Lauren Marnel Shores
Campus Beat Reporter
On April 13, the Students for Mascot Change will host a town hall meeting to discuss the possibility of retiring the Gaucho. Its proposed successor? A raccoon or mapache.
The idea first took form on the UCSB Facebook meme page, UCSB Zesty Meme Cuisine for Horny Teens. Victoria Hanken, a third year language, culture, & society major, posted, “How does one formally request to change the mascot to a Mapache … asking for a friend.”
Five minutes later, Mario Infante, a fourth year computer science major, posted a link to an online petition for a mascot change in the comment section of the post. From there, the link was posted to the UCSB Free & For Sale page, where it gathered 500 signatures by the end of the day.
Following a formal name change to “mapache” to prevent shortening of the mascot name to “coon,” and an illustration of the potential new logo, the petition quickly grew in traction. Within two weeks of its creation, the petition garnered approximately 2,500 signatures.
“This is not the mascot we need, but the one we deserve,” according to the petition description. “The Mapache is a noble animal and fits well with the other animal mascots at other UC’s. Mapache is the Spanish word for raccoon. Plus, raccoons are cool as hell and they’re all over IV.”
Prior to 1936, the university mascot was the roadrunner. That year, the university’s female student population pushed for a mascot change after watching Douglas Fairbank’s performance in the silent film “The Gaucho.” Since then, UCSB has been the only other UC campus besides UCSD that has a human mascot.
“The Gaucho was initially created because someone liked a character in a movie in 1936,” Infante explained. “The Gaucho wasn’t even pushed onto the students in 1980, and it wasn’t until 2009 when the school decided to rebrand itself and design new logos. The Gaucho, for the students in 1936, was good for them, but does it really represent our current environment?”
A week after Hanken’s post, Charles Neumann, legislative director for UCSB Associated Students Office of the President, posted a survey on UCSB Free & For Sale to gauge students’ opinion of a mascot change. Neumann conducted the survey as a student, rather than on behalf of A.S.
Out of the 224 respondees, 61.6 percent were in favor of a mascot change, 27.2 percent were against, and the remaining 11.2 percent were undecided. Out of alumni members however, these numbers were much different. Only 16.7 percent were in favor of a change.
Breaking these numbers down further, 47.3 percent were in favor of adopting the mapache, 15.6 percent were in favor of an undecided marine animal, and 2.7 percent were in favor of a non-marine animal.
“In the comments section of the poll, people showed sentiments of being for change but not for the mapache due to the nature of the animal as well as its potential racial connotation,” Neumann wrote in his Facebook post about the poll results. “Also, there were concerns for the potential cost of a mascot change. Nevertheless, nearly half of all respondents are for a Mapache mascot.”
“There’s no vote. There’s no forcing anything on the change of mascot. We’re trying more to get the student body to tell us what you guys think. We just realized that 2500 students are interested in the change of mascot. It might not be a racoon but it’s basically opening up a form of discussion among students and say ‘what do you guys think?’”
The town hall will be held on April 13 from 5-7 p.m. in the Student Resource Building Multipurpose room. There, the Students for Mascot Change will host a public forum where students can discuss whether they support or oppose a change and what the replacement might be if support seems strong.
This article has been updated for clarity.