An Oswego State student is pushing for the school to adopt a mascot after decades without one, and is planning to hold open forums to get input from the campus community. Gregory Aiello, a senior education major, has been working with college officials and the Student Association for months to gain support to find and choose a mascot for the Lakers. Aiello first became interested in finding Oswego State a mascot when he found out about past mascot searches that were unsuccessful. "I thought to myself, ‘I can do better than this’," Aiello said.
Oswego State has had a long history of unofficial failed mascots. The past few decades at Oswego saw a slew of unofficial mascots appear at various sporting events.
"In 1986, students developed a mascot, made a costume, and presented the idea, but the athletic department said no to the idea and it eventually faded away," Aiello said.
Again in the 2000 yearbook, another mascot, "Pucky the Penguin," was suggested, but didn’t take. "We’re trying to learn from our mistakes this time and do it right," Aiello said. After going before SA Senate Involvement Committee to discuss some of his ideas, Aiello began working on sketches. Next, he spoke to James Scharfenberger, dean of students, about his plans. Scharfenberger, who is the advisor for SA, has seen the mascot project undertaken in the past by SA. "It was reintroduced to [the] Student Association last February," Scharfenberger said.
Although he has become a virtual one-man force working for a mascot, Aiello believes that having input and consensus is the key to success. "We want this to become instilled in the history of Oswego," Aiello said. "In an effort to promote the concept of finding a mascot with students,
Aiello has formed a Facebook group called "Mission: Get a Mascot for Oswego." Students can view updates, post comments and make mascot suggestions on the group. Aiello feels that the school needs a mascot as a symbol to help bring unity to Oswego State. ""Too often we focus on our differences, but a mascot could remind us of what we all have in common," Aiello said.
Christina Ballesteros, SA President, thinks there are other reasons that a mascot is needed. "A mascot brings representation, pride and also entertainment," Ballesteros said. The next big step for Aiello will be working through the red tape and getting more input from people. "We need to get everyone involved and are extremely receptive to all input at this point," Aiello said. Aiello plans to work with college officials in the near future to conduct what he calls "Mascot Think-Tanks" to get input and feedback from the community.
Both Aiello and Scharfenberger stress the importance of having as many people involved with the process as possible. "We need to have many constituencies involved," Scharfenberger said. "I’m trying to engage all students on campus." People involved with the search will include students, faculty, alumni, the athletic department and the community.
Despite the overall willingness to work toward choosing a mascot, there are many considerations that make the mascot process complicated. "Some other things that cause concern are will the mascot be male or female, and race specific," Aiello said. Scharfenberger believes there must be time to consider ideas and a firm agreement among all parties to be successful. "To have buy-in from the community takes time," Scharfenberger said.
Aiello hopes to continue to work with SA and college officials to have a design ready by spring 2010 when he graduates. "We’re trying to do this in a semester, but I know it will take time," Aiello said. Aiello won’t comment on what exactly he wants the mascot to look like, but hints that there will be some things that won’t be included. "Anything that promotes drinking, smoking or drugs will not be considered," Aiello said.
Aiello is hoping to work the history aspect of Oswego into the final design, but cautions that no matter what the mascot turns out to be, it represents all of us as Lakers. "We have to figure out what a Laker is to us," Aiello said. "This is our legacy… we need everyone’s support."