A Simon Fraser University professor has launched a petition calling on the university to change the name of its sports team because of the apparent similarity to the name of an American hate group.
The petition asserts that the athletics team, the SFU Clan, should adopt a name that avoids any association with the infamous Ku Klux Klan.
“When you are from the US it just feels like a kick to the gut when you hear that word,” said philosophy professor Holly Andersen, who wrote the petition. “There are so many black student athletes who shouldn’t have to play against a team named the Clan, even though they know that’s not what they mean by it.”
The petition on change.org has gathered over 200 signatures.
SFU Athletics and Recreation director Theresa Hanson told The Peak by email that the department is aware of the petition and had reached out to Andersen.
“Our nickname is most definitely on our radar and we are aware of the concerns,” Hanson said. “We are currently exploring our strategy and approach in how best to move forward.”
The team got its name from the Scottish roots of explorer Simon Fraser, who is also the namesake of the university. In 1965, the Scottish heraldic authority Lord Lyon granted the university its original coat of arms, according to the university website.
The SFU Clan is the only Canadian team to play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), a league that is dominated by American teams.
The names of both of the SFU Clan and the Ku Klux Klan are derived from the same word, which refers to the Scottish kinship groups, Andersen noted.
“They both come from the same sort of heritage,” she said.
“I am from the United States and I found that a lot of people in Canada just don’t realize how active and contemporary the Klan is,” Andersen explained. “It is still around, it is still terrorizing people.”
Andersen is hopeful that the university will reach out to students for suggestions on a new team name.
“I really think that they need to get everybody involved, instead of making a top-down decision,” she said. “I think it should be a grassroots swelling of student interest, they can really make this happen.”
As for a possible new name to play under, Andersen explained that she recommended the school call itself the Tartans.
“It’s time to retire the Clan, we were that for 50 years, but now looking forward this is a great moment to change, joining the NCAA should be our moment of self reflection to pick a new name that can do better things for the students,” Andersen said.
The petition also names the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) and Graduate Student Society (GSS) in addition to the university administration. The Peak reached out to both groups for comment and was informed that the SFSS is looking into the concerns.
The GSS told The Peak that it has no specific comment on the issue, but is open to “continuing constructive dialog [sic] with all parties involved, should it be of interest to graduate students.”