University of Wisconsin-Madison State Relations
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) poses with Bucky Badger at his desk and beneath the gaze of a replica of "Old Abe" the bald eagle on April 4, 2013.
The appearance of Bucky Badger at the Solidarity Sing Along last week prompted UW-Madison officials to declare it a fake and clarify a few things about its trademarked mascot.
"Bucky does not take sides on political issues," the university said in a playful September 12 statement. "He'd hate to see anyone wrinkle their nose when he leans in for a hug, a photo or a high five."
But progressive activists are questioning Bucky's apolitical stance based on photos of the mascot posing with Republican state legislators, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington), at the UW-Madison, UW-Extension, and UW Colleges Day last spring.
University officials explain in an interview that the photos with Vos, state Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), and Reps. Ed Brooks (R-Reedsburg) and Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), were taken at the inaugural UW Day at the Capitol. The group of photos does include one of Bucky with Rep. Debra Kolste (D-Janesville).
Don Nelson, director of state relations at UW-Madison, says the April 4 showcase of UW research, projects and initiatives is geared toward "educating" legislators and the general public about the university's achievements. It is one of several such events that take place around the state each year.
"It's not political in nature, it's part of the Wisconsin Idea," Nelson says. "It's educating not just legislators, but the public in general about the university's mission.”
The legislators pictured at April's event have a role in funding the university, and Nelson acknowledged that he was "very familiar" with the politics that go into state budgetary matter.
But he says the event distinctively falls under "legislative relations," not politics.
"What's not appropriate," adds Nelson, "is having your trademark affiliated with [outside] political activity."
John Lucas of UW-Madison communications says that the heart of the university's complaint is the unauthorized use of its trademark and image, which it has worked to protect in the past in a number of ways.
"The university retains the right to control its registered trademark," Lucas says.
A statement made by one "Buckingham Badger," issued last Friday evening via firstname.lastname@example.org, does not try to dispute the university's trademark claims. But it does call the university's Bucky an imposter.
"Capitol Bucky says that he is the real spirit of Wisconsin," it reads (as published on the progressive blog Blue Cheddar). "Bucky does admit that he looks a little worse for the wear. He's been battered by events in his beloved state for two years."