The Squeaky Cougar (Democracy v. Political Correctness)

When the Canyons School District in Draper, Utah needed to decide on a new mascot for Corner Canyon High School, set to open in fall of 2013, it sent out a list of eight candidates to future students.  The top four student choices were Cougars, Diamondbacks, Raptors and Falcons.  Worried that the second vote would result in the frontrunner, “Cougars”, being selected, the District took unilateral action.  Superintendent David S. Doty explains in a January 17, 2012 memo to the Board of Education:

[S]ince the last Board meeting, we have received numerous e-mail messages and phone calls from parents and patrons in Draper asking us to reconsider the inclusion of “Cougars” as a mascot option.  Opposition to the “Cougars” focuses on a concern that the mascot, combined with the school’s blue/white/silver color scheme, will be too similar to Brigham Young University.  Many also have commented on the negative double entendre of the word “cougar.”

The “double entendre” to which Superintendent Doty is referring is the second definition of cougar in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

slang : a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man

Doty goes on to recommend that a second vote be held, but that students not be given “Cougar” as a choice of mascot:

The Board should move forward with its stated intention to get meaningful student input on the mascot selection while at the same time honoring the sincere feedback received from parents who have objected to “Cougars.”  Therefore, the Administration recommends the Board remove “Cougars” from the ballot and hold a second student vote on no more than three options selected by the Board (any of which would be ultimately acceptable by the Board), regardless of whether they received votes on the first student ballot.

This final round of voting was not conducted, however.  During the January 17, 2012 School Board meeting, the proceedings of which can be heard here, a motion was introduced to “accept the colors as presented and the school mascot as the Chargers”.  After the motion was seconded, the first comment, that they would be able to “open the new school without a lot of controversy” highlighted the fact that the School Board had been cowed into ignoring the popular vote of the students by a vocal group of politically correct parents.  From that point, the comments in favor of “Chargers” as the new mascot became almost absurd:

“The alliteration has appeal.” – For the record, that sentence has more alliteration than Corner Canyon Chargers, especially when compared to Corner Canyon Cougars.

“We don’t want to have a name that brings divisiveness.” – Surely alienating the plurality of your student body that voted for “Cougars” in favor of the vocal minority of parents who opposed it won’t be divisive!

“From a principal’s point of view you run the risk of a student bringing a bag of snakes to an assembly.” – Both “Chargers” and “Diamondbacks” are unique in the state of Utah, so this was the School Board’s justification for eliminating “Diamondbacks” even though it was one of the top four student choices.

And what about that whole Merriam-Webster multiple definition excuse?  If a Cougar isn’t just “a large powerful tawny-brown cat (Felis concolor) formerly widespread in the Americas but now reduced in number or extinct in many areas”, then perhaps a Charger isn’t just “a horse for battle or parade”:

1)  a large flat dish or platter

2)  one that charges as

     a)  an appliance for holding or inserting a charge of powder or shot in a gun

     b)  a cartridge clip

     c)  a device for charging storage batteries

3)  a horse for battle or parade

And the principal was worried about a student bringing a bag of snakes!


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