Please find here a summary of the nickname evaluation process, a description of next steps, and additional tools and resources.
- School Nickname Evaluation Committee (SNEC)
- Summary of the Process
- Guiding Factors
- SNEC Communications
- Decision & Rationale
School Nickname Evaluation Committee Roster:
- Henry Chandler,'67, alumni, parent, former teacher, current staff member
- Ben Dillon,'86, alumni, current teacher
- Maggie Dosch,'17, alumni
- Angelica Duarte, parent, current staff member
- Adam Gill,'02, Chairperson, alumni, School Board Vice-President
- Lynn Goralczyk, parent, current teacher
- Marty Harshman,'93, alumni, parent, former staff member and coach
- Eric Horvath,'87, alumni, parent
- Fr. Geoff Mooney, C.S.C., current school chaplain
- Michael Ryan,'60, alumni, parent
- Sydney (Smallbone) Storey,'07, alumni, former coach
- Student #1, current student
- Student #2, current student
Consulting (non-voting) Members:
- John Kennedy, Principal, parent
- David Maugel, Associate Superintendent, Diocese of FWSB
- Maura Ratigan, School Board President, parent
At the start of the 2022-23 academic year, the Student Life and School Culture committee of the School Board recommended that the School Board form a committee to evaluate whether Saint Joseph High School should keep or change the nickname. The School Board accepted that recommendation and set about forming the School Nickname Evaluation Committee (SNEC) in conjunction with the Principal. Thirteen SNEC members were selected to represent a cross-section of Saint Joseph High School alumni, faculty/staff, parents, and students from the 1960s to today.
The committee convened the evaluation procession January, 2023. From January through April, the committee engaged in extensive research; provided an avenue for constituents to express themselves directly; hosted four (4) town halls and two (2) focus groups; published three (3) newsletters; administered a survey open to all members of the Saint Joe community; and consulted with the local Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. Throughout the process, the committee held seven (7) formal committee meetings and multiple sub-committee meetings to discuss their findings.
How was the decision made?
At the conclusion of their work, the committee voted unanimously to make a recommendation to the School Board to change the nickname. The School Board held a special session with the committee, who presented their findings. Subsequently, the School Board voted unanimously to accept the committee's recommendation. The School Board, being an advisory board rather than a governing board, shared their recommendation with the Principal. The Principal accepted the recommendation to change the nickname.
How was the Bishop and/or the Diocese involved?
Prior to starting the school nickname evaluation process, Principal Kennedy consulted with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, who felt that the evaluation and any subsequent decision should be made at the school level. Principal Kennedy invited Associate Superintendent, David Maugel, to serve on the School Nickname Evaluation Committee as a consulting (non-voting) member. Principal Kennedy also communicated with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Superintendent, Dr. Joe Brettnacher throughout the process and at the time the decision was made. All three representatives of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and the Catholic Schools Office support the decision to change the nickname.
The Saint Joseph High School School Board tasked the School Nickname Evaluation Committee to consider the following factors when evaluating the school nickname:
Alignment with and representation of the mission, vision, and core values of Saint Joseph High School.
Consistency with Catholic social teaching and Catholic values.
The thoughts and opinions of the Saint Joseph High School Community (students, parents, faculty/staff, alumni, and supporters) as articulated throughout the process.
The impact on school spirit, pride and unity within the student body and Saint Joseph High School community.
The official position of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi on this issue.
Saint Joseph High School is a Catholic secondary school dedicated to transforming students in heart and mind, preparing them to serve God, the Church, and the world.
Saint Joseph High School will be a diverse Catholic community engaged in the process of preparing our students to live exemplary lives, committed to sharing wisdom, showing courage, and supporting justice in the world. We believe that every member of the Saint Joseph High School community will:
Practice faith in God
Commit to excellence
Act with a global awareness
The decision made on April 25, 2023 is to change the school nickname. The School Nickname Evaluation Committee considered the five guiding factors, which are described above.
Based on the guiding factors, what is the rationale for the recommendation and decision?
1) impact on school spirit
In considering the impact of the Indians nickname on school spirit, pride, and unity within the student body and the Saint Joe community, the committee listened to students, alumni, parents, faculty/staff, and supporters. The committee learned through town hall testimonies, focus groups, emails received, and the opinion survey that the Indians nickname is a divisive one.
A school mascot and nickname is meant to foster school spirit and provide a symbol around which all members of the school community can rally. The Indians nickname no longer serves as a unifying symbol. In fact, many participants in the town halls, focus groups, and emails indicated a desire to change the nickname.
The survey findings underscored these divided feelings about the Indians mascot. It was clear from the alumni responses that at one time the nickname and mascot fostered great pride. However, the current school community comprised of students, faculty and staff indicated that the nickname inhibits school spirit. Many respondents felt that the Indians nickname runs counter to our mission. Some pointed out that it is hard to rally around a mascot that exists in name only. Ultimately, the evaluation committee concluded that the Indians nickname no longer serves as a symbol for the entire student body to rally around in unity.
