It’s Not About The Mascot

vikingWhen I began writing this post Monday, it was a VERY different post.

I’d read the news that some students and a professor at Western Washington University (WWU, Western), my place of employment for the past 15 years, were calling for a change of the university’s mascot, the Vikings, claiming it conflicts with Western’s commitment to diversity.

And so, I was going to write a casual exploration of the topic, reflecting on the fact that the mascot at the junior high school I attended was also the Vikings, half joking about how the current graphic of the Viking, included here, whether or not you believe it a barrier to creating an inclusive community for people of color on campus, is so freaking scary he looks like he very badly wants to pillage my village, rape my women, and impale me on his horns, and then, maybe, I’d lightly touch on the topic of political correctness vs. free speech.

But Tuesday morning, before having any time to complete this post, an email was sent to the entire Western Washington University community by WWU President Bruce Shepard, announcing that classes had been cancelled for the day in response to hate speech on social media, directed at students of color at Western because of their opposition of the mascot.

So, I needed to take a break from writing and regroup, I needed to read the coverage in the media, and I even masochistically subjected myself to reading the reader comments on the article in the Bellingham Herald and on Western’s Facebook Page.

Then, shortly thereafter, I read the news that five Black Lives Matter protesters were shot in Minneapolis.

And what became abundantly clear to me was:

It’s not about the mascot.

It’s about racism.

What kind of country do we live in where this happens?

  • A handful of students of color state publicly that they oppose a university mascot because they feel alienated by it, and they are met with hate speech and threats, AND…
  • This same handful are told, with derision and anger, that they shouldn’t be offended and scared, that they are “cry babies” and “pussies”, and that this is just political correctness run amok, AND…
  • The president of the university is attacked for cancelling classes, which he did because he understands that students of color might be scared, given that racism and violence on college campuses is a national epidemic, and that the whole university needs time to process the awareness that racist threats were made to our students.

In April 2014, President Shepard, in a convocation speech, said:

“ … if in decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we will have failed as a university.”

…and he swiftly came under fire for those comments.

I suspect that many who found fault with what he said then are likely the same people angrily criticizing the opposition to the mascot and the decision to cancel classes.

Racists have a glaringly obvious tell: Even hint about taking away a symbol of white power — a maniacal Viking, or, let’s say, the Confederate flag — and they doth protest too much.

Listen, I’ll take a politically correct overreaction over a racist overreaction any frickin’ day!

Before The Fall

Before The Fall

Property Of The State: Revisited

wwu2Almost exactly five years ago, I wrote a post titled Fish & Bicycles: Property Of The State, explaining that, because I work at a public university, with the impending start of fall term and the academic year, my ass is essentially owned by the State of Washington at this time, resulting in little-to-zero time or energy for blogging.

This will be my 8th year in my current position, my 15th year over all at the university, each year I make a concerted effort to improve my process and outcomes, however small the increment(s) may be, and this year I seem to be particularly inspired to make it a great kickoff, partly evident by the fact that I’m posting this disclaimer for the slowdown here at Fish & Bicycles a full 10 days earlier than I did 5 years ago.

Obviously, it would be hypocritical of me if I carried on any further in this post. I have a million things on my to-do list, after all.

So, instead of writing anything else today, I thought I’d stop here and simply copy and paste below the post from five years ago. As was the case then, I may be inspired and able to post a thing or two in the next few weeks, but I can’t guarantee anything.

Happy Weekend, everyone, and hope to “see” you soon!

I’m sorry to report that for the next week or so it’s likely to be awfully quiet around here.

You see, as I’ve mentioned before, I work for Western Washington University, in fact, my office is in the building you see highlighted in the photo here.

The first day of classes for Fall Quarter is September 22nd, but more important to me, 4,000+ students who will be living in on-campus housing move in this coming weekend, and I’m basically owned for the next week or so.

If this weren’t enough excitement, this past Sunday a main power switch on campus failed, sending 12,000 volts in an arc across a room, causing melting through plated steel, requiring replacement parts to be manufactured in Portland and hand delivered by the manufacturer. As a result, since Sunday there’s been a power outage in most of the buildings you see in the foreground of the photo, causing hundreds of WWU employees to have to find alternate workstations to do their…um…work.

I’m accustomed to being mobile, as my job has me regularly splitting my time between various buildings, using a laptop and a cell phone to get stuff done just about anywhere. For a lot of other folks that isn’t the case. And even though people are pulling together to help one another, as it happens so often in times of adversity, there is a palpable tension in the air, and the oft-repeated phrase “at least this didn’t happen next Monday” brings little solace.

So, who knows? I might be able to squeeze a little time in here and there to post something new to Fish & Bicycles, but I appreciate your patience and your checking back in later if that proves impossible.

Now, where did I put that flashlight?

Sequoia + Lightpost


Sun Through Cedar


Fun In Higher Education

So, I was walking along on the campus of Western Washington University, where I’m lucky enough to be employed, and as I was passing one of the student dormitories I looked up and I saw this:


No, this was not Photoshopped.

No, there are no students currently living in the building, and this, um, device, or whatever it is, is, um, deployed as part of ongoing construction.

BUT, over the next month, THOUSANDS of new incoming students and their parents will be visiting campus for summer orientation, and I wonder if I’m the only person working on campus right now worried about the symbolism here.

Tweet of the Day: #Nepal – Please Help

nepal1Whenever natural disasters happen on the scale of this week’s massive earthquake in Nepal, I suspect that I’m not alone in struggling to fully comprehend the enormity.

The numbers alone, thus far, are staggering:

  • 5,000 – confirmed dead
  • 10,000 – possible final death toll
  • 500,000 – displaced
  • 1.4million – in need of food
  • 8million – total affected
  • $10billion – estimated cost to rebuild, exceeding Nepal’s entire GDP

The photos are hard to look at, the news stories difficult to read, and yet the choice to look away is just not acceptable, especially if you can afford to even help out a little bit.

I was heartened, when I checked Facebook this morning and found a button at the top of my news feed providing me with the opportunity to donate to the Nepal relief effort. When you consider that Facebook has over a BILLION registered users, their gesture could have a big impact.

And then, this morning, I received an email from the president of the university where I work, providing a link to where employees can either donate by credit card or by a deduction from our paychecks.

Finally, Twitter is awash in tweets of prayer and pleas for donations.

Please consider chipping in whatever you can.