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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Goodnight to the Knight: A proposal for a new mascot

<scot of Carleton the Knight? The answer has to do with an outdated tradition that started almost a century ago. In 1922, a Carleton student led the homecoming parade to Laird Stadium on a horse, wearing linked armor and flaunting a spear and shield. Soon, the tradition of a Homecoming Knight, as opposed to a Homecoming King, was started. The Knight was chosen as Carleton’s official mascot in 1950 as a salute to this tradition, which died off in the 1970s.

While it’s interesting to know that the choice of our mascot wasn’t random, the choice itself was still a mistake. Carleton students never refer to themselves as Knights and the term is rarely used by fans at sporting events. The spirit of the Knight is simply not the spirit of your average Carl. But there’s something we can do about it. It’s time for change. It’s time to choose a nickname that Carleton students will be proud of. It’s time that we made our mascot the Penguin.

The Penguin is a fitting mascot for Carleton for many reasons. For one, the animal has its own special history with the college, just like the Knight. Meet Oscar the Penguin, a meter tall preserved animal, who all Carls have probably seen displayed in the library. In 1930, Oscar was brought to Carleton by our fourth President, Laurence Gould, to symbolize the completion of his two year Antarctic expedition.

Unlike the Knight, however, Penguins are also emblematic of perhaps Carleton’s most important values: kindness and cooperation. Penguins, although you may not realize it, have a pack mentality. Often hundreds of them huddle together to keep each other warm during the most bitter winter storms.

Methodically, they take turns in the center of the huddle, where they are the most comfortable, and on the outside, where they must face the full force of a winter wind. They work as one unit. Every penguin matters. Their attitude represents the cooperation Carleton values and that our sports teams need to be successful. In soccer, strikers can not alone win the game for their team. They need their midfielders to help move the ball up field and their defense to provide goal protection. Every player is important and needed for the game, and every player, just like every penguin who huddles with their pack, benefits.

Looking at our current mascot provides a stark contrast. Knights were all in it for themselves. They often fought for monetary rewards in sporting events called melees, free-for-all battles in an enclosed arena in which many knights left the event badly injured or even killed. Is this the type of person you want representing your school? Do you really want someone who selfishly and gleefully hurts and kills others for sport and cash?    
Now, I know what you might be thinking. Sure, perhaps knights were selfish jerks. But weren’t they valiant and tough as well? Didn’t they fearlessly storm battlefields? Aren’t penguins just a cute little bird used to trick little kids into reading National Geographic?

To this I say, check the weather in Antarctica. The last time I did, the wind chill was -53°F and that was during Antarctica’s summer. Just imagine how cold it is in the winter. A knight would be frozen in place. The Penguin, however, trudges along.

The penguin, with all its connections to Carleton, its toughness, its kindness, and yes, its cuteness, is the most fitting mascot for this college and its athletic teams. This change should be obvious and simple. Of course, sometimes things that seem simple at first can require a little more work. I must say now that I am not the first person to argue for this mascot change. In 2005, an attempt by Carleton students to change the mascot to the Penguin sparked a debate that ended with nothing getting done. Our mascot remains the greedy Knight. But we can not let this failure deter us. I believe that the Knight has become an irrelevant mascot, there only so that we can say we have one and I know many of my fellow students feel the seem way. The Knight is a nickname that has its roots in a tradition that has been dead for more than 40 years. It’s time to move on. It’s time to match our Carleton logo change with a mascot change. It’s time for the Penguin.

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