Jeff Whitman responds to criticism of Issue 20 comic

It has come to my attention that last week’s comic depicting the UCR mascot, Scotty, having an identity crisis has struck a nerve with some readers.  Even though I am all for ruffling some feathers toward an appropriate topic, I feel that the response towards this comic could use a little insight from its author as to the message behind it.

Now, believe it or not, I love this school and all it has given me. Multiple generations of my family have graduated from here, dating back to my great uncle who got his PhD in 1972.  It was my first choice university and has given me numerous educational, extracurricular, research and work opportunities that I feel I would not have gotten anywhere else. I have even volunteered at multiple discover days to show it off to prospective students.  With that being said, I feel I am entitled to an opinion about our mascot.

Drawing Scotty having an identity crisis with an overly dramatic monologue leading up to his metamorphosis into a silly mosquito proclaiming, “We suck,” was my attempt at a two-fold message.  I wanted to say, first, that the bear aspect of our mascot masks what makes our school unique.  I also wanted to address the public perception of UC Riverside’s ranking among the UC campuses as well as the student body’s apathy towards school spirit.

If you do not believe the latter part of the previous statement, then I implore you to look at the UCR memes page on Facebook and see what is already being said by UCR students about their school (some are quite funny).  Even though the humor is often self deprecating, you will notice both a fair amount of “likes” attributed to each picture and a general ability to laugh at things we find unsatisfactory about UCR.

Ever since orientation, I was told that our mascot was a bear in order to both honor and rival our sibling universities, UCLA and UC Berkeley.  Only through a write-in campaign was our mascot officially made a Highlander, due to the fact that the Box Springs Mountain Range was known as the “Highlands” and possibly because our first mascot was a Scottish Terrier. Yet the school did not drop the bear.

I always found this kind of awkward because there are no bears in Scotland.  And it epitomized my feeling that UC Riverside tries too hard to fit in or “keep up with the Joneses,” when we really have a prestigious record as a research institute and a rich history of work with the agricultural sciences that we seem to push into the background, like we did to Norm the Navel (Google it).

Having the mosquito emerge from within Scotty proclaiming, “We suck,” was my way of dually highlighting the world-class research we have going on in Entomology and addressing the notion that we are considered the UC you go to when you do not get in anywhere else.  I also chose the mosquito to say what it did because I, and hopefully others, could care less what our public perception is.

I (we) came here for what UCR has to offer and not because of where it is ranked.  If we cannot laugh at our perceived shortcomings, then we only prove that we really do feel that they are shortcomings.

UCLA and UC Berkeley are great institutions, but we are not them, and we have enough going on that we do not need to pretend to be them.

We are the little rural UC Research Station at the edge of the Mojave Desert that grew up and made something of itself.

Also, it’s a comic.

Sincerely,

Jeff Whitman

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