What’s in a name? Union explores a new nickname and mascot

Publication Date

The nickname Dutchmen first crept into the Concordiensis in an Oct. 13, 1933, preview of the upcoming football game against Amherst. Less than a month later, “Dutchmen” appeared in its first headline in the student newspaper:

“Dutchmen victory over Purple would break losing streak; Lineup uncertain,” read the headline above a story previewing the game against Williams.

Although the College’s athletic teams were widely regarded as the Garnet, which had been adopted as Union’s official colors in 1866, local sports journalists began to invent livelier sobriquets and settled on “Dutchmen,” according to the “Encyclopedia of Union College History.” The Concordiensis simply followed that trend.

Teams continued to be referred to interchangeably as the Garnet and Dutchmen for decades, but in what would be considered going viral for its time, the nickname Dutchmen eventually overwhelmed the Garnet in sports stories. For the most part, team uniforms did not follow suit.

Left to right:Men's basketball player makes a shot; women's volleyball play spikes the ball; a women's tennis play lobs one over the net.

The College eventually began using the term Dutchmen - and later Dutchwomen – even though the moniker was neither selected nor endorsed through any formal College processes, according to an email from President David R. Harris and Mark Land, vice president for Communications and Marketing that was sent to the campus community this week.

Now Union will explore choosing a new nickname and mascot for the College. This comes after months of preliminary discussion with students, including student athletes; faculty; staff and alumni. The plan has the support of the Board of Trustees.

The College is accepting ideas through Feb. 24. Group sessions will also be scheduled to seek ideas from students, employees and alumni during this period. A working group led by Communications and Marketing and Athletics will evaluate the ideas. The goal is to develop a short list of candidates to share with the campus community this spring, with a final selection made before the start of the next academic year in September.

A website has been created outlining the process.

“It is clear that relatively few current students have an affinity for the nicknames, and they do little to connect the College to prospective students,” the email from Harris and Land states. “Additionally, not having a strong nickname – and the accompanying mascot – puts the College at a distinct disadvantage from a marketing and branding standpoint.”

The move by Union to choose its own nickname comes at a time when the College is in the midst of a comprehensive branding update designed to strengthen how to communicate Union’s distinctiveness and the power of a Union education to prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public.

“As we work through a broad branding update for the College, this seemed like a good time to examine whether Dutchmen/Dutchwomen was performing the work on a nickname as a rallying point for our students," Land said. “We also currently don't have a mascot, which leaves room for us to strengthen our marketing.

“This is all about asking the question: ‘Can we do better than what we have now?'"