What’s In A (Mascot’s) Name?

It all started on September 18th when the Houghton College Athletics page posted a challenge: to name the mascot, lovingly referred to as the “Highlander Lion” at the time. Students and alumni alike eagerly commented names they thought appropriate, and excitement shook the Houghton Bubble for a night. One particular alumnus, Class of 2017 Music Composition major Hunter Gregory, commented one name that has rung in the ears and resonated in the hearts of the larger Houghton community. That name was Wal-Mart Johannson.

The name picked up speed quickly thanks to a crowdsourcing method that boosted marketing for the college using a fun and unifying contest. Of course, the students were confident that if they played by the rules, sharing posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter including their chosen name, things would work democratically.  When Homecoming Week rolled around and the six finalists were named, one was missing. Where was Wal-Mart Johannson?

Immediate complaints arose from the clear dismissal of the Wal-Mart Johannson name, the unoriginal names given, specifically Willard and Luckey, and the complete bombshell that Houghton also has a fictional founder named Angus McMillan of which many students were unaware. Many students are calling this TacoShack 2.0 in reference to another controversial Houghton naming decision when a contest to rename Java 101 was dropped because the people democratically voted for TacoShack. This is slightly different- students knew far in advance the name would not stand as it did not appear in final voting.

In an interview conducted in February of 2015, the mascot allegedly said: “I don’t really have [a name] that translates in English. I’m hoping that the Houghton students, faculty, staff and alumni will help me come up with something that is fitting.”

An anonymous source said, “Wal-Mart [Johannson] is democracy. You ask the people what they want; they said what they wanted, but they didn’t get what they wanted.” Sophomore communications major Jared Hobson ‘20 is also disenchanted with the process. He compared it to Robert Kagan’s view of the ever-differing American and European political situation, saying, “We [Houghton] need to stop pretending that faculty and students see the world the same. The all-important question of the efficacy of power, the morality of power, and the desirability of power is what has students and faculty diverging in perspective.” With most of the faculty having nothing to do with the naming poll and likely having very little preference as to the outcome, it seems students do not know where to truly be mad, besides at the overall idea of  institution.

The passion for a mascot name is not simply some scattered opinions around campus. There are organized efforts in place, as well.  November 13th at 8 p.m. there will be a gathering at the Houghton Rock to paint it in pro Wal-Mart Johansson artwork.  At the Homecoming men’s soccer game, Spiritual Life Executive Officer and ShenBlock veteran Andrew Sherman ‘19 helped inform the crowd that the mascot’s name was truly Wal-Mart Johannson and led a chant of ‘Wal-Mart’ near the end of the game. Sherman said regarding the matter, “The community that has rallied around Wal-mart Johannson reminds me of the early church shortly after Pentecost, and eventually we will see the Roman empire (Archie) crumble under the paradigm-shifting good news of Wal-Mart [Johannson].” There is also a twitter hashtag #NotMyMascot in place and other pro Wal-Mart Johannson symbols around campus.

To say there is tension on campus over the matter would be inaccurate. The general opinion of those interviewed is that the mascot should be named Wal-Mart Johannson, but will ultimately be given the official name of Archie.  Megan Fisher ‘18, who is double majoring in political science and communications, loves the name. She said, “People just want to do this thing, and just let them do it. You can’t take everything seriously. Sure, it may look unprofessional, but it has personality.”

Of course, this does not take into account the incredible copyright infringement the name ‘Wal-Mart’ has and the connection to Houghton it lacks. Students still could implement the name in the greater Houghton society through complete denial that the other name exists.  Of course, it’s a silly argument by students with a dash of sarcastic humor and little rebellious edge. As Gregory sarcastically added, “I’ll do whatever I need to do.  I’ll even die for Wal-Mart [Johannson].”


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