MONDAY’S MAPS SCHOOL board meeting will likely be unusually crowded. And maybe impassioned.
It’ll be the first Board meeting since a research committee returned its recommendation that Marquette Senior High School drop its controversial nickname “Redmen.”
“The research reviewed by the committee demonstrated that a change to a culturally appropriate mascot…might serve as a rallying point and a point of pride as MAPS continues to establish itself as the destination district,” said Joe Lubig, who was the committee chairman.
Opposition to the recommendation and a possible name change was immediate and widespread.
A change.org petition campaign started up, opposing the name change, and has garnered more than 2000 signatures. A Mining Journal poll–admittedly unscientific and self-selecting–shows that 95% oppose the name change.
“The nickname is not the problem,” says Kristi Campbell, a 1996 alumna. “It’s just that people want to get rid of so many things in the past that they don’t like, but that’s history. And we need to understand the true origin of the name.”
She’s right. The origin of the name “Redmen” apparently had nothing to do with Native Americans; rather it derived from the crimson red sweater of the college alma mater of a former MAPS superintendent.
Weird, but apparently true.
But then in subsequent years, “Redmen” did become associated with Native Americans, and a Native American logo was adopted by the high school for several decades, only to be dropped about ten years ago when other high schools and colleges were making changes.
But Marquette Senior High School stuck with the name, with supporters insisting 1) the nickname does not refer to Native Americans 2) even if it did, it’s not a slur because many Native Americans support it 3) the vast majority of the alumni want to keep the name.
Is it an issue of political correctness? Cultural hypersensitivity? That’s what many believe.
But Ann Hilton Fisher, a 1966 alumna, believes it’s time to finally put the issue to rest.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re still having to deal with this issue in 2020,” she says. “Other schools have dealt with this issue, it’s time for us to do the same. I don’t believe the nickname is a slur and these people certainly aren’t racists but we need to find a mascot that unites all of us rather than dividing us.”
Monday’s meeting likely won’t decide anything, but views on both sides will probably be voiced. There’s no deadline set yet for a vote.
Board member Keith Glendon says he hasn’t decided anything. “I’m committed to doing what I can to help us find a way forward we can all take pride in. I know we’re a community that can come together around that goal.”
An optimistic view. It’s hard to imagine the Board could arrive at a decision that makes everybody happy. Or even one where at least no one’s angry.
A compromise? Maybe something honoring the past and yet recognizing current day realities? It’s an issue that challenges us to come up with a creative and empathetic solution.