Update to the Don Mascot Change Initiative

A 1931 context led by the Foghorn for suggestions on a new mascot prompted Father President Edward Whelan, S.J. to form a working group. Photo by Kaleb Martinez/ SF Foghorn.

The status of the Don has been in jeopardy since a December 2022 resolution from the Associated Students of the University of San Francisco (ASUSF) Senate, inspired by an August 2022 Foghorn editorial

Prompted by the resolution, the University created a task force in August 2023 “to analyze and evaluate the implications and logistics of changing the mascot.” This group meets approximately every month to make a recommendation to administrators by the end of the Spring semester. 

While the resolution has high hopes, according to Ellen Ryder, Vice President of Marketing Communications, they do not have the power to change the mascot. “The Working Group…does not have the authority to approve a particular direction or name,” she said.

The group is composed of four students, six alumni, one board of trustees member and six faculty and staff members. Some are in favor of a new mascot while others support the Don.

Their goal is to do extensive research on the Don, study mascot changes at other universities and consider student suggestions, which originated from a Foghorn 2022 survey regarding USF’s mascot led by then Editor-in-Chief Zoe Binder. 

“Since the president wanted good representation in all groups with a variety of perspectives, I solicited suggestions from leadership in Student Life, Athletics, Academic Affairs, and Alumni Engagement. Student leaders from ASUSF and GSS were also contacted,” said Ryder, who is also the working group chair.

“The moniker ‘The Don’ has a long history with the university, many alumni (from all decades) are proud to be associated with the name…. That association and pride is also not limited to Athletics,” said Ryder. 

Maddie Perkins, Student Athlete Advisory Committee President and member of the Dons working group, shared concerns over the mascot change. “Athletes are essentially brand ambassadors for the school,” the triathlete said. “Whether we are training in Golden Gate Park or competing across the country, we are wearing the Dons name on our chest. It’s who we represent, and it’s something that all of the athletes have a lot of pride in.”

Perkins said that among the Dons Athletes she has spoken to, “We don’t want a mascot change, we are proud of being the Dons… I’m glad I have the opportunity to be a part of this conversation, and will continue to advocate for the athlete community.”

The resolution further stipulated that changing the mascot should not cause any financial burden to students. “The budget impact is currently being studied by a subcommittee of the Working Group,” Ryder said. “A change to the university mascot would incur significant expenditures.”

Ariana Anayat, former ASUSF Vice President of Internal Affairs, co-wrote the resolution and is now an alumna representative in the group. “One of the most impactful things I’ve learned overall through the process of being engaged with the initiative to revise the mascot is realizing just how much power and influence a student is able to have in a situation when they put in the effort,” she said.

Before the Don, when USF was Saint Ignatius College, the mascot was the “Grey Fog,”, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

The “Grey Fog” was changed to the Don, following a 1931 Foghorn initiative. While Don is an homage to Don Francisco de Haro, the first mayor of San Francisco, students have expressed concern over the mascot’s problematic historical implications. 

“Today, the depiction of a ‘Don’ is a racial machismo caricature which, to many, is reminiscent of a history of colonization in California,” said Anayat. According to the USF Dons website, “Don” is derived from De Origen Noble which translates to “of noble origin.” 

“As the number one most diverse university in the country, with a motto of ‘Change the World From Here,’ an overall mission of social justice, and located in the heart of innovative San Francisco, it’s an ironic juxtaposition,” said Anayat. 

USF recognizes that the land it occupies is on Ohlone territory. An ASUSF Senate Land Recognition Statement is acknowledged the resolution. “Our collective relationship with Indigenous peoples by this institution, this city, this country and this continent is in immediate and sincere need of reconciliation and reclamation.”

Despite Senate’s acknowledgement, the University Working Group has not facilitated conversations with Indigenous communities thus far. “While the Working Group has access to recent study by the university on input from local Indigenous Peoples on USF’s adoption of a land acknowledgement, the group has not directly reached out on the subject of the mascot. One of the subcommittees will explore this suggestion,” said Ryder.

In Dec. 2022, USF’s debate team held a forum about the mascot change. USF alumni and debate team coach, Dr. Robert Boller, said “My thinking on the mascot has evolved since our debate. I previously had the sentiment that the Don is relatively innocuous, to now thinking a change could be a profound discernment and community building process during a pivotal moment in USF history.” 

Ryder said, “All members of the USF community, including students, [will] have an opportunity to make their opinions known” in the coming months. 

Anayat urges students to use their voices during the mascot change initiative. “Success with this initiative would be a launching pad for student success in future initiatives centered on improving USF, as it demonstrates the ability of USF students to mobilize as a community and achieve a set goal.”

The working group will hold listening sessions and open forums during the semester, dates to be announced. The Foghorn will continue to cover updates to the working group and the proposed mascot change. 

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, News Editor: Niki Sedaghat

Editor’s Note: The story was updated on 2/18 due to an inaccuracy which stated that the working group wishes to null and void the mascot by the end of the Spring term. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *