After the retirement of Valparaiso University’s former mascot, the Crusader, Valpo’s mascot committee has been established. The committee consists of representatives from the various communities within the university and is tasked with compiling a list of mascot recommendations for President José Padilla, who will make the final decision on the new mascot.
The mascot committee includes the following ten representatives: Chairperson Steve Janowiak, Freshman Franco Raimondi, student athlete Eron Gordon, faculty member Professor Joseph Bognar, staff member Briana Scheffer, alumni Danielle Carter Iddins, Chapel Pastor James Wetzstein, communications department’s Nicole Niemi, Chief Diversity Officer Byron Martin, athletic department’s Mark LaBarbera and finance and administration’s Tamara Gingerich.
Following collaborative efforts of Student Senate, Faculty Senate and the Alumni Association, the decision was made to remove the Crusader as Valpo’s mascot as it had negative associations and failed to align with the university’s values and mission.
Valpo, a historically Lutheran university, deemed its former mascot as a symbol of religious oppression as well. University Pastor, James Wetzstein, was chosen as the Chapel representative for the task force. Pastor Wetzstein’s ability to speak on behalf of Lutheran theology will guide the committee to consider the religious applications and history of each new mascot suggestion.
“That notion that you can do something, regardless of what that something is, in order to win favor with God, is antithetical to Lutheran theology,” Wetzstein said. “I’ve been a critic of the Crusader mascot from a perspective of Lutheran theology, so I’m imagining that there’s a desire for the conversations [of the committee] to be informed by that perspective. Namely, the perspective of somebody who is paying attention to how a future mascot aligns with the identity of the university as a church related institution.”
Athletic Director Mark LaBarbera is serving as the representative of the athletics department for the task force. The former mascot is commonly associated with Valpo’s athletics and holds ideals student athletes strive to achieve, specifically in their motto: ‘Valpo Crusaders, champions in competition, classroom and community.’
“One of the things I’m hopeful for is that we’ll be able to find a way to retain the shield, because I think the shield of character represents basically all of the things people felt were good about being a Crusader, all the positive pieces of it and then I think we need to find something that’s fun and that people can get behind when they see the mascot or when the mascot is at games,” LaBarbera said.
The mascot committee will be determining the values the university’s new mascot should represent and assess how each mascot recommendation portrays those values. The committee will then view and discuss suggestions from students, faculty, staff and other university affiliated parties.
“I think it should represent something everyone can rally behind, something that causes excitement and it’s a level of identity for students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the institution. I think it should be uniting, fun,” Wetzstein said.
All decisions made by the committee must be supported by at least 70% of its members. The task force expects to have, at most, four new mascot suggestions for President Padilla to review in early May.
“I’m really looking forward to our conversation about how the different communities on campus view the mascot and how important it is to them. I obviously know the importance it holds to the athletics department,” LaBarbera said.