NAMPA — The College of Western Idaho’s board of trustees is considering three options for the college’s first official mascot — and the school’s unofficial mascot, “Sparkles the Unicorn,” is not one of them.
At the board’s Tuesday morning meeting, trustee Mark Dunham revealed the options now being considered by trustees after a survey of students, faculty and the general public are Bighorns, Horned Owls and Otters.
A mascot committee with a student, a staff member and a faculty member considered six options. The board’s five trustees will make the final decision.
Trustees did not choose a mascot at the meeting. Chairman C.A. “Skip” Smyser said the mascot would be up for discussion again at their next meeting in December.
The college has no sports teams, but there are multiple student clubs and organizations that could use a mascot. Several of these clubs have adopted Sparkles as their mascot, which originated at the college around 10 years ago.
Since then, Sparkles has become somewhat controversial at the college. Associate history professor Reggie Jayne said all of CWI’s faculty and staff and many of its students know of Sparkles, and people are split on whether they love or hate the unicorn.
In September, Smyser had directed Dunham and trustee Molly Lenty to lead a committee to develop mascot options after noting the college did not yet have one.
The committee included a CWI student representative, a faculty representative, a staff representative, a vice president for the college and several community stakeholders, said Dunham at the meeting. He also said he wanted the mascot to represent the community as a whole and not just the campus.
The committee developed six mascot options that were presented in an online survey open to the general public. The survey received more than 1,300 responses, which helped the committee narrow down the options presented to the trustee, Browning said.
Trustee Mary Niland said at Tuesday’s meeting she felt there was insufficient student representation on the committee, considering that CWI’s mascot holds more value for students than anyone else. She said she believes students need more of a voice in the decision.
“When you think about a mascot … who is it that wears the shirts? It’s the students,” Niland said.
Several students and faculty have expressed support for Sparkles to take the spot of the college’s official mascot. A Facebook post announcing the top six mascot options developed by the committee received 37 comments, mostly from students, staff and alumni upset that Sparkles was not in the running.
“Not having the unicorn as an option makes a mockery of the entire process,” CWI associate communications professor Johnny Rowing said in a Facebook comment.
At the trustee meeting, college spokesman Mark Browning said the student committee member proposed that the committee consider Sparkles as an option, but the committee decided against moving forward with the unicorn as a potential mascot. The committee felt Sparkles was not a long-term option and did not represent the history of the college, Browning said.
The committee wanted the official mascot to be Idaho-specific and reflect CWI’s values, Dunham said.
The committee considered mascots from various athletic conferences and other regions to make sure the college’s mascot wouldn’t be duplicating any other schools, Browning said. The committee also discussed wanting to steer clear of controversial mascots that could be culturally insensitive or sexist.
Niland told other trustees at the meeting she wasn’t aware Sparkles existed or that the choice of a mascot was a contentious issue until reading a story in the Idaho Press. She suggested the board hear more from students before making a final decision.
“It’s not good for us to move ahead if we don’t have the support of students and the faculty,” Niland said.