VANCOUVER — Varsity sports teams at Simon Fraser University will soon have a new name after the school's president announced it is retiring the 'Clan' moniker following a community engagement process.
In a letter, Andrew Petter says student views were the most important factor influencing the decision to change the Clan name, which is a nod to the Scottish heritage of the school's namesake.
A report from the athletics department says a survey of community members showed the name's association with the American white supremacist group the Ku Klux Klan was harmful to students.
Petter says students shared stories of unsafe situations and upsetting conversations stemming from misinterpretation or misuse of the name derived from a Gaelic term for a close-knit group of relatives.
Simon Fraser is the only Canadian university affiliated with the U.S.-Based National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, and the report says the old team name was inappropriate in that context, while it was also at odds with the school's efforts to promote reconciliation.
The process to choose a new team is expected to will wrap up by the end of the year, with athletes competing under the names Simon Fraser or SFU in the meantime.
"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. The Gaelic word for family was chosen to honour friendship, loyalty and connection, commitments that remain deeply ingrained at SFU," Petter wrote in his letter.
The report says student athletes and coaches have reported shock, shame, misunderstanding, taunts and threats in connection to the Clan team name over the years.
An associate professor at the university started a petition to change the name out of respect for athletes in the United States in 2017 and two students launched another effort earlier this year. That petition garnered nearly 14,000 signatures before Petter announced his decision on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2020.
The Canadian Press