Regressive Iowa professor decries school mascot as too solemn!

This is Herky the Hawk, the “athletic mascot” of the University of Iowa (UI).

Herky performs during the Beat State Pep Rally Friday, Sept. 12, 2014 on the Pentacrest. (Brian Ray/

A journalism professor conceived of Herky in 1948, and, 11 years later, he took to the field as a mascot! He’s been the symbol of Iowa ever since. However, two years ago they replaced the old Herky (below) with the current version, above. Old Herky: football helmet, no teeth (i.e. anatomically accurate), and not much of a frown. New Herky: no helmet, teeth, and fierce looking. This upset some Iowa fans.


Now there’s been a lot of criticism of school mascots lately: they can conjure up images of racism, slavery, and xenophobia, and some of these criticisms are correct. I don’t, for instance, approve of stereotyped Native American “mascots”. Nor do I approve of live animals being paraded on the football field, like lions, bears, tigers and eagles. Those things belong in the wild.

But Herky? He’s not a real hawk, and he doesn’t evoke any emotions or images involving bigotry, oppression, or othering, right? So you can’t really object to Herky as a mascot, amirite?

Nope. You haven’t realized the depth to which Regressive Leftism has insinuated its tentacles into college life.

According to the August 24 Iowa City Press-Citizen, a UI Professor has strenuously objected to Herky for—wait for it—its lack of emotional variety as well as its perpetually angry expression. (Has she ever looked at a hawk?). I can’t do better than quote from the paper:

A University of Iowa professor is asking for the Department of Athletics to allow the university’s mascot, Herky the Hawk, to display a wider array of facial expressions in university publications.

“I believe incoming students should be met with welcoming, nurturing, calm, accepting and happy messages,” Resmiye Oral, a clinical professor of pediatrics at UI, wrote recently in an email to UI athletic department officials. “And our campus community is doing a great job in that regard when it comes to words. However, Herky’s angry, to say the least, faces conveying an invitation to aggressivity and even violence are not compatible with the verbal messages that we try to convey to and instill in our students and campus community.”

The email was included in a message Oral sent Tuesday morning to other members of the UI Faculty Senate, where she is one of the representatives from the UI Carver College of Medicine.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Oral said she has been concerned for some time with the lack of emotional variety displayed in the images of the university’s long-standing mascot — specifically the Fighting Herky, the “Old School” Flying Herky and the Tigerhawk logo developed by retired Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry.

Her intention, she said, is to bring diversity to how Herky feels, not to eliminate the ambitious, competitive, go-getter Herky.

Oral’s message to the Faculty Senate came in response to a series of posters and fliers on campus with messages welcoming new students — “On Iowa! Welcome Class of 2020! You’ll always be a Hawkeye. This is where it begins” — atop the images of Herky or the Tigerhawk.

“I would like to bring to the Faculty Senate’s attention that the attached Herky images are totally against the nonviolent, all accepting, nondiscriminatory messages we are trying to convey through campus,” Oral wrote in the email to her fellow senate members.

Oral stressed that she thinks the iconic images of Herky definitely have a place within the highly competitive nature of college athletics, but she wants other parts of the university to have some nonaggressive options for using such a beloved symbol.

“As we strive to tackle depression, suicide, violence, and behavioral challenges and help our students succeed, I plead with you to allow Herky to be like one of us, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes angry, sometimes concentrated,” she wrote.

The suggestion Dr. Oral —why isn’t she a mouth doctor?—was given to a new faculty and staff committee devoted to “working on the larger issue of ensuring that the university climate is one that is safe, inclusive and supportive of all of our community.” I won’t comment on that, but here’s their response to Dr. Oral’s thoughtful suggestions for Herky:

At this time, the committee is not focused specifically on how Herky is depicted,” said Thomas Vaughn, an associate professor of public health and president of the UI Faculty Senate.

Translation: “Leave us alone!”

Now this is one isolated professor, but she’s clearly infected with the Regressive Virus. By implying that Herky is actually violent, much less prone to inspire thoughts of violence, suicide, and depression in students, Dr. Oral shows she’s clearly drunk the Kool-Aid. And how is Herky supposed to show a diversity of expressions like happiness, puzzlement, concentration, and so on? It’s a plastic head, for crying out loud! Or perhaps she’s suggesting that there be a variety of Herky Heads that are changed during breaks in the game.

Either way, she needs to realize that it’s a mascot, Jake!


Resmiye Oral (not angry)

h/t: Reader Jay


  1. Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Oral is begging for a Christopher Guest assessment.

  2. Razib
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    the fact that our universities sponsor the playing of football is much more of a problem than a mascot. just sayin’

    • somer
      Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      good point but then why not fuss about that, rather than the type of mascot if the concern is with equity and diversity?

  3. somer
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Another campus gets a regressive shower of miseroids.

  4. Geoffrey Howe
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I’d actually want a bit more context for this. Is Herky used all around campus, always growling and angry? If that were the case, she might have something of a point. A more smiling and welcome Herky at orientation wouldn’t be a bad idea, for example.

