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What the Struggle Between a Horse and a Cow Reveals About How College students See Their College


It began when Mick Hashimoto arrived on the College of California at Davis for freshman orientation and smelled cows.

Hailing from a bustling metropolis simply outdoors of Denver, Hashimoto remembers being instantly struck by the robust stench rolling in from the UC-Davis Dairy, an on-campus animal facility that homes round 300 cows.

However because the 12 months went on, what began as a considerably undesirable campus quirk shifted to some extent of delight for Hashimoto. The connection between the cows and the college’s agricultural roots resonated with him.

“I made a decision, OK, nicely, it’s a part of it,” Hashimoto stated. “I feel coming into orientation, or simply coming into the primary week of college, you’re actually subsequent to the cow and also you’re like, ‘Wow, that is the No. 1 agricultural faculty.’ It makes me proud within the sense that that is what UC-Davis is thought for, and it’s nice to be No. 1 in one thing.”

That’s why Hashimoto, now a junior double-majoring in economics and statistics, began a motion — or MOOvement, as he likes to say — to alter the college’s mascot, from Gunrock the Mustang to Aggie the Cow. He desires the campus neighborhood to be happy with UC-Davis and its agricultural origins, and he desires to provoke faculty spirit.

UC-Davis’s pupil authorities held a referendum this month on the opportunity of altering the mascot. Simply 12 p.c of the coed physique voted, however the end result was decisive: Greater than 70 p.c of those that voted had been pro-cow.

Any official change must be authorised by the college’s administration, the athletics division, and the Cal Aggie Alumni Affiliation. That’s in all probability an uphill battle, given the monetary prices of fixing a brand and alumni affinity for the horse.

“We do love our cows on campus, however Gunrock the Mustang stays the UC-Davis mascot,” a college spokesperson wrote in an e mail. “Any change must undergo a course of after which be authorised by the alumni affiliation and administration.”

Nonetheless, the widespread assist for the Cow4Mascot marketing campaign — pitting the horse, which some college students see as elitist, towards the cow, which they see as extra consultant of at present’s various pupil physique — is a telling demonstration of how college students really feel about institutional id. It’s even harking back to the longstanding battle in increased ed between status and mission.

Reclaiming ‘Cow City’

Flip to the web, and the phrases “UC-Davis” and “cows” typically seem collectively. There’s a wiki web page devoted to their presence on campus. On the UC-Davis Dairy’s Instagram account, college students in commencement regalia snap selfies with bemused cows. The power’s proximity to a preferred pupil dorm seems to have been the inspiration for quite a lot of wryly written op-eds.

However Hashimoto stated the affiliation with the cow has been used to disparage the college for years. He’s typically heard individuals discuss with UC-Davis as a “cow city.” In the course of the college-application course of, he recalled listening to the stereotype of how no one needed to go there.

“There’s lots of detrimental connotations with UC-Davis as a cow picture,” he stated. “I feel that’s one thing we wish to take again and put in our management. That approach, we see it in a constructive mild.”

These concerned within the Cow4Mascot marketing campaign stated there’s lots for the campus neighborhood to be happy with. For the previous decade, UC-Davis’s agriculture and forestry applications have been second finest within the World College Rankings by topic. Its veterinary faculty has held both the No. 1 or No. 2 slot yearly since 2015.

Brittany Tang, a junior majoring in political science and public service and a marketing campaign chief, stated the Cow4Mascot effort had united many various sorts of scholars and bolstered campus delight within the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Coming from town, metropolitan space, I undoubtedly had my very own qualms coming to rural Davis,” stated Tang, who’s from Southern California. “The best way that I checked out it was we should always use this as a chance to make it our personal when it comes to Aggie delight, actually take possession of that, and redefine what that meant to us.”

Whereas a cow isn’t as fearsome as some school mascots, like the favored tiger or wildcat, Hashimoto stated there’s a precedent for this type of change. The banana slug, typically discovered on the redwood-forest flooring, grew to become the official mascot of the College of California at Santa Cruz in 1986 after college students used a straw ballot to persuade the administration to embrace the slimy, bright-yellow mollusk. A tree has been acknowledged as Stanford College’s unofficial mascot for the final couple of a long time.

