Controversy has surrounded Minuteman before
The presently resolved controversy surrounding the University of Massachusetts Minuteman is not the first time the mascot has come under fire.
Ten years ago, a petition started by a student group called the American Freedom Association and rallies organized by its president, Martin Jones, sparked conflict that eventually included students, Chancellor David Scott and Massachusetts Governor William Weld. The debate drew national news coverage from the Associated Press, USA Today and radio talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh.
Jones said in a rally on Oct. 13, 1993, that the Minuteman was racist and sexist because it portrays a “white man with a gun.” He believed it was a symbol for oppression and a representation of local militiamen slaughtering Native Americans in Amherst hundreds of years before. The Collegian reported the petition also called for increased ALANA recruitment, increased financial aid for economically disadvantaged students and the renaming of the campus library after W.E.B. DuBois.
Scott said he would listen to the students’ concerns initially, drawing attention and criticism in the Boston media.
Weld released a statement on Oct. 15, calling the attack on the Minuteman an example of “political correctness run amok,” according to The Collegian. Weld told the Boston Herald it was fine to question authority, but the Minuteman issue was “ridiculous.” A group calling itself the “University of Massachusetts Alumni and Students to Save the Minutemen” also rallied and released a statement in support of the mascot.
Scott also issued a release Oct. 15, saying his willingness to discuss issues was misconstrued as him not valuing the historical significance of the Minuteman. He attempted to formally end debate on the issue, saying that because of the misunderstandings and misperceptions in the debate, it would be virtually impossible to discuss the idea in a productive way.
Rallies both for and against keeping the Minuteman continued into November. At a pro-Minuteman rally on Oct. 27, The Collegian reported that student Dan Flynn called Jones a “Pied Piper of every fool on this campus.” The Collegian ran at least eight news articles and numerous opinion pieces on the issue between Oct. 13 and the end of the month.
The University of Massachusetts has had at least three mascots over the course of its history. The school was known as the Mass. Aggies until 1948, when the school changed its identity from the Massachusetts Agricultural College to the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 1972, the school changed its name to the Minutemen because of the potentially racial nature of the Redmen nickname after a group of Native Americans called the term derogatory.
Between 1938 and 1948, the school used numerous unofficial nicknames, including the Derbymen and the Statesmen, according to Collegian archives.