“That includes the future of our mascot,” she added.
The bronze statue, a gift from a pair of alumni for the school’s 50th anniversary in 2007, stood in front of a building that UNLV describes as the “gateway” to its campus. Meana said that in “recent conversations” with its donors, “we mutually agreed it was best to remove the statue and return it.”
The nationwide protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd have been accompanied by a greater scrutiny of public symbols that have an association with racism and the historical oppression of black people. Several monuments of Civil War figures who fought on the Confederate side have been taken down or damaged, and a recent online petition garnered more than 4,000 signatures in support of its demand that UNLV replace its mascot.
Calling the “Rebel” racist and “rooted in a Confederate mythology which has no place on our campus,” the petition states, “Having a mascot that is inextricably connected to a failed regime whose single aim was to preserve the institution of slavery is an embarrassment to our campus and to our community.”
UNLV was attempting to further distance itself from the Civil War-inspired origins of its Rebels nickname when it introduced “Hey Reb!” in 1982. Meant to portray a Western frontiersman, the mustachioed mascot was the eventual replacement for Beauregard, a wolf in Confederate garb that was the school’s mascot from shortly after its founding in the mid-1950s until the mid-1970s.
Upon the retirement of Beauregard, reportedly named after the Confederate general whose order to bombard South Carolina’s Fort Sumter is generally regarded as the start of the Civil War, UNLV students voted to keep the Rebels nickname (per UNLV). The moniker was originally adopted to convey the school’s determination to stand up to its larger parent school to the north, Nevada Reno, but a brief move to a Revolutionary War figure did not appeal to a desire in the UNLV community to have a mascot rooted more in local history.
The designer of “Hey Reb!” said in 2011 of his creation, “Pathfinders were severely independent people who went all around the West looking for new trails, agriculture, gold mining and everything.”
Some UNLV students decried the mascot as racist in 2015, however, and last year the school’s Native American Student Association asked it to replace “Hey Reb!” with something more welcoming to indigenous people.
“On a campus that’s supposed to be ‘different, daring and diverse,’ we have this statue of an Indian killer,” the group’s president, a member of the Walker River Paiute Tribe, said at the time to the Las Vegas Journal-Review.
This week, a similar critique of a statue on the Texas A&M campus was offered by Aggies senior quarterback Kellen Mond. Lawrence Sullivan “Sul” Ross, a former governor of Texas and late-1800s president of Texas A&M, was a Confederate general who “killed and disenfranchised blacks,” Mond said in a tweet Monday.
Mond shared a link to a petition asking for the removal of “Sully,” the Ross statue, and he posted a statement Tuesday in which he said, “The values of Texas A&M University do not align with RACISM, VIOLENCE, SLAVERY & SEGREGATION, but [Aggies Coach] Jimbo Fisher’s most prominent saying will always stick with me: ‘Your ACTIONS speak so loud I can’t hear what you’re saying.'
“The Lawrence Sullivan Ross Statue NEEDS to be removed,” Mond added. “Texas A&M University, I NEED to see ACTION.”
In her statement about returning the “Hey Reb!” statue to its donors, Meana pointed to a recently increased “frequency” of her conversations about how to proceed amid the national climate. After leaving the fate of the school’s mascot unresolved, Meana said, “I will have more to share with campus once the listening tour is complete.”