The Axemen name change community forum last Wednesday, January 31th, was the first time that public was able to voice their concerns directly to Principal Andy Dey. Although the turnout of about 100 people was lower than expected, audience members defended their position passionately. The panel was made up of the principal, an alumna, two student government representatives, the athletic director and the office manager. It was a good representation of the different parties involved in making the decision, although the suggestion to the superintendent will ultimately come down to Principal Dey.
Most of the crowd was made up of alumni and parents. Although there were not many students there, the South Eugene women’s basketball team attended the forum. The general trend of the opinions presented to the panel was in favor of keeping the team name. Many of the advocates of the name Axemen made arguments about the history of strength behind the team name, the cost of changing the name and the lack of exclusion as a result of a team name. It was surprising to hear that female alumni from the pre-Title IX era also were supportive of the name.
“I’m the class of 1975, and I’m a pre-Title IX athlete. I lettered in three different sports, and we had all sort of challenges we had to face,” alumni Leslie Akin said. “We had to do car washes for jerseys and all sorts of things that the boys team didn’t have to do. Those were battles that we fought that didn’t have anything to do with the name. Historically, I like how it connects us from the past to it.”
While many would expect the women’s basketball team to be in support of the Axemen name change, the team got up to the stage and spoke against the change.
“I am very proud to be an Axeman,” senior basketball player Blair Lewis. “What matters to me is if the school is inclusive. This school is an amazing place to be. I feel like the name has nothing to do with exclusion. It’s about how students treat other students here, and I believe they are treated well.”
Both sides of the argument were presented well. The argument against the name Axemen was made mostly by parents, as well as one student. It was interesting to hear what some professors, who were well-educated in psychology, thought about the team name.
“Words, labels, and names do matter!” University of Oregon professor Catrin Rode said. “They matter sometimes in an unconscious way. While I understand that lots of people don’t feel excluded here, when we talk about ‘Axemen’ and we keep hearing the term, it might affect how little girls and young girls in middle school form their attitudes.”
The energy in the auditorium on the day of the forum only intensified the anticipation for Principal Andy Dey’s final suggestion to the district on Wednesday.