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Members of Imperial Valley College’s Mascot Identity Task Force hold a Zoom town hall on March 10, the last such town hall before sending its recommendations on whether to change the IVC Arab mascot to the Imperial Community College District Board of Trustees. The board was to take up the issue during its meeting on Wednesday, March 17. | VIDEO CAPTURE

IVC Board to Decide Fate of Arabs Mascot After Task Force Recommends Change

IMPERIAL — An Imperial Valley College task force charged with determining the campus and wider community’s satisfaction with the Arabs mascot has recommended that the campus retire the mascot and adopt a new one.

The recommendation follows a months-long process that allowed for the campus and wider community to provide feedback about the mascot to the task force through an online survey, social media, and a pair of town hall meetings.

The recommendation of the Mascot Identity Task Force was to come before the Imperial Community College District’s Board of Trustees during its Wednesday, March 17 regular meeting for possible approval.

“After careful consideration, an analysis of the survey sample that was statistically significant of our community and input received from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during town hall meetings, through social media, and from IVC participatory governance committees, the (task force) recommends that the Board of Trustees adopt the Associated Students Government Resolution No. 19567: Resolution in Support of Retiring Current Mascot and Adopting New Mascot,” a copy of the task force and ASG’s board presentation stated.

Past and Present Survey Results

A slide shows students’ and alumni views on the use of the Arab mascot for Imperial Valley College. The IVC Mascot Identity Task Force has sent its recommendations on whether to change the IVC Arab mascot to the Imperial Community College District Board of Trustees. The board was to take up the issue during its meeting on Wednesday, March 17. | VIDEO CAPTURE

The Associated Students Government led the effort to consider a rebranding of the college’s mascot, prompting the formation of the task force in the late summer of 2020.

The ASG had led a similar effort in 2014, when a survey of 617 students and 73 employees determined that a slight majority of employees, 58 percent, were in support of replacing the mascot. A similar majority of students, 57 percent, were opposed to such a change. At the time, the student board ultimately decided not to recommend to the board a rebranding of the mascot.

Since then, student opinion seems to have shifted in favor of replacing the mascot. Of the 755 current students who were among the 2,569 total individuals who responded to an online survey in the fall, about 58 percent expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the Arabs mascot, compared to the 41 percent who expressed some level of satisfaction.

When those same students were asked whether they felt the Arabs is an appropriate mascot for the campus, nearly 67 percent stated no, while nearly 34 percent were in approval, the task force’s 30-page survey report stated.

During the last of the task force’s virtual town hall meetings on March 10, IVC alumni, former assistant coach and student athlete Troy Loaiza said there was nothing wrong with the Arabs mascot and that he was proud of representing it while participating in competitive sports.

Loaiza also expressed skepticism about whether the recent survey results were representative of the college campus as a whole and was critical of the ASG’s latest efforts, which he called misguided.

“I don’t see why every so often the new (ASG) wants to change the mascot,” Loaiza said. “There is a lot of other changes at IVC that should take place other than the mascot.”

Besides current students, the 2,569 total survey respondents also included 1,645 campus alumni and community members. Among that cohort, 56 percent expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the mascot, while 42 percent expressed some level of satisfaction.

About twice as many respondents (55 percent) stated they did not consider the Arabs mascot as being appropriate compared to those who did think so (26 percent), while 19 percent indicated that they felt indifferent about the matter.

Faculty and staff made up the third group of survey respondents and totaled 169. They by far had expressed the greatest level (68 percent) of some dissatisfaction with the Arabs mascot, compared to the 32 percent who revealed they were satisfied to some degree.

“Overall, we are really happy, and we feel that the survey results are representative of the Imperial Valley as a whole,” said Jose Carrillo, IVC director of Institutional Research and task force member, during the March 10 town hall meeting.

Supporters Speak Out

During the town hall, about an equal number of individuals expressed support and opposition to the potential mascot rebranding. Those speaking in support of the current mascot appear to have been the first to have publicly voiced such opinions during the information gathering process.

Sophomore Marlon Munguia said the fact that no resounding majority of survey respondents considered the Arabs mascot inappropriate should give the campus pause.

Munguia also highlighted the culture that those of Arabian and Mexican descent have in common and which traces its origins to the Moors’ past conquest of Spain and its colonization of the Americas.

Instead of simply replacing the Arabs mascot, why not make more of an effort to promote it and, by extension, Arabic culture, Munguia asked.

“We shouldn’t just throw away everything and just leave nothing,” he said. “Because that’s not really going to do any good, and it’s just going to lead us to be more divided as a campus.”

Similarly, IVC alumni Lucero Flores said that as someone of Mexican heritage, she, too, identifies with Arabic culture and that culture’s strong association with the desert.

The idea of potentially replacing the mascot did not sit well with Lucero, who said people need to be educated more about and accepting of other world cultures.

Nor can the current Arabs mascot hardly be considered offensive, with its depiction of an Arabian warrior replete in traditional garb, raising a scimitar while astride a galloping horse, she said.

“We should keep it,” Flores said. “If anything, we should actually advertise it more.”

IVC maintenance director Rick Webster said the Arabs mascot did not appear to be much a concern on campus until after 9/11, when the image of the mascot was removed from the campus gymnasium’s floor and wall at the urging of the then-athletic director.

The eventual reapplication of the logos on the gym floor and wall several years later also seem to suggest that the campus no longer has concerns about its impropriety, Webster said.

What should be more offensive to the campus community, he said, is the prevalent use in official IVC announcements of the triangular-shaped stone that is decorated with the campus’ logo and situated near the roundabout of the parking lot that is adjacent to Aten Road.

“For about 20 years we were represented by a rock,” Webster said.

A better option might be to keep the current mascot logo but change the name to Desert Warriors, he said.

“You got to have room for compromise,” Webster said. “I think you guys need to consider both sides of this argument.”

The impassioned pleas of the Arabs’ supporters aside, it does appear that support for the current mascot is not as widely shared.

When survey respondents were asked directly if they would like to see a change in the Arabs mascot, 74 percent of current students, 66 percent of alumni and community members and 78 percent of faculty and staff responded yes.

Though it was not clear what the next course of action could be if the ICCD board approves the task force’s recommendation, campus officials previously stated that any effort to identify a new mascot would include the opportunity for the public to provide input and suggestions.