    That being said, I’d still favor the perpetually angry Herky. The internets love of Grumpy Cat demonstrates that we can have affection for the perpetually pissed off. A school mascot, showing up all over campus, but always angry, could be the kind of unique quirk that might make him really stand out.

    A student orientation brochoure with Herky saying “Great… even more people…” might add a bit of comedy to the whole affair, and make it more memorable than just another smiling cartoon saying “Welcome!”

    So I’m not certain this person could be dubbed an SJW. However, if it is a campus wide thing, the desire to remove unique characters who might bother some people and replace it with bland and generally acceptable forgettable characters is part of the behavior shared by all manner of puritans.

    • Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      As far as I know, because Herky the Hawk is a licensed “marketing tool” of the athletic department, the mascot is only on display at athletic events: basketball, football, and so on.

      Campus mascots are pretty much all like that.

      That said, I am sure there are Herky tee shirts that, worn around campus, could trigger students as you suggest.

  5. therationalyogini
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps working in pediatrics has caused her to be confuse the campus and football field for a giant pediatrics ward? On another note, I would normally never comment on the appearance of someone or make such an ad hominem, but in this instance, I can’t help but notice that not only is she smiling in the picture, but Dr. Oral herself has very avian-like features. Does this make her the AntiHerky?

    • charlize
      Posted September 4, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t it be fun if someone would go out on the field wearing the mascot costume with a flat screen attached to their face featuring a slide show of changing images of the good doctor’s face presenting a different expression with each image to provide “variety”?

      Taking “triggering©” to a whole ‘nuther level.

  6. alexandra moffat
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Ridiculous! Don’t these people EVER read what they write and get embarrassed?
    Is all this PC or whatever a result of the self-esteem movement that swept (is sweeping??) through elementary schools some 20 or so years ago?? (There were even schools that didnt want to keep score in games because everybody deserved to win, must not have hurt feelings).

    • terrya
      Posted September 5, 2016 at 5:02 am | Permalink

      The cult of not keeping scores was satirised marvellously in the Danish TV series Rita on Netflix. Other absurdities in education were also skewered.

  7. mordacious1
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure if Dr. Oral has giving this much thought. What about all the students at Iowa who suffer from masklophobia. Even a smiling Herky will scare the crap out of them. Why is she throwing them under the bus?

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    What, Perfesser Oral thinks maybe a white dove will cut it on a Big Ten gridiron?

    BTW, “… helmet, no teeth (i.e. anatomically accurate) …” — that’s hockey you’re think of there. 🙂

  9. Edward Hessler
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    These just keep coming.

    She is director of the Child Protection Program in addition to being the Clinical Professor of Pediatrics although I’m not sure what to make of this.

    Moffat mentioned not keeping scores. I don’t think this has disappeared at least here.In Minnesota the idea of everyone getting a trophy for merely particpating is alive and well.


  10. tombesson
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the good doctor could provide photographs showing the hawk’s diversity of emotions she wants the Iowa mascot to display outside of gridiron contests, so the mascot costume makers had an idea about what she was thinking.

  11. Historian
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Certainly, Dr. Oral’s suggestion is silly and she has probably made himself an object of ridicule. However, lacking additional information, I would not classify her as a regressive leftist. The Rational Wiki website defines regressive leftism thusly:


    “The regressive left is a term coined by anti-Islamist activist Maajid Nawaz to describe a perceived segment of the left which ignores certain reactionary attitudes in the name of tolerance. Nawaz originally used it to refer to misguided leftist tolerance of conservative and fundamentalist Islam (underbelly and all) in contrast to their progressive stance against the scourge of conservative and fundamentalist Christianity, but the term has since been extended to encompass many (but curiously not all) leftist positions that appear contradictory to progressive values.”


    Her suggestion is not overtly political, a commentary on multiculturalism, or necessarily contradictory to progressive values. It seems to me that she has perceived (rightly or wrongly) that many students seem to be psychologically fragile and that the angry Herky has contributed to this. I am not willing to label her as regressive based on the limited information we have available. I would simply say that she is a person with a good heart, who has not really thought through her proposal.

  12. Posted September 4, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Given that football causes brain damage (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), and the fact that 57% of college football players, and 68.7% of NFL players are black. I recommend she campaign against football with the hashtag #BlackBrainsMatter.

    • Robert Bray
      Posted September 5, 2016 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      I read that Alabama disemboweled USC the other day by some ridiculous score. Whenever a southern team does something like this, I consider the irony: all those black athletes out on the field. Their grandparents weren’t even allowed to enroll at, say, the University of Alabama, let alone play football there.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 5, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink



  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I hate to be a lookist, but that photograph — does Dr. Oral get made up as a human Q-tip for her pediatric patients?

