Say goodbye to California State University East Bay’s mascot, Pioneer Pete. The academic senate made the decision to remove Pioneer Pete as the mascot earlier this month on Oct. 6.
It was not long ago that the Students for Quality Education put up a banner that read “Imagine our mascot representing genocide…Well, that’s what we have,” with a drawing of Pioneer Pete with blood dripping from his hand. It was a bold move, to say the least.
SQE helped bring awareness to how the mustached figure can be seen as “culturally insensitive” to their organization and to CSUEB’s diverse campus.
Isaac Miranda, 22-year-old Art major and Vice President of SQE, said he doesn’t think that Pioneer Pete and the name “Pioneers” is something the school should have representing the students.
“I just think that CSUEB is the most diverse school in the country and then you have something like that to represent, that’s not a good look,” Miranda said in an interview. “That is not ‘most diverse’. That is not inclusive. That is not well representative.”
Miranda said SQE brought the argument about what Pioneer Pete represents to Professor Carlos Salomon of the Ethnic Studies Department. Salomon then drafted a proposal and presented it to the Academic Senate where it was approved on Oct. 6.
CSU Long Beach is going through something very similar. Their mascot “Prospector Pete,” a gold miner from California’s gold rush era, was also given the boot this fall. Complaints were made that the gold rush era was a time in which indigenous people suffered greatly.
However, the Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom, a conservative organization on campus, says there is nothing wrong with Pioneer Pete or the name.
“It means to go into the unknown, and to explore new boundaries, I don’t see how that’s bad at all,” Bruce Rodriguez said in an interview. “It’s about breaking new ground in intellectual territory, I think it’s something the university should stand for.”
The Pioneer name is highly visible in CSUEB’s sports. Sophomore baseball pitcher Mark Woinarowicz also holds the name and mascot in high regard.
“The word pioneer to me means someone who is pushing the boundaries, achieving things that have not already been laid before them. It is accomplishment, achievement, and progress,” Woinarowicz said. “It is especially fitting for a school like East Bay, where we have a lot of first-generation college students. They are pioneers in their own family tree for doing something no one else has in their family. That is important.”
However, SQE wants to get rid the name “Pioneer” as well and replace it with a mascot that is genderless and non-binary so that it can represent everyone.Rebranding the school mascot and name will also be costly, according to Athletic Director Jason Carmichael.
“We went through a name change in a previous institution where they changed the name from ‘college’ to ‘university’; just a simple change,” Carmichael said.
He also added the rebranding at West Colorado State University cost between $500,000 and $1 million.
However, Miranda, thinks that it is worth it.
“I feel like the mascot rebranding of the school is a lot cheaper than a lot of the stupid decisions made by officials at our school,” he said in reference to the new electric billboards that were recently installed on campus. “CSUEB loves to use or claim that we’re one of the most diverse campuses in the nation yet they only want to use that when it benefits us.”
Nonetheless, Rodriguez says the offense is a matter of opinion.
“Everyone is going to find something to complain about and something to nit-pick. Honestly, the SQE is a minority, so we shouldn’t change the mascot for a minority,” he said.
Not everybody sees the name “Pioneer” as offensive. Carmichael of the Athletic Department noted that 60 percent of our students are the first generation which gives the word “Pioneer” a special meaning.
“I think when people articulate it here, internally, it is about going through that academic year and graduating and of course, pioneering. For first-generation college students, it’s about setting a course for your family and your circle of influence, that they’ve not seen before.”
It is still up for debate whether the name “Pioneer” will be removed. The Academic Senate did not make clear how the change will take place at the October meeting.
Students can still get involved in this decision.
“Right now we’re just waiting to hear back from campus feedback as a collective and what we’re doing. Faculty, students, staff, administration are just trying to figure out a collective sense of what we’re doing,” Carmichael said. “It’s about a robust conversation with different opinions. If more than a conversation occurs and more than just an understanding occurs and we take action to change something then yeah it’ll be a lot of things we’ll have to figure out.”
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