After months of pressure from both students and staff, Amherst College finally chose to dump their longstanding mascot, Lord Jeff, on Wednesday.
Lord Jeffery evokes the 18th century British war general Lord Jeffrey Amherst, known for "advocating that Native Americans be given smallpox-infected blankets to hasten their demise," as the New York Times points out.
“Amherst College finds itself in a position where a mascot—which, when you think about it, has only one real job, which is to unify—is driving people apart because of what it symbolizes to many in our community,” Cullen Murphy, the chairman of the board, wrote in a statement.
A student named Cornell Brooks was quoted by the Times as an advocate of the change: “I think it’s a big step in the right direction for our community,” Brooks told the paper. "We’re trying to be one of the most progressive schools in the country. The fact that our mascot was someone who represented such poor moral values—I really wasn’t proud.”
The rejection of the Lord Jeff mascot comes at a time where schools are reconsidering the legacy of the costumed students representing their athletic teams. Back in November, students at UNLV protested their mascot, Hey Reb, who they argued evoked Confederate imagery. And many U.S. colleges and universities still have racist or offensive mascots and nicknames.
"Times change, people change, standards change—this is inevitable," Murphy wrote. "That the discussion of the mascot has been passionate was inevitable too."
Michael Rosen is a reporter for Fusion based out of Oakland.