    • Posted September 4, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      Well, it might be better if we didn’t make fun of someone’s appearance on this site

      • Kevin
        Posted September 4, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        True, but she does look different, not bad, but statistically uncommon and interesting.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted September 4, 2016 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

          Haha I’m imaging that as a pick up line.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 5, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          There’s much to be said for the jolie laide.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 5, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

        You’re right; I apologize to Dr. Resmiye Oral.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted September 4, 2016 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

      The is cruel, but funny.

  14. tubby
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    But wait, I thought kids loved angry birds?

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I lost a lot of respect for Jane Fonda when I saw her doing that ridiculous chop and that awful mumble for her hubby’s team. Oh GI Jane, how could you?

  16. Stephen Barnard
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    They probably changed the costume because they were sick of their opponents laughing their asses off every time the old Herky took the field. He looks like he’s afraid the Minnesota Golden Gopher is going to you know what. Has this stupid woman ever seen a football game?

    “The suggestion Dr. Oral —why isn’t she a mouth doctor?— …”

    That would be an aptronym (or aptonym or eponym). I know a dentist named Dodrill, and my daughters’ orthodontist was Dr. Aw.

    Word quiz: What is a tautonym, and how many have you seen?

    • Posted September 4, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

      As I said before, I knew an entomologist at UC Davis named Bob Bugg (you can Google it).
      Also, the names of my cat’s vets when I was a kid were Drs. Wolf and Mouser.

      Oh, and there’s a gynecologist in the D.C. area named Harry Beaver. Don’t believe me? Look here:

      That is the ultimate in aptronyms.

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted September 4, 2016 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

        What about tautonyms?

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted September 4, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

          I’ve seen at least one, and so have you: Alces alces.

  17. chewy
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I forgot to agonize over it, but the same thing happened to the Minnesota Golden Gopher. Used to be all nice and Disney-dopey, and then started to frown. Sign of the times. I wonder what effect a Trump presidency would have on the Mascot zeitgeist.

  18. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    Most mascots look stern, and hawks are a natural sort of mascot, especially for a school in the ‘Hawkeye state’ (a well known reference to Iowa sportsball teams), fer cry’in out loud).
    Besides… Birds of prey know they’re cool.

  19. Posted September 4, 2016 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I guess it is just me, but I do not see this as a case of regressive leftism. Oral does not seem to have a political agenda and she simply requested, or suggested, a more positive image for the school’s mascot. She did not demand it in some high handed fashion. Her concerns may not be warranted, but she does no harm with her request.

    • Posted September 4, 2016 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

      Well, maybe my characterization is a bit of hyperbole, but look at this:

      “As we strive to tackle depression, suicide, violence, and behavioral challenges and help our students succeed, I plead with you to allow Herky to be like one of us, sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes angry, sometimes concentrated,” she wrote.

      Definitely catering to the Easily Triggered.
      And I didn’t say she did any harm; not every Regressive Leftist does. Sometimes they just do stuff like harass people for not having authentically cooked chicken in General Tso’s chicken.

      I’m just reporting a bizarre incident that is coincident with today’s political climate; I’m not saying the end of the world is nigh.

      • Posted September 4, 2016 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I agree, her concerns are overwrought. But non-authentic General Tso’s? That is a different matter. 🙂

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted September 4, 2016 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

          Non-authentic General Tsos is simply unforgivable.

  20. bluemaas
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Thing is with the particular woman, Dr Oral ? She of Turkish ethnicity per very likely has seen and attended medically to far too many young and wee ones in her capacity as the program director of the University of Iowa’s Child Protection Program which may have, in part, caused her to pen this one other Press – Citizen piece printed just last year: “To end rape, we must evaluate gender roles in society” of

    Having myself medically seen and attended a very much, much smaller amount of recipients of the behavior about which she writes here, whatever others think of her statement re Herky … … and with her plea (guest editorial above) for things to somehow change, why, it is my guess that those thoughts will not be of importance to her.


  21. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 4, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Just reading the post in my email, I’d envisaged a dignified hawk head a bit like the American eagle.

    But that fibreglass monstrosity is bloody ugly. Also looks bloody stupid. As such it is, of course, entirely appropriate to college football.

    I would object violently to such a crude and stupid mascot being used as a symbol of the whole university. But then I’ve just realised that I find almost all sporting mascots equally absurd and obnoxious. So I should probably just STFU.


  22. Jeff Lewis
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Since the article mentioned posters and fliers, I assumed Oral was referring to print representations of the mascot, not the costumed one. The article even said, “Oral stressed that she thinks the iconic images of Herky definitely have a place within the highly competitive nature of college athletics, but she wants other parts of the university to have some nonaggressive options for using such a beloved symbol.”. So it sounds like she doesn’t have a problem with the current Herky mascot being used for sports, but would like to see other versions of him that could be used in other university settings.

    I don’t know why that couldn’t be the case already, or why she would have to write to the athletic department about it. Are other university organizations/departments not allowed to alter the mascot or draw their own versions of it? I seem to remember lots of different Testudos while I was at the University of Maryland.

  23. Posted September 6, 2016 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    AMerica needs a massive war complete with conscription. People have run out of real problems.

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