In the center of Tribe Plaza outside the Walter J. Zable Stadium, a bronze statue of a mythical creature stands mid-stride, one paw suspended in the air and head held high.
The statue is a griffin, William & Mary Athletics’ mascot since 2010.
The statue stands proudly facing Richmond Road, but some William & Mary students have had a less-than-proud reaction to the statue.
On Nov. 1, two columnists with William & Mary’s student newspaper, the Flat Hat, wrote a column criticizing the statue’s “anatomically graphic” testicles.
The authors, sophomores Anna Boustany and Ethan Brown, voiced a concern about William & Mary “gendering” the statue — a representation of the university as a whole — as male.
The issue was not sparked by student discomfort, but rather jokes and general “confusion,” said Brown, opinions editor at the Flat Hat. Boustany is the Flat Hat’s associate opinions editor.
“It’s strange because William & Mary is trying to promote 100 years of females at the college,” Brown said. “It seems strange that’s how they chose to represent it.”
The griffin statue was unveiled at Tribe Plaza Oct. 19 as an “iconic” gathering place for Tribe fans, alumni and friends, the university said in a news article.
The statue was originally cast to honor Col. Jimmy Tucker, a faculty member at Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri, William & Mary Athletics spokesman Peter Clawson said. It was purchased at auction by the Tribe Club, the fundraising arm of William & Mary Athletics.
“The Athletics Department vetted the sculpture prior to purchase and was comfortable placing the piece of art in its original state,” Clawson said. “We are aware of some disfavor, but the majority of interactions and responses have been positive.”
After the statue was unveiled in October, Boustany said the murmurs among the student body began.
Since their article published, Brown and Boustany have received some criticism, especially from some alumni who said all creatures have genitalia and it’s natural.
The Flat Hat’s Facebook post of the article received many comments and led to a debate, which “validated” the sophomores’ opinion that the griffin statue is divisive.
“You’re sort of propagating the myth that athletics are male-centric,” Brown said.
Clawson said the school has no plans to alter the statue.
Boustany said she didn’t believe the column would prompt a change with the statue itself, but hoped the university will ask student opinion in similar future circumstances.
“Maybe in the future they’ll go about things differently,” Boustany said.
As far as follow up, a Flat Hat intern is writing an opinion article in response to the Nov. 1 column. It is scheduled to publish Tuesday.