A college in Virginia is considering changing its wasp mascot – a clear reference to the actual insect – because someone, somewhere may be reminded of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant acronym WASP and be offended.
Emails obtained by Young America’s Foundation from Emory & Henry College president Dr. John Wells and its alumni director, Monica Hoel, show the college is thinking about changing the mascot because of the associated acronym. The school is also considering changes to its name, since the two men the college is named after owned slaves, and changes to building names.
In an email obtained by YAF, Hoel wrote that the “little wasp itself isn’t offensive, but the acronym WASP stands for White Anglo Saxon Protestant,” adding that “it sort of cuts both way: [sic] it stands to make us seem exclusive of those not in that category….and I mostly Hear [sic] it used as an insult against people who do fall into that category.”
“Like an interview this weekend where they described someone as WASPy: I don’t think it mean she was terribly cool or open minded! :)” Hoel added. “It’s a pickle, for sure.”
Writing at YAF, Kara Zupkus called the decision to reconsider the school’s mascot “beyond parody.”
“The college’s mascot is clearly in reference to a wasp–the literal insect, not a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. This school’s administration is seeking out any and all reasons students may be offended by something. A bug seems like it should be the least of their worries,” she wrote.
Hoel was responding to an email from Wells and vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion John Holloway, who briefly mentioned the mascot as part of their suggestion to re-examine the school’s ties to people who owned slaves.
“Conversations must examine how Emory & Henry’s past has contributed to current and ongoing systemic oppression,” the administrators wrote. “For example, discussion should be renewed regarding College’s mascot, the wasp, and the impact of this mascot on inclusion and diversity on our campus.”
The mascot is literally a winged insect, not a white religious person.
The initial email also questioned the two men for whom the school is named after:
Emory & Henry College must address the history of the institution benefiting from the work of enslaved people. As the oldest college in southwestern Virginia, Emory & Henry has links to slavery that are well documented. The College’s namesakes, Bishop John Emory and Governor Patrick Henry, were slaveholders. In addition, initial research indicates there is one building on the main campus named for a slaveholder.
Continuing research will enable the institution to determine specifically what role slavery played during the College’s early years. This time also will be a distinctive opportunity for the College to have a dialogue and build trusting and meaningful relationships with our communities of color.
The College’s leadership and I strongly support examining the names of buildings as well as the publicly displayed portraits, plaques, and statues that point to ties to slavery. These thoughtful discussions will involve students, alumni, and other stakeholders. As a result, our community will develop meaningful ways to acknowledge and pay tribute to the contributions of the enslaved men and women who helped build Emory & Henry College.
The administrators added that 14 “preliminary recommendations” are already being implemented in the next academic year and that a final report would be released next January.
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