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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Raiders of the lost archives: a knight’s tale part two

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Last week’s issue featured the revival of this column after its 25- year absence from the pages of The Carletonian. Part One of this story focused on the origins of the Knight, Carleton’s official mascot and athletic nickname adopted in 1950. This Raider’s interest in that topic was piqued during New Student Week, when a few of my classmates and I wondered about our college’s mascot, namely, why it isn’t something else. Why aren’t we the Penguins, we thought, or even the Squirrels? As it turned out, the origins of the “Knights” moniker were fairly straightforward, but no part of history is immune to controversy. Decades after Carls voted to call themselves Knights, two incidents questioned that decision, and at the center of those incidents were an outlandish cartoon and…a penguin.

The first challenge to the Knights mascot came in 1990, when an October 5 Carletonian editorial satirically described white, barbaric, male knights while defending the term “freshman” for first-year students.

The authors jokingly offered “Gender-neutral-anal-retentive Thyngs” as a suitable replacement mascot. That sarcastic suggestion was taken seriously when Richard Dorfsman (Class of ‘91) started a movement to replace the Knight with Neckfoot, a doodle with a spiked head, a long neck, and one large foot. It was theorized to be “the spawn of some biology major’s senior project gone awry” and uttered only the occasional interjection.

Proponents argued that the absurd character symbolized Carleton’s progressiveness and individuality. Neckfoot, they said, was racially, sexually, and culturally ambiguous, while knights represented sexism and outmoded chivalry. A strong majority of students, administration, and alumni supported maintaining a forty-year-old tradition, and although a pro-Neckfoot petition was created, the matter quickly died. These days, Neckfoot is an occasional write-in candidate for CSA positions.

In Fall Term 2005, members of the student body suggested “Penguin” become the new school mascot, arguing that the cute, lovable, and quirky critter better represented Carls—a hard claim to dispute, even for Knight supporters. Penguin proponents referenced the Libe’s unofficial mascot, Oscar, whom former Carleton President Laurence M. Gould brought back from Antarctica in 1930.

As the Penguin Manifesto gained traction, students organized a debate in Sayles-Hill
to discuss the issue. Flaring tempers at the debate escalated into an Internet feud with intense bickering: “hippies” were pro- Penguin and “dumb jocks” were pro-Knight. The approach of Finals Week suppressed the rumor spreading and name-calling that was so uncharacteristic of Carleton students. By Winter Term, Carls were u-Knight-ed once again. Today, the men’s club volleyball team calls themselves the Penguins, but the debate over the official mascot may have been settled indefinitely. I would like to see the actual Arctic bird trying to play volleyball, though.

If you have questions about Carleton’s history or have suggestions for future issues, please e-mail me at [email protected], and I’ll raid the archives just for you! I’ll conclude with words of wisdom from former Carleton Archivist Mark A. Greene: “Don’t throw that paper away— somewhere deep in there, fifty years in the future, is someone’s thesis!”

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