rebel (n) one who resists authority or convention.
Illustrator Mike Miller with his creation Hey Reb!
Isn’t it just a bit ironic that UNLV would spend five months creating a 60-page document combatting the forces of political correctness who blanch and quake at the notion the school’s mascot — Hey Reb! — and athletic team name — Rebels — and school newspaper name — Rebel Yell — are in some way derivative of the appellation applied to supporters of the Confederacy, which is turn has come to imply some racial pejorative. At least that is the current conventional way of thinking.
Nearly two weeks ago the university’s Associate Vice President for diversity Initiatives & Chief Diversity Officer Rainier Spencer dropped his hefty tome titled “Report on UNLV Rebels Nickname and Hey Reb! Mascot” on campus President Len Jessop, though the newspaper is just now getting around to reporting on this tremulous topic today with a banner headline proclaiming “UNLV diversity chief: Hey Reb! mascot, Rebel nickname not tied to Confederacy.”
The whole thing started in June with a flippant comment by Sen. Harry Reid following a shooting in a black church in South Carolina by young man who had once posed for a photo with a Confederate battle flag. “I believe that the Board of Regents should take that up and take a look at it,” Reid said when asked about the UNLV nicknames.
That started the snowball rolling downhill.
Spencer, who received $171,000 in pay and benefits in 2014 and is surely up for a raise due to completing this yeoman’s task, came to the doublethink conclusion that Rebels and Hey Reb! are in no way symbols of the benighted Confederacy but the name of the newspaper is.
This exhaustive investigation includes this hilarious examination of the etymology of the term Rebel Yell and the rationale for seeking a change in the name:
“In that connection, I am currently in talks with the newspaper’s advisory board about changing the name to something else. Even Yell and Yellin’ Rebel are problematic since they both invoke the idea of a rebel yell, which Penn State English Professor Craig Warren’s new book (The Rebel Yell: A Cultural History), describes as ‘the ugliest sound that any mortal ever heard;’ and that ‘unnerved Union soldiers, who heard the threat before they could pinpoint its direction.’ Even though Warren’s book notes that both Billy Idol’s 1983 song ‘Rebel Yell,’ and ‘subsequent pop-culture references to the Rebel yell — a clothing line, a video game — also stripped it of a Civil War context, choosing to embrace a spirit of general rebelliousness,’ it seems to me that moving the name of the student newspaper away from anything having to do at all with the word ‘yell,’ while retaining Rebel if desired, is a necessary and positive step. As the only remaining vestige of the April 20, 1955 imposition of Confederate symbols onto the already existing Rebels identity (again, one that the university administration does not control), it should be removed. It would perhaps be a good exercise for UNLV students to choose a new name for their newspaper.”
But a two-month “Listening Exercise” in which Spencer met with 15 campus groups prompted the diversity chief to conclude “the Rebels identity and nickname must be maintained. I take pains to add that I do mean to write ‘must be maintained,’ as opposed to ‘should be maintained.’ The support for Rebels as an identity and nickname, while not unanimous, was broad, intense, and very deep.”
Isn’t this the definition of an “academic” exercise? One that is purely theoretical and has no practical application whatsoever?
Haven’t we been down this freeway before? Oh yes, in 2009 UNLV’s Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion drafted a memo titled “Policy on Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes.”
Here is an excerpt from a blog I wrote at the time:
Let’s let the policy speak for itself. Here is the definition of a bias incident:
“A. ‘Bias Incidents’ refers to verbal, written, or physical acts of intimidation, coercion, interference, frivolous claims, discrimination, and sexual or other harassment motivated, in whole or in part, by bias based on actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, religion, creed, sex (including gender identity or expression, or a pregnancy related condition), sexual orientation, national origin, military status or military obligations, disability (including veterans with service-connected disabilities), age, marital status, physical appearance, political affiliation, or on the basis of exercise of rights secured by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Got that? You can call the campus cops if someone makes a frivolous claim about you exercising your First Amendment rights.
If you think that is rich, wrap your mind around this footnote explaining just what “physical appearance” is covered: “Personal appearance means the outward appearance of any person, irrespective of sex, with regard to bodily condition or characteristics, manner or style of dress, and manner or style of personal grooming, including, but not limited to, hair style and beards.”
So, if the mustachioed Hey Reb! wearing a gray hat offends you, tough it out, dude.
Academic self-examination is at least good for comic relief.