George Washington University will stop using the Colonials moniker by the 2023–24 school year, or whenever it decides on a replacement. The Board of Trustees announced the decision Wednesday, nearly two years after a special committee was formed to consider the issue.
“We made this decision only after a thoughtful and deliberate process … that considered the varying perspectives of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and athletics community,” board chair Grace Speights said in a statement. “A moniker must unify our community, draw people together and serve as a source of pride. We look forward to the next steps in an inclusive process to identify a moniker that fulfills this aspiration.”
Introduced in 1929, the moniker has come under fire in recent years for its association with settler-colonialism. In 2018, a student-led petition to replace the nickname garnered over 500 student signatures; it argued that the moniker “has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression.” In April 2019, 54 percent of GW students voted to change the name in a schoolwide referendum.
The name Colonials is used for everything from GW sports teams and merchandise to campus buildings and printing services. The university has not announced any potential replacement names, but some of the suggestions from students in 2019 included the Revolutionaries, the Riverhorses and the Hippos.
In a statement, GW interim president Mark Wrighton called the university’s approach to the decision “principled.”
“We must continue to lead with our values, strengths and the diversity of the George Washington University community,” Wrighton said. “While some may disagree with this outcome, this process has determined that changing the moniker is the right decision for our university.”