Do Offensive Mascots Alienate Donors?
A new study out of Yale suggests that universities with offensive mascots may be alienating donors. The study examined reactions to the Native American “chief” mascot at the University of Illinois, though the institution wasn’t specifically named.
Given their negative reactions to the mascot, researchers say, participants were inclined to donate less.
Researchers in the study also found that exposure to the prejudicial imagery reduced the likelihood of an individual donating to that university by 5.5 percent. The study asked those surveyed to split a $2 donation among several universities, some after being exposed to the imagery of the Chief at Urbana-Champaign.
Though the findings in the Yale study did not survey alumni or university donors, the reactions of residents in Illinois showed a potential for more donors should the university make larger efforts to reduce the stereotypical imagery. Research scales were used to determine an individual's explicit and implicit tendencies, and those who rated on the lower ends of a prejudicial scale were less likely to see the university favorably.
“From our data, we see that this decrease in donation is especially among people who are lower in prejudice,” said Xanni Brown, a Yale Ph.D. student and co-author of the study. “Perhaps changing these mascots changes who the sorts of people are who are contributing to the university.”
Do you think this study is valid? By not including alumni and existing donors, is the study meaningful to Illini fundraisers? And more broadly, should institutions reconsider potentially offensive mascots for this and other reasons?