Petitions on college campuses are usually made to change the rules of something deemed unlawful, or to try to have a new feature added on campus to benefit students. No one has ever heard of a petition to change the mascot of a college.
Dylan Tyer, a sophomore political science pre-law student at UCF, wanted to do exactly that, and on February 21 submitted a petition on change.org for signatures to change the UCF’s mascot from the “knights” to the “Jedi knights.”
“The ‘Knight’ is not a very good mascot.” The petition reads. “Knights represent some of the darkest days of human history. Knights were the enforcers of an oppressive racist, xenophobic, patriarchal and undemocratic system… If we were to change our mascot to the 'Jedi Knight', we would solve all of the above problems! Not only are Jedi really kick-ass, but they are accepting of all people of any gender, race, or species! Plus, considering its only a change in semantics, it would allow us to phase out the feudal Knight over time in favor of the sleek and modern Jedi Knight. This would be a more cost effective and less confusing solution than changing it to something lame, like a Bull or an alligator.”
The petition also mentions that the primary goals of the University of Central Florida is diversity and inclusivity. Fresh U asked Dylan about his mention of those goals in his petition.
“The rhetoric is taken directly from the UCF administration's 4th strategic goal: ‘to become more inclusive and diverse. We strive to make diversity and inclusion visible and critical elements that indelibly permeate the life and values of the UCF community.’ To elaborate on my intentions though, mascots may only be abstract symbols but that doesn’t mean that they aren't important. The USA has a long and embarrassing history of committing genocide and ethnic cleansing against Native Americans and then using those same Natives as mascots, often in pejorative ways (Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, FSU Seminoles etc). There's also problematic mascots at colleges all over the country representing things like Confederate soldiers and what not.”
Tyer also explains his reasoning for the petition:
"UCF is not in a bubble", he explains. "I know students that are scared for their lives, and the lives of their families. We've had incidences here of Neo Nazi groups vandalizing the campus with their propaganda. One fellow 'Jedi Knight' was actually temporarily prevented from returning to campus by Trump's travel ban before it was over ruled. Like I stated in the petition, Knights are antithetical to 21st century values. There's a reason that the KKK and other fascist hate groups all over the world use the Knight (and other medieval warriors) as their mascot. They represent an era that insecure white males' fetishize, when women were totally subservient to their husband or father. An era when rape was okay, an era where 99% of people were born peasants and died peasants, an era of endless war, famine and plague without any semblance of democracy, liberty or equality. They don't call it 'the dark ages' for any old reason."
Tyer has received positive reaction so far with his petition, despite the fact that negative responses have also been thrown his way.
“One guy even threatened to change schools if it happened, which I think would be hilarious.”
So far, the petition has reached 125 signatures and will be delivered to UCF and Florida governor Rick Scott. Tyer plans to use this light-hearted and “tongue-partially-in-cheek” petition/movement to bring the student body together and bring awareness to sensitive issues that are sometimes belittled on college campuses. He also hopes that the University would be able to work out a sponsorship with Disney, now that the company is the new owners of Star Wars.
Lead Image: Change.org / Star Wars