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Harvard Undergraduate Association Allocates $1,000 to Pilot New Turkey Mascot

A turkey roams Harvard's campus.
A turkey roams Harvard's campus. By Ben Y. Cammarata
By Mert Geyiktepe and J. Sellers Hill, Crimson Staff Writers

After centuries roaming the streets of Harvard Square, Cambridge’s iconic turkeys may soon roost in new territory — Harvard Stadium.

A new Harvard Undergraduate Association initiative will allocate $1,000 toward piloting the turkey as Harvard’s new mascot in response to a perceived lack of school spirit. The Association voted in favor of the measure during its general meeting in Smith Campus Center’s Isaacson Room Sunday.

The body also solicited revisions to an open letter to the presidential search committee and announced a new working group on cost-accessible graduation celebrations.

During Sunday’s meeting, Felix B. Bulwa ’23 presented research on student-reported levels of school spirit and offered a potential solution: a new, feathered mascot. In a March survey conducted for the Harvard Political Review, over 70 percent of the 130 respondents supported a new mascot.

“What I found through my study was that we have a lot of spirit in subcommunities and subsections of campus,” Bulwa said at the meeting. “We are lacking that cross-sectional spirit that most other colleges, even Ivy League colleges, tend to have.”

Though Harvard’s athletic teams officially compete as the “Harvard Crimson,” the College’s official mascot is “John Harvard the Pilgrim” — a figure Bulwa called “problematic.” The turkey, Bulwa said, would not replace the “Crimson” branding ubiquitous throughout Harvard athletics, but rather interact with fans at sporting events.

To justify the choice of a turkey, Bulwa pointed to the bird’s prevalence on campus and compliance with Harvard’s color scheme. Roughly thirty-six percent of respondents to Bulwa’s survey rank the turkey as their top choice for a mascot. Lobster placed second.

The push for a turkey mascot is not new. A 2016 Facebook page solicited student signatures in favor of a turkey mascot to no success.

HUA Co-Presidents LyLena D. Estabine ’24 and Travis Allen Johnson ’24 endorsed the initiative, as did College Dean Rakesh Khurana at a recent meeting, according to the pair. Of the 16 voting students present at the meeting, 12 supported the piloting initiative and four were unopposed.

The Association will pilot the new turkey mascot at the Harvard-Yale tailgate and use the $1,000 allocation to purchase a turkey suit and promotional material.

At Sunday’s meeting, the Association established a new working group dedicated to promoting cost accessibility for graduation traditions, including class rings.

Harvard College currently offers no official class ring service, but an HUA-endorsed affiliate company, Balfour, offers custom rings for between $500 and $1,000.

The body also allocated $2,500 for the creation of goody bags to be distributed to students in early December during the final exam period.

HUA leaders closed the meeting by soliciting feedback on an open letter to the presidential search committee. The letter details student priorities for the next leader of the University.

In its current form, the letter asks the committee to select a candidate with a commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” “mental health,” and “intellectual vitality,” among other issues.

—Staff writer Mert Geyiktepe can be reached at mert.geyiktepe@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill can be reached at sellers.hill@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @SellersHill.

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On CampusStudent LifeCollege LifeFront Middle FeatureHarvard Undergraduate Association