2) Mission, Vision, and Catholic Identity
As a Catholic institution, it is our moral responsibility to uphold the dignity of the human person. Through this process, we have learned that the Indians nickname does not honor our local Native American tribe. In fact, the use of Native American mascots has harmed and devalued many who identify as Native American, a sentiment shared by many in our school community. As such, it does not align with our mission, vision, or core values as a Catholic school. Furthermore, our longstanding commitment to excellence, and our desire to remain a school community whose graduates are globally responsible citizens that promote justice in the world, requires us to adjust as we plan for the future. Changing the nickname to better align with our mission and values will strengthen us as a school, and lead us into the next 70 years and beyond.
The committee reviewed a variety of research related to this issue, as well as Church teaching. See below in the "Resources" section for links to the research considered in this process.
3) Official Position of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi
Moreover, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, a longtime partner of Saint Joseph High School, has taken an official position on the issue of Native American mascots. This position is expressed in an official Tribal Council resolution signed in March of 2021. The last three paragraphs of the resolution state that the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians resolves that:
- The use of Native American/Indian mascots, imagery, symbolism, logos, and nicknames by non-native institutions has a detrimental effect on Native Americans and promotes harmful stereotypes of Native Americans.
- The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi condemns the use of Native American/Indian mascots, imagery, symbolism, logos, and nicknames by non-native institutions.
- The Pokgaon Band of Potawatomi encourages all non-native institutions to eliminate the use of Native American/Indian mascots, imagery, symbolism, logos, and nicknames.
You can read the Council's official resolution, linked here.
In January, 2023, the School Nickname Evaluation Committee consulted with representatives from the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. The representatives offered perspectives, personal experiences, historical facts, and research regarding the negative effects of Native American nicknames on Native American people, and noted that Saint Joseph High School's intent has only been positive. The representatives expressed gratitude to Saint Joseph High School for having removed many of the Native American images and symbols from use at the school. They explained that since the last time the issue was discussed with school leadership, members of the tribe had engaged in research and discussion, which led to the Tribal Council adopting an official position on the issue. As the representatives expressed their preference that all schools move away from Native American nicknames and mascots, one member said simply, "We are people. We are not mascots." This resonated with the committee.
Below is a sample of resources referenced during the nickname evaluation process.
Resources related to Catholic Teaching:
2. Meeting with Indigenous Peoples: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis. July, 2022.
3. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). (2018). Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter Against Racism.
4. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). (2002). Native American Catholics at the Millennium.
- American Psychological Association (APA) (2005). Resolution Recommending the Immediate Retirement of American Indian Mascots, Symbols, Images, and Personalities by Schools, Colleges, Universities, Athletic Teams, and Organizations.
- Summary of the APA Resolution
- Davis-Delano, L.R.; Gone, J.P.; & Fryberg, S.A. (2020). The psychosocial effects of Native American mascots: a comprehensive review of empirical research findings. Race, Ethnicity, and Education, 23 (5), 613-633.
- Davis-Delano, L.R.; Strother, S.; Gone, J. (2021). Native American identity work in settler colonial context. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 85, 226-235.
The next phase of the process will be to adopt a new nickname and mascot. We will also seek ways to commemorate the Indians nickname and honor our history. The school will start to plan for the next phase this summer (2023), and anticipates launching and completing the next phase during the fall semester of the 2023-24 school year (August - December). We expect to be in a position to announce a new nickname in the early part of the spring semester of the 2023-24 school year (January - May).
When will the nickname change occur?
- The nickname Indians will be retired at the end of the 2022-23 academic year.
- A new process to determine the next nickname and mascot will launch during the fall semester of 2023-24.
- We expect to announce a new nickname and mascot in the spring semester of 2023-24.
What will our teams be called next year?
For the start of the 2023-24 school year, we will cheer enthusiastically and in unity as we do now, as Saint Joe. This we will do until a new nickname is announced. We are Saint Joe!
Who decides the new mascot?
The next phase of the process will involve input from students, parents, faculty/staff, alumni and supporters. We anticipate a process that explores the qualities we want a mascot and nickname to represent. The student body will have a particularly important voice in this phase, though we will invite the broader Saint Joe community to participate as well. More details about this phase will be communicated in the fall semester of 2023-24.
Will our school colors change?
School colors were not discussed by the School Nickname Evaluation Committee.
How much will changing the nickname cost? Now that the decision to change the nickname has been made, Saint Joseph High School leadership has begun to estimate costs to change signage and other items, such as sports uniforms and new graphics. We anticipate replacing or refreshing signage, imagery and materials over a period of time.
While we do not have a full estimate of the cost to change the nickname, we do not view the potential cost as prohibitive. The school will seek funding from grants and other sources.
So, what remains the same?
Though Saint Joseph High School will adopt a new mascot, our shared history, deep faith, and tradition of excellence in the classroom and on the field will endure. Our mission - to educate students in heart and mind to serve God, the Church, and the world - will remain.
Saint Joseph High School is a great school because of the work we do, the impact we make, and the people in our community. We will continue to provide a transformational Catholic education and exceptional high school experience that prepares students for success in college, careers, and life. We will continue to share Catholic teaching and values with students so that they can deepen their faith, learn to be servant leaders, and live virtuously. We will continue to provide opportunities for students to discover their gifts and pursue their passions through an engaging curriculum, athletics, the arts, and other co-curricular experiences.
Who we are and what we do - the essence of Saint Joe - remains the same.