“The preliminary thought of a mascot was to have or not it’s athletic and fierce and intimidating,” Hashimoto stated, “whereas now it’s develop into extra concerning the pupil id and what the college’s id is.”

Altering a Mascot

Marketing campaign members argue that past serving as a greater image for agriculture, a hardworking cow is extra consultant of at present’s various pupil physique than is an elite racehorse.

Gunrock, the present mascot, was named for a Thoroughbred racehorse born in Britain over 100 years in the past. Gunrock was donated to the Cavalry Remount Service and positioned on the school, and ultimately was bred with 476 mares “with the purpose of enhancing horse shares” for each civilian and army use, in response to the college. College students voted for the title and mustang mascot within the Twenties, and once more within the early 2000s. In 2003 the furry, blue Gunrock mascot of at present formally arrived on campus.

“It’s all the time been one thing that college students have chosen for themselves, however because the years have handed, I feel simply kind of fell out of contact with that,” Tang stated. College students truly voted for a cow mascot in 1993, however the proposal was rejected by the college’s administration.

Alumni opinion, she and Hashimoto stated, is likely one of the greatest hurdles this time round. Since college students voted to assist their proposal, the Cow4Mascot marketing campaign’s leaders have began conversations with alumni — and have been stunned by how deeply some really feel concerning the present mascot.

Whereas acknowledging that there are feelings and well-intentioned concepts throughout, Debby Stegura, a former president of the Cal Aggie Alumni Affiliation, stated she favors retaining Gunrock due to its custom. She additionally believes {that a} horse is simply as reflective as a cow of UC-Davis’s id.

A cow, she stated, is usually related to the establishment, however the identical could possibly be stated of the wild turkeys that roam the city or the sheep that graze in close by grasslands.

“I feel it does signify the place we’re going,” Stegura stated of the horse, clarifying that this was her opinion and never that of the alumni affiliation. “The analogy I made is, the Thoroughbred is how briskly this college is rising.”

Altering the college’s advertising and marketing program, uniforms, logos, and all the pieces else related to the Gunrock picture to accommodate a brand new mascot would even be an “huge monetary burden,” she stated.

One chance that has arisen from talks up to now, Hashimoto and Tang stated, is that the cow could possibly be a second mascot, with Gunrock nonetheless main the cost when it comes to uniforms, attire, and advertising and marketing. The one price could be for a second mascot costume. Then, some years from now, when present college students transfer into these alumni and donor roles, their considering goes, the cow may take middle stage.

The College Farm

Frank Mitloehner, a professor and air-quality specialist within the college’s animal-science division, stated he was stunned to study the scholars’ proposal had gained a lot assist. However Mitloehner feels that embracing the cow would make sense from a historic perspective. And college students’ enthusiasm for the change, he stated, would possibly say one thing about their values.

UC-Davis opened its doorways in 1908 as a farm for the College of California at Berkeley. About 30 years later it was renamed the Faculty of Agriculture at Davis, and in 1959 it was formally designated as its personal campus within the UC system. Whereas the college now provides many majors past agriculture, Mitloehner stated, the animal-science main continues to be one of many largest applications.

Most of Mitloehner’s college students come from large cities. These college students, he stated, don’t have a connection to agriculture, however they do have an curiosity in meals. They’re grappling with key societal questions: The place does meals come from? How is it grown? What’s its environmental impression? What about animal welfare?

“All these points are so within the minds of those 20-year-olds,” Mitloehner stated. “That’s one of many causes they arrive to this campus.”

College students, he stated, are having to suppose onerous about how you can feed a quickly rising world inhabitants in a sustainable approach that doesn’t destroy the planet. UC-Davis, he stated, is usually thought to be on the forefront of these points and as “the nexus between agriculture productiveness and sustainability.”

“We’re neither the one or the opposite, we’re one thing that bridges these two areas,” Mitloehner stated. “I’m very comfy with that. I feel that’s the place the place I wish to be, and that’s the place the place lots of our college students wish to be. This dialogue concerning the mascot performs into that.”



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