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‘Revolutionaries’ mixed bag among community

Some students, alumni and faculty said the new moniker fails to sufficiently differ from previous ‘Colonials’ branding.
Sage Russell – Assistant Photo Editor
Officials announced in May that Revolutionaries would replace the Colonials moniker and unveiled the new logo as students returned to campus this semester.

In the wake of the retirement of GW’s nearly century-old moniker, few community members said they feel revved up to be a GW Revolutionary.

More than two dozen students, alumni and faculty said they weren’t completely satisfied with the Revolutionaries moniker, with more than half a dozen expressing concerns that the new nickname didn’t differentiate itself enough from the divisiveness associated with the Colonials branding. Despite their apprehension, more than a dozen community members said the Revolutionaries represents a step forward from GW’s previous moniker and hope the transition signifies more change to come within the University.

“Revolutionaries weren’t my first choice, but I’m excited to support GW school spirit and foster more community,” Student Association President Arielle Geismar said in a message.

Officials announced in May that Revolutionaries would replace the Colonials moniker after a yearlong selection process that left community members with four final contenders: Ambassadors, Blue Fog, Sentinels and Revolutionaries. The decision to replace Colonials followed a series of student- and faculty-led referendums and petitions that claimed the former moniker was offensive to people who have been impacted by colonization.

2020 alum Hayley Margolis, a former leader of the Anything But Colonials student coalition that helped lead the push to retire the Colonials nickname, said they hope the Revolutionaries will enhance school spirit and generate unity in Foggy Bottom. Margolis said they think the former moniker was one factor that hamstrung school spirit amongst some community members because of their concern with the connotations behind the name. 

Margolis said they believe a Revolutionary is someone who directs “institutional shifts toward progress” and acts as a symbol of hope but that there is more work to be done. 

“When I did this activism in college, I knew that a moniker change is only symbolic, and that more work must follow to actually create institutional racial equity,” Margolis said in an email.

Margolis said they are “proud” GW took action by changing the moniker but is disappointed officials did not settle on Hippos, an unofficial mascot for GW since 1996. 

“I think they would be an incredibly unique, fierce, humorous and adorable symbol of school spirit,” Margolis said.

2018 alum Jack Winans said he supported changing the name when he was a student at GW. He said that while Revolutionaries does not “overtly” reference colonialism, he is concerned the new moniker may hold similar connotations to that of the Colonials, which students said harkened back to violence of the colonial era.

“Revolutionaries didn’t feel like an entirely huge pivot away from [Colonials] — kind of like a rose by any other name is still a rose,” Winans said.

While the Revolutionaries was not Winans’ first choice for the new moniker, he said he thinks GW equips students with the tools to make change in the world, aligning with the meaning behind Revolutionaries, whose purpose is to stand up against the status quo.

“The positive aspects of revolutionary ways of being or serving a community is a willingness to stand up against things that are well ingrained in society,” Winans said. “In many ways, the education that GW provides and the preparation it provides to be a productive member of society I do think prepares a lot of people to make those kinds of acts and statements in their lives.”

2020 alum Aahil Shermohammed said the new moniker embodies “a little bit of the student culture,” reflecting the sense of empowerment students feel in pursuing their dreams and being a “revolutionary” in their desired career paths.

“Everyone at GW during their time there had this sense of ‘I can change the world’, which is awesome,” Shermohammed said. “It’s fantastic, and during each student’s time at GW, they have that sense of support from the University.”

Cynthia Deitch, an associate professor emerita of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, said she likes certain aspects of the meaning behind Revolutionaries, like people working to create change and not settling for injustice. But she said the term could potentially glorify militarism because of its link to the Continental Army, a brigade of soldiers who fought alongside George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

“To the extent that ‘the Revolutionaries’ comes to connote a group of people who are forward-thinking, working together for social change and not satisfied with the status quo, then I tend to like it,” Deitch said in an email. “However, to the extent it might for some connote the mostly white, male soldiers who were in George Washington’s army and be associated with militarism and war, then I would not be enthusiastic.”

Four student-athletes said they were excited to wear Revolutionaries across their jerseys instead of Colonials but are skeptical of claims that the moniker will raise school spirit. They said they would have preferred something more “fun,” like an animal moniker to lift school spirits and think the moniker in general isn’t directly related to sports teams.

Braeden Arthur, a senior on the men’s rowing team, said he thinks eliminating the Colonials moniker was a “good move” for the University but hoped for an alternative that is more “fun” and lifts school spirit, like Blue Fog.

“There was an opportunity here to improve the student culture by moving to something that was gonna be more fun for the students to rally behind, and they just missed the mark there,” Arthur said. 

Emma Curry, a sophomore on the women’s lacrosse team, said she thinks the Revolutionaries was the best option out of the moniker finalists because it “matches” well with the “theme” of the University. Curry said she doesn’t think the Revolutionaries will have a large impact on school spirit because chants from the student section have never been associated with the moniker to begin with.

“I feel like most student spirit is associated with GW or GDUB itself, and less with the moniker,” Curry said in a message. “However, the new moniker could create more school spirit simply because of the buzz around the new moniker and what sort of different chants or phrases that could be made!”

Hannar Marr contributed reporting.

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About the Contributor
Fiona Bork, Assistant News Editor
Fiona Bork is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication from San Diego, California. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 assistant news editor for the Student Life beat.
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