Mascot survey ends tonight

Story by Thom Fountain

Pending the results of a current survey, UW-Eau Claire may have a new mascot in the near future. The two options proposed by a committee of students, faculty, alumni and community members are a blue and gold ox and a French voyageur outfitted in the school’s colors. A third option is being offered in a survey, which closes at midnight tonight, of keeping the university without a mascot.

The survey was sent to the entire student body, faculty and alumni. Each participant is given a chance to submit written comments along with their survey choice, which will be reviewed with the quantitative results.

John Bachmeier, the university’s director of alumni relations and head of the committee, said he is not leaning towards either. A 1981 graduate of Eau Claire, Bachmeier says he understands both arguments.

“I didn’t think there was a lack of school spirit (when I attended), and I don’t think there’s a lack of school spirit now,” Bachmeier said.

The two mascot options given to students were the winners of a contest held in 2009 which garnered 29 entries. Bachmeier said the committee looked at each design for creativity, originality, functionality and linkage to the Eau Claire area and its history. Each entry was graded on these criteria and the ox and voyageur came out with the highest scores, Bachmeier said.

Mallory Prucha Rishoi, costume shop supervisor in the department of music and theatre arts, submitted the design for the blue ox.

“I was driving around Carson Park in the snow and almost ran into the statue of (Babe) the blue ox,” Rishoi said. “I thought it’s a great animal that really works and is prided on being smart and steadfast.” The ox’s yoke is made of wood from the Council Oak Tree, according to a description in a university press release.

Rishoi said the contest sounded interesting and she felt Eau Claire needed a mascot.

“We’re in a marketing and media-consuming age, and I think that having some sort of concrete identity is really important not only for sports teams . but from an image and publicity standpoint.”

Signe Matson, the coordinator for new student programs, submitted the voyageur design with Steven Majstorovic, a political science professor. Matson said a mascot could provide an added dimension to the university’s image.

“When they see (a mascot), they’ll see the university is there,” Matson said.

Majstorovic and Matson submitted multiple designs of the voyageur, including both male and female models. After some research, Matson found both men and women who ventured into Wisconsin and wanted to ensure the mascot was gender-neutral. Matson said she hoped the voyageur could re-establish the rich history of trappers who discovered and named Eau Claire.

According to a university press release, the images and descriptions of the two options are not final and are still subject to change if the committee so decides.

Bachmeier said there is no firm timeline for when the mascot will be chosen because of the time it will take to read the attached comments, but that the committee will be working hard to find the mascot that will work best for the university.