Kerby: Say hello to Spartie the Squirrel

Steve Kerby, Staff Columnist

To be frank, an ancient Greek soldier renowned as the model of a disciplined and driven fighter is not the image of the Case Western Reserve University student body. A Spartan warrior is not the mascot for us.

Consider the original Spartan warriors, who were served by a group of Messenian slaves. Called helots, they labored under Spartan masters to eke out a pitiful existence and were thrust into battle as cannon fodder for highly armored and armed Spartan shock troops. Is this the mantle we want to carry as a school?

Beyond literal historic context, the word spartan has been generalized into an adjective meaning bare, functional and lacking luxury. These likewise do not represent us. CWRU is full of exciting features. Our buildings are not designed for convenience or utility but to impress visitors from off-campus. The only thing “spartan” about living at CWRU is the grubby food and the tiny dorm rooms, but these features are not aspirational; we don’t choose to have poor food or claustrophobic rooms.

Consider the squirrel. Specifically, the Eastern Gray Squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis.

Squirrels are the second most visible inhabitant of our campus, behind students. The students are jittery, easily startled and, for the most part, they avoid human contact. They run across streets in wanton disregard for public safety and their own well-being. Our sciurine, which means “squirrel-like”, friends grab any food they can find on the Quad, stashing it away for later. Like a CWRU student, squirrels often barricade themselves in hiding spots, emerging only to see if midterm season is over.

The squirrel is the mascot for us.

As Ben Franklin anecdotally championed the turkey, consider the benefits of switching to the squirrel. We could capture a squirrel on campus and use him or her as an actual mascot. The squirrel could live a life of luxury, pamper and ease, safe from the hawks that scour the Quad for prey. We can name him or her Spartie the Squirrel, so we won’t need to change promotional material. If alumni are particularly attached to Spartan imagery, Spartie the Squirrel can wear a little helmet and cape. This an adorable prospect.

Our use of the Spartan warrior as mascot is not representative of our ethos as a student body. In popular culture, the Spartans are associated with the mythological last stand of King Leonidas at the Fiery Gates in the battle of Thermopylae. Three hundred Spartans died in defiance of endless hordes of Persians. As highly fictionalized as this account is, the CWRU community does not strike me in this way.

Our campus is not a bed of idealism and last stands. Student organizations don’t normally make do-or-die statements. We don’t break, but we bend. In the past, it was students who led revolutions in the streets of Paris and faced fire and death in Tiananmen Square.

Our times are just as tumultuous, but students at CWRU keep our heads down. We get an engineering degree, go on co-op and get a good job. We make half-hearted gestures of reassurance as society frays apart. We duck and cover, running as the Republicans elected a fascist for president right in our city. Our food gets kicked out of Tinkham Veale University Center and Nord Hall, but shoulders-down, we accept and adapt, dodging the predators around us.

I think we deserve a more representative mascot, Spartie the Squirrel.

Steve Kerby is a fourth-year studying astronomy and physics. He would like to remind you, the discerning reader, to vote.