How Long Will Swarthmore’s Phoenix Live?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Since the selection of the Phoenix as Swarthmore’s new mascot, students have debated the meaning of the creature. According to legend and Wikipedia, the phoenix “is a mythical bird with beautiful gold and red plumage. At the end of its life-cycle the phoenix builds itself a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix arises.”

The Gazette has been asked repeatedly: how long will the Swarthmore’s Phoenix live? And are the students who take on the role doomed to die in flames when their replacements arrive?

For answers, we turned to the noted expert Richard Baker, author of the Monster Manual, 4ed., and we discovered the bigger problem. “There can only be one Phoenix,” said Baker. “And now, there is Phoenix, AZ., the Phoenix of the University of Chicago, and the Phoenix newspaper and mascot of Swarthmore. Phoenix, AZ and the Phoenix of UChicago, and the Phoenix of Swarthmore have co-existed only because they are truly different—a city, a newspaper, and a mascot. But with Swarthmore’s decision, one of the two will have to burn.

Even if Swarthmore managed to burn UChicago to the ground, there would be difficulties. The most recent mascot try-outs had three finalists, and the organizers have said they expect several students to take on the role. “What are they thinking?” asked Baker. “This is insane—has the school told these students how much danger they are in?”

When the Gazette approached Scott Storm ’08 with these concerns, he brushed them aside. “I’m graduating! By the time I’m asked to take on the role, I’ll be long gone.” He then walked away from our reporter, cackling. It is unclear how or why he was permitted to take part in the grueling competition to select the mascot finalists, but he clearly has found a way to game the system.

And it might simply be too late for the rest of them.


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