Union College to drop Dutchmen/Dutchwomen nickname

Union College’s sports teams will no longer be called the Dutchmen and Dutchwomen, beginning with the start of the 2023-24 academic year.

Union announced Wednesday it is searching for a new nickname.

“At Union College, we’re always looking to build towards a stronger future, even as we continue to celebrate our illustrious history,” Union explained on its Web site.

“In that spirit, the College is in the midst of a comprehensive branding update designed to strengthen how we communicate Union’s distinctiveness and the power of a Union education to prospective and current students, faculty, staff, alumni and the general public,” the statement continued. “Examining whether Dutchmen/Dutchwomen best portrays the image Union wants to project to the world is a natural outgrowth of that work.”

Union said discussions with students, faculty, staff and alumni “confirmed a lack of strong affinity” for Dutchmen and Dutchwomen.

“I guess I kind of fit into that,” said former Union pitcher Jake Fishman, who made his major-league debut with the Miami Marlins last season. “I didn’t have a strong affinity to it. There’s a lot of places and teams are kind of going this route of rebranding and at the end of the day, there’s not much we can do. It kind of takes the executive people to make that decision.”

Union is taking submissions through Feb. 24 for a new nickname. The college said the final decision will be made by Union president David Harris in close collaboration with the board of trustees, based on the recommendation from a project team led by vice president for communications and marketing Mark Land and athletic director Jim McLaughlin.

According to Union, the Dutchmen nickname was created by local journalists “looking to add color to their reporting” in the first half of the 20th century. Before that, Union’s teams were known as the Garnet, a nod to the school colour. Union began enrolling women in 1970.

“It’s true that this part of New York is associated with Dutch heritage, but by no means is the region monolithic in regard to those who have settled here,” the school said. “In fact, the region is also the ancestral homeland of the Iroquois Confederacy, which is thought to date back to the 15th century, well before the first Dutch explorers arrived.”

Despite some negative reaction on social media, Union indicated the school won’t be persuaded to keep Dutchmen/Dutchwomen.

“We feel strongly that the College can do better than its current nickname, especially given the creativity and passion of the Union community,” the college said on its Web site. “We are confident we will be successful in finding a nickname that better represents Union College.”

In its own FAQ section, Union said it wasn’t “caving into the wokeness” of some community members.

“We are simply proactively taking the opportunity afforded by our broader branding update to explore whether there are better nickname and mascot alternatives for the future,” the Web site stated.

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