dutch on our campus.
Isn’t this just another example of a liberal college caving into the wokeness of some members of its community?
No. We are simply proactively taking the opportunity afforded by our broader branding update to explore whether there are better nickname and mascot alternatives for the future.
Will Union community members get to vote on the new nickname?
The final decision on a new nickname will be made by the College’s President, in close collaboration with the Board of Trustees, based on the recommendation from a project team led by the Vice President for Communications and Marketing and the Director of Athletics.
At the same time, we will provide the community a chance to both offer ideas and weigh in on finalists before a decision is made.
When will this all be done?
We hope to complete this process before the start of the 2023-2024 academic year in September.
How will the community be kept informed about progress? How will we know what the finalists are?
We will communicate our progress to members of our community, including our alumni, in a number of ways including through email, on social media and via our website. We also plan to solicit feedback on a short list of finalists for the new nickname once we get to that point in the process.