Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) will be adopting a new name and mascot after surveys and focus groups found the name is out-of-date and does not "clearly articulate the purpose of the college," the school said Friday.
The school, which has an enrollment of about 3,000 students at campuses in Superior, Ashland, Rice Lake and New Richmond, said a new name and branding will go into effect for the fall 2021 semester.
About 1,600 people provided feedback over the course of the year, with many saying they don't recognize "Indianhead" as a geographic region and some saying the college's acronym, WITC, sounds more like a radio station.
"We believe this rebranding effort presents an opportunity to bring clarity to who we are and what we do while also modernizing our image," said John Will, president of WITC, which is a public two-year school part of the Wisconsin Technical College System.
The rebranding comes amid a national reckoning over place names and mascots deemed offensive or racist, including the renaming of the Washington Football Team after decades of public pressure. The move also comes as colleges increasingly compete with one another for what will be a shrinking number of high school graduates in the coming years.
One surveyed employee said about the name: "While I don't believe it is offensive, it is a bit antiquated." A student interviewed said they weren't sure if they could attend "because of the presumed affiliation with a tribe."
Founded in 1912 in Superior as Industrial, Commercial, Continuing Education School, "Indianhead" was added to the name in 1972 and the current name was adopted in 1987. The decades-old term refers to the profile created by the border of northwestern Wisconsin.
Community members are invited to pitch new name and mascot ideas at witc.edu/name-change by Nov. 6. Among other guidelines, "Technical College" must remain in the formal name.