January 29, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 38°F


Name ‘Bomber’ has negative connotation

For those who have spent some time at Ithaca College, the name Bomber means something. For some, the term transcends its dictionary meanings to symbolize a rich and formative experience. Commitment, pride and hard work are just a few of the words that one hears described as common characteristics and values. Though it was never its coined intention, the name has been linked by historic assumption and perception to heroic service and patriotism.

Eric Maguire

For others, the name Bomber can never fully shed its literal robes. For this latter group, the name is difficult to rationalize, making it an unfortunate or even offensive choice. This topic is one of the ongoing debates for those who have experienced the college firsthand as students, faculty and staff. But what about those who have not had direct experience with the college? The Bomber name exists beyond the reaches of our campus boundaries. Do we simply disregard the opinions of prospective students, potential faculty and staff, and the broader public as irrelevant?  This group should not be ignored, as they greatly impact the future of our institution. I would also point to data that, at least in the case of prospective students, demonstrates their interpretations of the term Bomber have less to do with our desired associations and may be characterized as  negative.

When students brought to our attention via the Student Government Association their desires for a mascot, we sought to reconcile the symbolism and tradition of what it means to be a Bomber with the limitations and associations of a broader audience. The decision is controversial but seeks a compromise between two incompatible perspectives — retain the Bomber name while selecting a nonliteral mascot.
In order to select an official mascot, a very open and inclusive process was created to solicit ideas and charge a representative group to select finalists. From there, a survey is being administered to make
certain that members of our community can express their thoughts in a quantifiable and constructive way. The intention all along has been one of inclusion, and the process is providing everyone a voice.

We will pay careful attention to the survey feedback and use it to help chart our path forward. We will undoubtedly hear from Bomber proponents embracing the (historically inaccurate) association with World War II pilots. We will also hear from opponents who state the Bomber name must go, even if that means abandoning the pride and tradition of accomplishment that has come to be associated with the name during the past 70 years. While both of these viewpoints have their merits, neither is compatible with our objective.

Our mascot search has been constructed in a way to carry forward Bomber pride and tradition, to develop a mascot students and alumni can be proud of and to encourage those with less familiarity to explore and engage our community. We have been encouraged by those who have expressed their excitement and support for a particular mascot choice and welcome additional response before our survey closes April 21.

Eric Maguire is the vice president for enrollment and communication. Email him at emaguire@ithaca.edu.