Facing pressure from students and the local community, Simon Fraser University announced on Wednesday it is retiring its nickname, the Clan, effective immediately.
“As a university, our No. 1 duty is to foster a supportive environment for our students,” president and vice chancellor Andrew Petter said in a statement. “Our student-athletes are dedicated to their sport and education, and negative interactions with others about the persistent misinterpretation or misuse of their team name should not be a burden they have to bear.”
The nickname — which was previously shortened from the Clansmen and derived from the Gaelic term for a close-knit group of relatives — was chosen as a nod to the Scottish heritage of fur trader and explorer Simon Fraser. However, it has often been misinterpreted as a reference to the white supremacist group known as the Ku Klux Klan.
A recent petition to change the name received nearly 14,000 signatures, thus the university began soliciting input from various stakeholders in January. Their response revealed a resounding desire for new nickname.
“Through our engagement process, students shared stories of unsafe situations, upsetting conversations and the harm they experience due to misinterpretation and/or misuse of the team name,” Petter said. “As a university that has made it a core commitment to foster a supportive environment for our students, we have an obligation to attend to their voices and concerns.”
Simon Fraser will now begin the process of choosing a new nickname, with a decision expected by the end of the year.
“The process will focus on guiding principles and our belief that our team name should reflect shared values, inspire unity and be a source of pride,” Petter said. “As we move away from using the Clan as our team name, I want to stress that we continue to be exceedingly proud of the people, teams and accomplishments associated with the Clan over our long history. (It) was chosen to honour friendship, loyalty and connection, commitments that remain deeply engrained at SFU.
“I am very grateful to those who shared their opinions with us, and I want to express my special appreciation to our student-athletes, coaches and staff who advanced this issue and worked toward a decision. The conversation has been difficult for many, and I acknowledge and appreciate your determination and fortitude.”
Located in Burnaby, British Columbia, Simon Fraser is the only Canadian university affiliated with the NCAA. Its 17 varsity programs compete in the Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Photos courtesy of Simon Fraser Athletics.