AMHERST — Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and other famed artists who lived and worked in town could represent the athletic program at Amherst College as the “fighting poets.”
It’s also possible the next mascot for the college will be represented not by pugilistic imagery or writers, but rather by animals that inhabit the region’s woods and skies, such as “wolves” or “Valley hawks.” Perhaps an extinct species that once roamed the Earth, like the “mammoth,” whose skeleton is on display in a campus museum.
Or maybe the college will stick with the name recently applied to its athletics program: The “Purple & White.”
On Thursday, college officials unveiled the final five mascot choices, selected by the mascot committee, that will be the subject of a vote by students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the college. An online vote will run from Monday through March 31.
The process to pick a new mascot follows the removal of the controversial Lord Jeff as Amherst’s unofficial mascot early in 2016.
Lord Jeff was cut from the team following a student demonstration for increased equity at the school in November 2015. Many students, faculty and alumni objected to the long-used mascot because of historical evidence that Lord Jeffery Amherst advocated employing germ warfare to wipe out American Indian tribes.
The college’s mascot committee received more than 2,000 suggestions, amounting to nearly 600 unique ideas. After soliciting the input of 441 student and alumni delegates, officials revealed the 30 semi-finalists in January.
Two of the top vote getters in that earlier round, "hamsters" and "moose," failed to make the final cut.
The vote will feature an instant run off, or rank choice voting, where voters will be asked to put the finalists in order from favorite to least favorite. If one of the five wins a majority, it will be the next mascot. If none get this majority initially, then the votes will be dispersed until one achieves a majority.
The college’s website provides background information about why each mascot choice is appropriate.
The "fighting poets" doesn't signify any specific artist, even though Dickinson lived in Amherst and Frost taught at the college. Rather, it "celebrates multiple poets who have taught, studied or written poetry in association with the college or town of Amherst."
“Mammoths” has a college connection, with the Beneski Museum of Natural History displaying the skeleton of a Proboscidea, unearthed by Professor Frederick Brewster Loomis and brought to town in 1925.
“Purple & White” have been the college's colors since April 30, 1868. It’s served as the unofficial nickname of sports teams for the past several months.
The “Valley hawks” mascot, according to the college website, “would reflect pride in the campus bird sanctuary and the college’s other connections to avian studies."
Finally, the website notes: “Known for their keen senses, intelligence and power, wolves collaborate and care for one another in packs, but they can also represent individuality and independence."
Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.