Golden West College Students Consider Switching From “Rustler Sam”
A group of students from Golden West College may soon be looking to send the school mascot Rustler Sam once and for all at sunset.
In September, the Student Council of Associate Students at Golden West College (ASGWC) formed a Mascot Change Task Force to begin finding replacements for the school’s current mascot.
“Our student government decided to evaluate the mascot,” said Pam Brashear, director of marketing and public relations for Golden West.
“They’re talking to each other, and we’re having this discussion on a lot of different platforms with the students to see what the feedback is. Once they came to a consensus, they could make a recommendation to the administration, but that hasn’t happened yet. No decision was made on anything, but it became a hot topic on our campus.
A “brustler” is a person who gathers and steals cattle, horses or sheep. Tom Ryan, creator of the “Tumbleweeds” comic book, created a cartoon character called Rustler Sam for college in 1968, three years after its creation.
Back then, television westerns were popular and cowboys were considered heroic. But the figure, holding a smoking “GW” iron, wearing a 10 gallon hat and smoking a cigarette, has mellowed over the years. In the 1990s, a redesign allowed Rustler Sam to get a close shave and quit smoking.
The school stopped using the cartoon figure altogether in 2005. But Golden West’s sports teams are still called the Rustlers, and Rustler Sam is still listed as the official mascot.
Golden West’s sports programs now feature a more menacing silhouette-style logo of a cowboy with a bandana covering his mouth.
Brashear said the college is officially neutral about the mascot, but the discussion is part of the college process. There hasn’t been an officially approved student mascot replacement yet.
The executive council received updates from the mascot change working group at weekly student council meetings, although none were given at the Zoom meeting on Friday morning.
“Not everyone knows who Rustler Sam is, or what he looks like, what he stands for,” said Jovani Figueroa, sophomore at Golden West and vice president of student life on the executive council. “What the task force is trying to do, I believe, is just to raise awareness and ask questions about who he is, and if they feel represented or if they feel connected to this mascot.”
Although not part of the task force, Figueroa is open to the idea of examining the mascot. He noted that the seal of the school includes the phrase “Let change be tradition”.
“I love the story, but I believe the past is a good basis for the future,” Figueroa said.
“I believe there is always room for a change… there is no harm in seeing the mascot again. Even the word “brustler”, you don’t hear it these days. If you search for a thief on Google, you are very limited to what Google provides. So even the word itself seems irrelevant and outdated.
Former Golden West student Brandee Lara Barnaby, class of 1979, would disagree. Barnaby served as an assistant professor at the college for about 15 years and gave the opening remarks at the Golden West graduation in 2012.
She created a Facebook group called “Save Rustler Sam”. Currently an arts professor at Chapman University and Cal State Fullerton, Barnaby has been on social media this week, encouraging local residents to email college administrators protesting a possible change.
“They are trying to make this imaginary character, this drawing, a human who represents all that is bad in the world,” said Barnaby, who lives in Long Beach.
“It’s just sad … For the people that Rustler Sam means something to, celebrate it and stay the Rustlers. Honestly, this is college in a town where there was just a pretty big tide. black I’m like, aren’t there things more important than Rustler Sam, a cartoon character?
“For those of us who have been there, being a Rustler is something we are proud of. It made me who I am.
Golden West vice president of student services Claudia Lee said the student task force was undergoing a very preliminary mascot review and trying to determine if there was enough interest to move forward .
If so, the next step might be to conduct a survey of the entire student body, while also giving alumni and the community the opportunity to voice their opinions.
“I think at this point there isn’t a solid consensus anyway whether we’re talking about the character of Rustler Sam or the Rustlers in general,” Lee said. “I think that’s an important distinction to make. I’ve been here for almost 10 years, and it’s extremely rare for me to see Rustler Sam.
“It’s the exploratory phase at this point, I think. Maybe at the end of their conversations they all say, “We agree with Rustler’s athletic version, so let’s go.” I do not know.”
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