Mascot campaign taps school spirit

On a campus that prides itself for its school spirit, student leaders recently discovered that Washington State University Vancouver is not allowed to use the WSU mascot costume of Butch the Cougar. Policies put in place by administrators in Pullman regarding the use of Butch the Cougar costumes have led to students beginning a social media campaign, called #WeNeedButch, in hopes of bringing the beloved cougar back to campus.

WSU Vancouver used to see Butch’s friendly cougar face at special events like ROAR. However the evening of the 25th anniversary of the university changed that for students on the satellite campus.

Mel Netzhammer, the chancellor of WSU Vancouver, explained that Butch stopped appearing on campus in late 2014. “Around the time of our 25th anniversary, we reached out to athletics for a new costume. At the 25th anniversary event, our Butch and the WSU Pullman Butch were both present, which created some awkwardness and tension,” Netzhammer said.

“President Floyd had a number of other priorities at the time and asked that we withdraw our request, which we did,” Netzhammer said. “That was pretty much the end of Butch’s appearances on the other campuses, except when we pay for them. It has also ended Butch’s appearances at events in our community, which has been noticed and is really unfortunate for WSU.”

Brenda Alling, the marketing and communications director at WSU Vancouver, explained how the atmosphere on campus can change when Butch is here. “The spirit that is associated with our campus is present when Butch is here. It is missing when he is gone. You get such a big reaction whenever he does come out. He is a tie to the cougar spirit and cougar family,” Alling said.

“Whenever I talk about Butch, I talk about Mickey Mouse,” Alling said. “There [are] Disney theme parks all over the place, Mickey Mouse is at all of those places right? So if Disney can work it out, WSU can work it out, if there is more than one mouse then there can be more than one Butch.”

Faculty and students have campaigned for the last month to bring Butch back to campus. Julie Mercado, a student ambassador, came up with the hashtag #WeNeedButch to get the movement rolling online and on social media. Many student entities have made spirited videos singing and chanting for the return of Butch, while waving crimson and gray to gain Pullman’s attention. (The VanCougar staff recently participated in the making of one of the videos.)

“I think the situation is unfortunate,” Netzhammer said. “Butch is a major symbol of Washington State University, and he’s important to our students, who are diehard Cougs. So, I’m pleased that our students are raising their voices and using the power of social media to express their dissatisfaction with the current situation. I also think it has put more energy behind the work that was already going on to resolve this.”

Alling said, “I think the student campaign is great, I think it is a request that comes best from students.”

With voices being heard from faculty and students, short term and long term solutions are being worked on. Butch will be at the spring commencement ceremony to honor those who are graduating and to spread some cheer to the Cougar family.

“We have been working since then to resolve the situation, but the expense or the unavailability have made that impossible to date. We have gotten permission from the president on a few occasions to use our old costume, and we will continue to do so while we work toward a long term solution,” Netzhammer said.

To view the videos made by different campus organizations about the absence of Butch, search for the #WeNeedButch hashtag on Twitter.

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