The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Blugold should be the bird

For years, we’ve been trying to define what, exactly, is a Blugold.

A mythical bird?

An amalgam of our school colors?

Something else?

I’ve thought about this myself many times walking down the Hill.

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But one morning, I wasn’t really thinking about anything. I was just an average freshman stumbling down the hill, just one in a throng of hundreds milling toward my 8 a.m. class.

I remember snapping out of my sleepy, distracted haze to the sound of students laughing and high-fiving some lunatic in a bird suit.

At first, I liked that we didn’t have a mascot. It told me that we do prioritize academics above all else, that we want to set ourselves apart, and that we don’t have to have a mascot just because everyone else does.

But then I caught myself looking forward to Mondays. I caught myself warming up to this “bird man,” who I soon realized wasn’t actually a lunatic. Like many of my peers, I couldn’t help it. I was proud to see a student would wake up early, just for the love of this campus, when most of us could barely do the same when it was required for class.

When you talk to upperclassmen, many of those who have been here since the Momentum Monday Man first emerged thought the bird was already our de facto mascot.

The most frustrating part about the mascot recommendations, all masculinity aside, is that none of them truly seemed to capture the essence of what it means – how it feels – to be a Blugold. But then again, how could any sort of 2-D image represent something much more abstract, something much more meaningful?

It can’t. That’s why, when I voted for “No mascot,” I wrote in the comment section that I would have liked to have seen Casey Driscoll’s proposal included in the survey, at least for the sake of discussion. From anecdotal evidence and a Ctrl+F search of the survey comments on the “no mascot” responses, it seems like quite a few students who voted no did the same as I did. We voted no in deference to the bird.

Although I do appreciate the research and thought behind the two mascot nominations, I can’t help but align myself with the students who wonder why the mascot didn’t make the cut in the committee. That happens sometimes, depending on who is on the committee, individual priorities and group dynamics.

However, students seem to care about this bird in a way that I could never imagine them doing with a voyageur or an ox. Isn’t that the point of a mascot? To rally up the crowd, to boost morale and to make people feel good? That’s something worth taking into consideration, in addition to the committee’s criteria: “creativity, originality, functionality and linkage to the Eau Claire area and its history.”

I came here because I could feel that energy when I visited. I could feel it in the professors who raved about our study abroad programs and student-faculty research, in the students who are passionate about service learning and writing abstracts.

Here, people matter. I hope any prospective student can see that. It’s one of the distinguishing characteristics of this university that is ultimately epitomized in this bird.

Driscoll first took the myth of the bird and hand-sewed it into a costume that brightened almost every single dreary Monday morning on the hill. But when he faced opposition and gave up on his grand mascot plans, it was the students who pushed him back. His friends (by now, he has many) pushed him to take this project on again after the committee offered up the ox and voyageur. They created a Facebook group that within two days had 1,500 fans. This isn’t just about Driscoll anymore.

Driscoll won’t graduate until 2012 and has plenty of ambition to keep this “momentum” alive. He doesn’t intend to be the mascot, even if one is implemented before he graduates. A mascot, if we want one, would be for the campus’ benefit, not solely his. Someone else, probably many people, would wear the suit.

For the entire past year, we have complained about student apathy and lack of interest in campus affairs. Here we have someone who clearly cares about this campus and wants to make it better. If nothing else, the bird simply makes people happy. If we have someone willing to take the initiative to make it happen, do we really have any other reason to say no?

Of course, “once a Blugold, always a Blugold” means that we can’t make this decision without alumni, nor would we want to. I like knowing that when I leave here, students will carry on the Blugold tradition. But all traditions come from somewhere. If we can make this an inclusive decision, this is one campaign worth championing behind.

Already, the bird has more student support than anything I’ve seen since I enrolled here. If alumni heard the story behind this mascot, this myth that’s beginning to manifest into something much more positive, they might be inspired, too. If you break down the vote, alumni were about as split as students were, with 41 percent voting for no mascot and 46 percent favoring the ox.

Student Senate, influenced by a 1,200-signature petition, just passed a resolution on Monday to create a mascot taskforce, with five senator and three non-senator students. They hope to send out a student-only survey by the end of the semester, just to gauge general support before they move forward.

After that, I’m told there will be another survey to allow alumni and all people associated with this campus to weigh in with their opinions. From there, the campaign gets bigger.

But for now, just give the bird a chance.

Boschma is a senior print journalism major and guest columnist for The Spectator.

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Blugold should be the bird