EMU Logo and Mascot Change Oral History Project
- EMU Logo and Mascot Change Oral History Project
- Students enrolled in Oral History Techniques, Winter 2021
- In the pandemic semester, Winter, 2021, students from lecturer Matt Jones' Oral History Techniques course interviewed participants in the effort to change the EMU logo and mascot from the Huron to the Eagle. Students sought to illuminate the historical context around the logo/mascot change, causes and effects of the change, and the sometimes rancorous public and private meetings held by university administration to assess the negative impact of the existing Huron logo and mascot and to select a new EMU logo and mascot.
- Date Span
- January 2021 - April 2021
- Easter Michigan University Archives
- Original Object Type
- .WAV files
- Collection Location
- Digital Object File Type
- .WAV audio files
- Date Digital File Created
- January 2021 - April 2021
Former Michigan State Senator Anthony Derezinsky (b. 1942) joined the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents in 1981 and served in that position until his retirement in 1996. In this interview, Derezinsky recounts his formative years with the University of Michigan Law School and Harvard Law before describing his time with the United States Navy serving with the Judge Advocate General Corps in Vietnam, 1968-1971. As a University Regent, Derezinsky played a vital role in the EMU logo/mascot change, placing the value of fairness above all other considerations. Stating that it "rankled my civil liberties heart" to see students offended by the Huron logo and mascot, and known by fellow regents as "Mr. Gavel," Derezinsky describes the process of learning from other institutions how to go about the changing of a logo/mascot that had become synonymous with school spirit and identity for many alumni and community members. Helping to steer the university through difficult ethical waters, Derezinsky traveled the country with EMU President William Shelton to provide insight to schools considering a change of logo/mascot.
A member of the Native American Student Organization at Eastern Michigan University at the time of the struggle to change the EMU mascot and logo, Deisha [Olszewski] Myles attended nearly every meeting related to the change of what many considered to be an insensitive depiction of Native American culture. Myles speaks of her experience as a student on the Logo Selection Committee, witnessing the tense interactions between university administrators and describing the divisions amongst indigenous participants, divisions that often adhered closely to differing generational values.
During her more than 40 years with Eastern Michigan University, Emerita Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Glenna Frank Miller served in various capacities and was called a "Human Dynamo" by former Vice President for Student Affairs Laurence Smith for her tireless devotion to the student experience on campus. Serving on the EMU Logo Review Committee and Logo Selection Committee, Frank Miller describes her confidence in newly appointed EMU President William Shelton despite the public backlash from alumni for dropping the EMU Huron, a logo/mascot deemed culturally insensitive by many members of the university community. Adhering to the belief that all community members are harmed by the negative depiction of any one group, Frank Miller details the tension in Board of Regents meetings, the aftermath of the logo and mascot change, and the higher duty of academic institutions to causes of social justice.
Juanita Reid served EMU for 28 years in vital roles such as Vice President of University Relations, Executive Associate to the President and Secretary of the Board of Regents. Reid's integral roles gave her a front row seat to the workings of upper administration and her view of the EMU logo and mascot change reflects this close, professional proximity. Explaining the rationale of the Board of Regents and the president in changing the mascot and logo, as well as the reactions from the community both on and off campus, Reid paints a uniquely vivid portrait of a university enmeshed in the thorny process of altering the identity of a university and committing itself to the cause of inclusivity and social justice.
Former Vice President for Marketing and Student Affairs Laurence Smith, worked at Eastern Michigan University from 1975-2000. Smith worked in the capacity of Vice President for University Marketing and Student Affairs where he had overall leadership responsibility for strategic University marketing, communication and media relations, as well as student affairs. Smith played an important role in campus life and served on the EMU Logo Review Committee and Logo Selection Committee. In his interview, Smith describes the state of higher education thirty years ago compared to now; how alumni and community placed value in the institution vs. a symbol; and the selection process for a new logo. Smith speaks in broad strokes about higher education and their role in social justice causes and does not speak to the specifics of the committee's work.
Longtime Ypsilanti resident and EMU Regent Dr. Richard Robb was named chair of the University Logo Committee and tasked with finding a new EMU logo to replace the Huron. Understanding that the logo was offensive to many students, Robb predicted a quick decision and adjournment. Fending off the ire of alums attached to the logo as well as the frustration and occasional apathy of fellow committee members, Robb found himself entrenched in a much larger debate over the identity of the school itself.
William Everett Shelton (b. 1942) was president of Eastern Michigan University 1989-2000, and is universally recognized for his work to do away with the EMU logo and mascot, seen as culturally insensitive to many inside and outside of the university. In this interview, Shelton recounts his rise to higher education administration from his roots in segregated southern schools, and the turmoil surrounding the change of the EMU logo and mascot. Arriving on the heels of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission recommendation that all Michigan schools with culturally insensitive logos and mascots make changes to those depictions, Shelton was thrust into the spotlight as a brand new university president grappling with painful institutional growing pains. This interview centers around the values espoused by Shelton in his recommendation to the Board that EMU should, in fact, change the logo and mascot, that change is inevitable, and that it was the responsibility of universities to encourage growth and change along with the rest of American culture. Shelton also wrestles with his legacy at EMU as he describes the backlash from alumni unhappy with the logo change and the longterm effects of the Board's decision to drop the Huron logo.