ULM should celebrate new legacy

ULM is moving into a new era. With the recent investiture of President Berry, everything on campus is looking toward a bright future. 

But the Homecoming theme for 2021 is “The Legacy Continues.” We have to ask ourselves, what legacy are we celebrating?

While there have been many great people and accomplishments that have come out of ULM, there has also been a lot of hate and racism spread by the university.

ULM has held three different names under its tenure as an accredited university. The university was first called Northeast Louisiana State College, and then in 1970 became Northeast Louisiana University, and then in 1999 gained its current name of the University of Louisiana Monroe. 

This history should be remembered. We need to know how we got to where we are today. But there is not much to celebrate about ULM’s past. For example, we can look at our past mascot, the Indians. 

According to ESPN, ULM was forced to change its mascot in 2006 or they would face athletic sanctions. Other schools were allowed to keep an Indian mascot because they received support from local tribes in the area. 

ULM never made any strides to do this, even though according to the American Library Association, the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians have a settlement just an hour outside of Monroe.

Many alumni still want to celebrate the Indian mascot. Some even come to the football games in Native American headdresses. These headdresses are usually worn by leaders who have earned great respect in their tribe, but this is appropriating the culture of Native Americans for fun at a football game. 

The fact of the matter is, ULM had to drop the Indian mascot because we did not have the approval from tribes in the area. 

It is racist and disrespectful to Native Americans to keep a mascot that misrepresents them and appropriates their culture. This part of ULM’s history should not be celebrated. We should be move forward and support our athletics for what they are: the Warhawks.

We also must remember that ULM was an all-white university until it was forcefully desegregated by the Supreme Court. Sarah Louise McCoy, ULM’s first black female student, had to file a class-action lawsuit to be admitted into the university. The president at the time, George T. Walker, allowed McCoy to enter the university, but he personally disproved of the decision, according to the NAACP. 

ULM has recently made steps to remember this history and move forward in a new and diverse direction. 

Last semester, during Black History Month, the letters of Black Lives Matter were displayed, and there have been movements by students to rename Walker Hall to something more representative of the current student body.

The diversity and acceptance that is growing on ULM’s campus are what we should be celebrating. I understand Homecoming is a time for alumni to come back and remember the times they had in college. But we shouldn’t celebrate the legacies of NLSC and NLU. We should move forward with the new legacy ULM is creating—a legacy where everyone is accepted and treated equally regardless of race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation. 

Let’s remember who came before us, but leave the past in the past.