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IMHO: It’s Hanover’s right to change its mascot

  • Greg Fennell. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 4/30/2021 10:58:21 PM
Modified: 4/30/2021 10:58:19 PM

The image with which Hanover High School athletes are identified is changing. The time has come for all of us to change with it.

Back in mid-March, the Hanover High School Council — a body in existence since 1977, made up of about four dozen students, staff and members of the school community and responsible for much of what happens within school walls — approved a motion to retire its Marauder mascot and logo for good, and it did so by a considerable margin (38-2, with two abstentions). The decision came after months of research, debate and votes, following the appropriate parliamentary format, and it was given the green light by the school’s interim principal, Jim Logan, within a week of the vote.

A journalist’s job is to reflect the reality of the world he or she covers. As the choice came largely from students, was ratified by the assigned governing body and was approved by school administration, my Valley News colleagues and I will begin to discontinue the use of the Marauder in future Hanover High sports coverage as well.

We are doing this out of respect for the process and the students who led it and capably carried it out. I’ve been impressed with their effort, seeing that it came during a national climate of distrust and amid a society of human beings — particularly older ones, of whom I’m a card-carrying member — who own a general reluctance toward change of any kind.

Hanover is at least the third Twin State school to make a mascot change since last October. Unlike the others (Rutland High and Danville School in Vermont), the Council’s vision seems focused less on answering for the past and more on looking to the present and future.

Moderator Sage McGinley-Smith, a senior soccer and hockey standout, emphasized several points when we talked on Thursday evening. The Marauder at present is a white male, which isn’t representative of Hanover High’s diverse population. The word from which the mascot is derived — maraud — carries with it connotations of violence, particularly sexual violence, with which some students aren’t comfortable.

Until it was brought to her attention, McGinley-Smith said she hadn’t given much thought to the notion of being a female athlete whose uniforms were adorned with a male mascot. Some of her male peers hadn’t considered how they’d feel with a female alternative. The totality of the argument led her to lean toward change.

“The specifics of my opinion have evolved in the course of the conversation, as they have for many people,” she told me. “I’ve played as a Marauder for four years. Obviously, that also influenced how I saw the issue. I ultimately felt that the decision to remove was right. I felt like the process we’ve gone through ended up being a positive one for the school.”

Reviewing records of the debate, it is clear Council members understand this is an adjustment that will take time and money. It is no case of — to employ a phrase so overused it has reached cliché — cancel culture.

Athletic director Megan Sobel told me this week that in places where the school can drop the mascot now, it is doing so. For instance, where Hanover athletes have received participation certificates embossed with the Marauder logo in the past, they will now be sans logo until a new mascot is chosen.

In other cases, change will come with a cost.

The failure of a December vote on the matter led to the formation of an ad hoc mascot committee charged with looking into a potential transition. For facilities, the mascot on Merriman-Branch Field’s artificial surface could be updated for as little as $16,000 to $27,000 or as much as $500,000 in 2029, when the next full-field replacement is slated.

Likewise, a similar tweak on the school’s gym floor could cost $2,600 as part of regular maintenance or $12,000 to $16,000 when the surface is next refinished, with 2030 the target. Uniforms could be phased out on their regular schedules as well. In all cases, the ultimate expense is factored into the school budget.

I have yet to find in the ad hoc committee’s final report anything that would hint at shame over the Marauder’s past, something that has driven other mascot arguments. In fact, a school newsletter sent last week notes that the Marauder is “a part of the proud history of this school” and that “Marauder gear currently owned by students, staff and community members is still welcomed in our building.” At the same time, sports teams and other school organizations are now being asked to stop using the Marauder on any new gear as the transition takes place.

The lack of rancor throughout the whole process has impressed me most. Logan, who joined the Hanover staff 10 months ago, felt the same way.

“I was really pleased with the way it worked out,” Logan said. “It was civil, and they followed it to a T. They did it all through Robert’s Rules (of Order), and it was a thorough process when all was said and done.”

Members of the Hanover High community have voted to change their present and future, and they have done so patiently and deliberately. It is now the responsibility of the rest of us to adjust.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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