Mascot issue: identity crisis

When I look at the debate growing about the mascot for UC Merced (setting aside all the laws broken to get the living mascot bobcat incarcerated at the city zoo), I see an identity crisis. But, as local sentiment against the choice of the fairy shrimp over the bobcat grows, I see that the identity crisis is a little more complex than it first appears.

At the moment, students at UC Santa Cruz, whose mascot is the banana slug, are in a feisty mood and resisting their administration’s attempts to grow and convert what was designed as a collection of colleges into a genuine UC public research university. In this struggle, since UC is planning growth to accomplish its aims, the students are allied with people in the city of Santa Cruz. The UC administration is encountering stiff opposition to its growth plans in Santa Cruz.

It seems likely that the UC Merced students’ interest in the fairy shrimp as a mascot reflects a similar rebellious spirit in the emerging undergraduate group, trying to define themselves as conscious human beings on an environmentally degraded planet, living and studying in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada and of John Muir.

Meanwhile, there is an element in “town” that is critical of the students’ attempts to define the campus they live and study on. While this, too, is all part of the “town/gown” identity problem Merced has now saddled itself with in perpetuity, the town’s approach seems so horribly hypocritical. But, that’s totally understandable because the political leadership that got the campus located adjacent to the largest, biologically richest vernal pools in the nation did their famous political deed by complete denial of the existence and of the importance of that landscape except as a bureaucratic problem with certain state and federal resource agencies, amenable to pressure. The UC administration’s eagerness to go along with local developers and landowners on this point was a disgraceful moment in academic history, given the tremendous expertise UC biologists have in the biology of vernal pools. There was also the little problem of the Endangered Species Act, since the pools are habitat for 15 endangered species. But that was handled at both the state and federal levels by former Assemblyman and present Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Merced, formerly known as Shrimp Slayer, presently known as Pombo’s Ghost.

But, still your beating hearts, oh mighty free marketers of Merced, ye who spend such inordinate time and energy on lobbying for government aid. UCSC, that great nest of subversive political forces, produced both Victor Hansen and Rep. John “Build-the-Auburn-Dam” Doolittle, Rightwinger-Roseville. Hansen is a distinguished conservative commentator whose book, Mexifornia, brought howls of approval from people who think like its author. Doolittle, a loyal friend of Jack Abramoff, has never been able to decide which he loved more: developer contributions or a dam on the American River in Auburn.

So, don’t worry, UC Merced Boosters, let UC do its magic on a few classes and you’ll get your allotted quotient of corrupt hypocrites in office and academics to lend respectability to their views.

Bill Hatch

Nov. 16, 2006
Merced Sun-Star
Fairy Shrimp or Bobcats...students want to decide...Victor A. Patton
A group of students has expressed an interest in ditching the bobcat mascot in favor of another creature indigenous to Merced County: the fairy shrimp. Josh Franco, UC Merced's associated student president, said although the issue of changing the school mascot is primarily confined to a handful of students, the movement has definitely gained momentum....said the mascot-change supporters are miffed that the school's current mascot was not chosen by students. Justin Duckham, editor of "Fury Shrimp Times," a student-driven independent publication, said he definitely is in favor of using the shrimp as the school's mascot..."I don't think (a bobcat) reflects the originality that the school is pushing for," "I think it really sounds too much like a high school mascot... Lorena Anderson said changing the mascot would most likely involve petitions from students and a referendum -- neither of which have occurred thus far. Franco said. "For me, the fury shrimp represents that movement to include the students in the decision-making processes of the university. "And I think that's why it's important to keep it alive."

Nov. 20, 2006
Merced Sun-Star
Letter to editor
Editor: Just think; after these students vote on the mascot Merced will be stuck with the "fairy shrimp" way after those who thought to vote for this mascot will be long gone. But Merced with a beautiful college and campus will be stuck with the "fairy shrimp" representing Merced's university.
We can be up there with the banana slug.