Why did Union do this?
At their best, nicknames – and the accompanying mascots – are pride points for a college community, connecting alumni across generations with current and future students. Examining whether Union’s current Dutchmen/Dutchwomen nickname best portrays the image Union wants to project to the world was a natural outgrowth of a broader branding update, which began last fall. After months of exploration, listening and discussions with members of the Union community, the College decided a new nickname – Garnet Chargers – and the accompanying mascot that will be unveiled this fall better represent Union’s proud history and its ambitions for the future.
Why did you select Garnet Chargers?
Names with some version of the word Chargers in it were a popular suggestion among our community, with many noting the tie to Schenectady’s history as a leader in electrical innovation and invention - from Thomas Edison to General Electric. It’s also an active word that denotes power, speed and energy.
Combining the word Chargers with Garnet, our school’s official color for more than 150 years, gives us a powerful nickname that clearly resonated with our community members who rated it the highest among our four finalists. Altogether, it’s an apt descriptor for a tradition-rich institution that is always looking to the future.
What was wrong with Dutchmen/Dutchwomen? Don’t the names honor the region and the College’s founding?
It’s true that this part of New York is associated with Dutch heritage, but by no means is the region monolithic regarding 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 College was formed in 1795 as the “union” of several religious orders specifically to be a non- sectarian institution.
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. By contrast, “Garnet '' has been the school color for more than 150 years.
Did you consider retaining the Dutchmen/Dutchwomen names?
Yes. One of the guiding principles behind this work was that to make a change we needed to be confident we had options that would serve the College better.
There was considerable support for retaining the Dutchmen/Dutchwomen names, notably among our alumni community – including many who represented the College proudly as a member of one of our athletic teams during their time as students.
We didn’t make this decision lightly. Rather it came after careful consideration of all our options, and much interaction with members of our community.
Dutchmen/Dutchwomen were included in the list of approximately 25 ‘semifinal’ monikers scored
against our evaluation criteria. After that process was completed, we felt we had several options that would serve the College better than Dutchmen/Dutchwomen. Because of that, we announced the decision in May to retire the names.
What does this decision mean for the other Dutch-related references across the College?
Nothing. This work was designed solely to determine whether Dutchmen/women continues to be the best choice as a nickname for the College.
We have no plans to discontinue traditions such as the firing of the cannon, playing in the annual “Dutchman Shoes” rivalry football game with RPI or removing Dutch references on our campus, such as the Dutch Hollow dining venue.
Why not just change the nickname to the Garnet?
Garnet was a popular suggestion. In fact, the word was suggested as our nickname – either by itself
or in combination with other words as we have offered – more than 250 times by members of our
Unfortunately, another liberal arts college in the East has trademarked the use of the word “Garnet”
by itself as its nickname. As such, we have decided to not use it in that fashion.
How will you use the new nickname?
Garnet Chargers will be an important piece of our marketing and branding efforts going forward. In addition to providing significant new merchandising opportunities, we expect to promote the name on signage across campus and in our athletic venues. The new moniker also will be used in our communication with potential students as a point of pride. Once we unveil our Garnet Chargers mascot those opportunities will expand further.
Why didn’t you release a mascot today? What’s the mascot going to look like?
The focus of our efforts for most of this effort has been to identify a great new nickname, so we’ve only recently turned our full attention to the mascot. Since we wanted to share the nickname with our community before classes begin in early September, we decided to stagger the release of the nickname and mascot.
As for what it will look like, we don’t want to spoil the surprise. You’ll just have to wait until we unveil our Garnet Chargers mascot this fall.
I see you have a new logo for the nickname. Is the Block U going away?
No, the Block U remains an important part of our visual identity system and will still be used on merchandise and other college materials. The Garnet Chargers logo and wordmarks simply give us more tools to market the College.
I’m excited! How can I show my Garnet Chargers pride?
An initial collection of apparel and merchandise is now available online at UnionAthleticsGear.com with more to come soon. Additionally, Garnet Chargers merchandise will be available in the Union Bookstore in the coming weeks.
"Union Swimming and Diving is so excited to step into the 2023-24 Season as the Garnet Chargers! Our staff uses language as a tool to create and support our identity. The name Garnet Chargers unites Union Athletics, making us stronger and helping us take steps forward!"
– Molly Chamberlain, head men's and women's swimming & diving coach