WASHINGTON (CIRCA) – A group of students is petitioning George Washington University to change its storied nickname, according to The Washington Post.
The Post on Thursday reported that the students believe that the “Colonials” moniker is too synonymous with colonialism and oppression.
Student Rachel Yakobashvili created a Change.org petition urging GW to adopt a new nickname, with suggested alternatives including the “Hippos” or “Riverhorses.”
“We, as students, faculty, and staff of the George Washington University, believe it is of great exigence that the University changes the official nickname for its affiliates,” the petition states.
“The use of “Colonials,” no matter how innocent the intention, is received as extremely offensive by not only affiliates of the University, but the nation and world at large,” it adds.
“The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression.”
Yakobashvili started the petition two weeks ago, and as of Friday it has amassed 231 of an intended 500 signatures.
GW, which is based in Washington, D.C., adopted the Colonials nickname in 1926, according to the university’s website.
“What name could be more fitting?” an editorial in the GW Hatchet, the school’s newspaper, asked at the time.
“This, the school named after George Washington, and having as its colors the Continental Army buff and blue, the colors of Colonial America, should be entitled to bear the name of “Colonials” if any school is so entitled,” it added.
“Let us then, in just regard for our precious heritage, adopt as the name for the warriors wearing the Buff and Blue the term “Colonials.”
Former GW President Stephen Trachtenberg bought a bronze hippopotamus statue at an antique store in 1996 that has since become associated with the institution.
Trachtenberg donated the sculpture to the school – believing it could use more traditions – and some students now rub its head or put coins in its mouth for good luck.
Many of America’s university campuses in recent years have revisited their names, symbols and statues amid fresh debate over their cultural significance.