Illinois hails Alma Otter for potential mascot

By Ben Chapman

I’m a townie who has been forced to watch this mascot debate for, well, as long as it has been happening. And now, I’m ready for it to end.

In the time since Chief Illiniwek was retired, new mascot proposals have been floating receiving mostly lukewarm responses. Among the ideas floated are the “Fighting Colonels,” “Sassy the Squirrel,” “The Fighting Abes” and most recently, “Champ.”

No mascot proposal has fulfilled enough of the principles I believe are necessary to making a good mascot for our University and community — until now.

Why does Alma Otter have potential I haven’t seen before? To begin with, it’s cute as heck, and I can’t help but love the name “Alma Otter.” But there are more concrete reasons than this.

Otters represent a success story for our state. In 1989, fewer than 100 otters lived in Illinois. Thanks to reintroduction efforts by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, North American river otters, once threatened, are now in every county in Illinois. Go us!

Specific to the University, Alma Otter’s name stems from a beloved, symbolic sculpture on our campus. The Alma Mater dresses in warm clothing for the winter, hoists banners of protest in times of debate and has resolutely welcomed newcomers to our campus for almost a century.

But the key reason I support Alma Otter is other people like it, too. It has a popular Change.org petition, a beloved Facebook page and adorable fan art. Alma Otter has proven itself a mascot which students and the community can rally around.

Alma Otter won’t please everyone — no mascot ever will. But it comes real darn close. And that’s why I say, hail Alma Otter, ever so true.

Ben is a junior in ACES.

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