A University of Iowa professor is asking for the Department of Athletics to allow the university’s mascot, Herky the Hawk, to display a wider array of facial expressions. “I believe incoming students should be met with welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages,” Resmiye Oral, a clinical professor of paediatrics at UI, wrote recently in an email to UI athletic department officials. “And our campus community is doing a great job in that regard when it comes to words.
“However, Herky’s angry, to say the least, face conveying an invitation to aggressivity and even violence is not compatible with the verbal messages that we try to convey to and instill in our students and campus community.”
Oral said she has been concerned for some time with the lack of emotional variety displayed
by the university’s long-standing mascot.
Her intention, she said, is to bring diversity to how Herky feels, not to eliminate the ambitious, competitive, go-getter Herky.
Athletic department officials said they are looking into some concerns raised by Oral but note that the request is complicated.
"UI athletic department officials are aware of this request and are in the process of formulating a response in regard to Herky," Steve Roe, the department's director of communications.
The problem is that, if the university is to maintain the value of its brand and logo, then the university needs to keep that brand and logo unchanged and recognisable for as long as possible, said Dale Arens, director of UI's trademark licensing programme.
Herky has been the symbol of UI and its intercollegiate athletic teams for more than 60 years. The cartoon image was created in 1948 by Richard Spencer, an instructor of journalism at UI, and the character earned its name through a statewide contest staged by the department. Over the next decade, the mascot came to life at football games with a black leather head and gold felt feathers.
After decades, the costume for the life-size Herky was changed two years ago to a fuzzy-faced, thick-browed Herky, with teeth perpetually bared into a half-smile or half-grimace.