By Karen Kovaly, Contributor

The school mascot has always played a significant role in colleges and universities. The animal or object is often chosen for its symbolic characteristics, its historical relevance or because it is a species that is indigenous to an area. It becomes a unifying force for students, faculty and staff, bringing people together by representing a shared vision.

As we move into the future as a Colorado community college, my hope is that we consider all this when choosing whether to keep our current mascot (and give it a needed update) or find a new one. It’s also important to understand the history of the old when considering the new. Accounts of Arnie the aardvark’s origin story are varied.

A direct account recently came from a local resident who was a student senator here in the ‘70s. He recalls distinctly that the choice of mascot was born out of a divide between the academic students and student athletes. The athletes, he says, wanted to build a serious intercollegiate program and wanted a serious mascot to go with it. One of their favorites was the Mountaineers. The academics struck back by choosing the most frivolous mascot they could find – the Aardvark.

Another account has it that the aardvark was chosen because it’s the first animal found in the dictionary, leading to the motto “Aardvarks Come First.”

Yet another account explains that it was chosen by students who were returning from the Vietnam War. They had been crawling through dirt, and sometimes treated like dirt, so choosing a dirt-dwelling, burrowing animal felt right. The original school colors, black and blue, were chosen to reflect how beat-up they felt. 

Whichever story is most accurate (and there may be some truth in all of them), this history should be considered when making your choice.

Whether you choose to keep Arnie as a traditional nod to the past or find a new one that represents our diversity, life in Colorado or what we strive to become, remember that it will remain the symbol of our institution for many years. It must have meaning. It must have some kind of significance as it relates to who WE are here at PPCC.

If it’s an animal, should it be indigenous to our state? Should it represent our students’ grit, determination and perseverance? You have the answer and the choice is yours.

Make your suggestions at Student Life this month and cast your final vote in your student elections April 9-10 on D2L.

Karen Kovaly is the communication coordinator for the PPCC Marketing and Communication Department.