Little Joe, a buckskin-clad, coonskin-capped woodsman, has served as Mt. San Antonio College’s mascot for the past 42 years.
But many students and staff think Little Joe no longer properly represents the college, where minorities make up nearly half of the student body and more than half the students are female.
“We feel very strongly that Little Joe is not reflective of our demographics or our school spirit,” said Kay Ragan, associate dean of student affairs and a member of the Mascot Committee.
Despite the discontent with Little Joe, the effort to find a new representative for the community college has been put on hold indefinitely.
Fail to Meet Criteria
None of the 35 designs submitted by about 20 artists met the Mascot Committee’s criteria of retaining the school’s nickname, the Mountaineers, without sexual or racial bias. So the group decided Monday to cancel the contest until it can meet with the college’s president, John D. Randall. Randall won’t be available until the end of the month.
Despite the trouble they’ve encountered with this first attempt at a contest, committee members said they hope to hold a similar contest next semester but with clearer rules and guidelines.
“It’s becoming apparent that this is going to be harder than we anticipated,” said history Professor Stu Van Horn, who is one of nine students and faculty members on the Mascot Committee.
“It’s hard to find a symbol to portray a mountaineer that represents both genders and all races,” said Ragan.
“We’ve reviewed a number of college mascots, and found they were predominantly male and predominantly white,” she said. “We’d like to be on the front of working toward greater sensitivity to ethnicity and gender in school mascots.
“Little Joe no longer reflects the image students want,” Ragan said. “He’s not seen as powerful or competitive. We’re not getting rid of Little Joe, we’re just making him a part of our history.
The Mascot Committee was formed in early October at the suggestion of Linda Garrison, Mt. Sac’s athletic director. The contest began in mid-October and ended Nov. 10. It was open to students, staff and San Gabriel Valley residents.
Five drawings were to be picked by the committee and voted on by students and staff. A first-place prize of $100 and a $150 book scholarship was to go to the winner, with four runners-up to receive $50.
Ragan said the bulk of the drawings depicted cartoon-like animals. However, the athletic department is not interested in being represented by a cartoon, she said.
“It may not depict gender or ethnicity, but it doesn’t depict power or competitiveness either,” Ragan said. Another problem with an animal as a mascot is that it has no relationship to mountaineers, she said.
Other entries included an elephant and a punk rocker with bad teeth, a metal cross dangling from one ear and a zipper-like scar on his shaved head. Van Horn said he didn’t understand how a punk symbolized a mountaineer, but had no problem making the connection between the school’s nickname and an elephant.
“Everybody said, why an elephant?” Van Horn said. “But as a history major, it was easy to figure out. Remember Hannibal? He used elephants to cross the mountains, and we’re called the mountaineers.”
While Van Horn said he found some entries amusing, he added that the search for a new mascot is a serious undertaking.
“I think there’s a tendency to make light of this whole thing,” he said. “But when I stand back and look at it, a lot of institutions won’t take this kind of an issue on. I feel we’re being a real leader in saying, ‘Hey, Little Joe doesn’t meet the needs of the times.’ ”