VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The effort to get SFU athletics to change its name from “the Clan” has gained some new momentum, and a virtual townhall for student athletes will be held Thursday to discuss the topic.
Holly Andersen, associate professor of philosophy at SFU, has spent years pushing for a change. She says the name has a far different meaning south of the border where SFU athletes will often play.
“They’re really having a huge and very difficult time playing in the United States with this name because of the taunting, the jeers, the harassment, and the intimidation that it engenders,” she explains.
In a statement, SFU says a review of the name has been ongoing since the beginning of the year and acknowledges there have been associations with the Scottish nickname and the Ku Klux Klan.
“The university is deeply troubled by and attentive to the emotions and concerns to which these associations have given rise and the impact it has on our athletes, particularly in light of our revulsion to and condemnation of anti-Black racism,” reads the statement.
SFU says the current name honours Scottish traditions.
But Andersen argues this isn’t true at all.
“I really want to emphasize that is doesn’t have anything to do with Scottishness or Scottish heritage. In the United States, there’s no real connection with the clan and Scottishness.”
She says the recent protests sparked by the death of George Floyd have changed a lot of people’s perspectives.
“It really seems to have shown with brutal clarity what it’s actually like on the ground for people in the United States.”
Andersen says she has noticed a major shift in momentum on the recent push to change the name, compared to a few years ago.
While she notes this is a moment to understand the cultural context of the phrase, there is some pushback to changing the name.
“There are people who maybe played under that team name before, and they want to have it recognized, I think, that they played under that name, or that they don’t want it so change.”
She says this has seemed to change as more people hear stories from student athletes about the difficulties they experience while playing in the U.S.
“I would really just encourage everyone to listen to what the students have to tell us.”
SFU says it will be bringing recommendations for a name change to the university’s president in August, and a final decision will be made before the fall semester.
“We acknowledge that we have much work to do to ensure that our ideals for a just society are reflected in our own practices, policies and procedures, and we are actively engaged in efforts to better support the Black community,” it says.
-With files from Tim James