KSU Police may leave squirrel mascot behind

Christina Anthony

Simon Squirrel is facing termination.

Due to Kent State Police Services budget constraints, the crime prevention character may disappear from campus.

The Simon Squirrel campaign cost almost $2,000 last year. The department’s budget was nearly $1.8 million.

“We want to know if it was an effective use of $2,000,” Lt. Bill Buckbee said. “If not, we can find somewhere else to spend that money more efficiently.”

The Simon campaign budget was spent on posters, hot cards, T-shirts, nuts, ad space and decals.

Buckbee and officer Alice Ickes created Simon Squirrel in the summer of 2006 to help with police and student relations, Buckbee said.

The idea came from a project that brought together Buckbee and Jerry Stewart, director of public safety at Iowa University.

The officers discussed student alcohol and drug consumption, and Iowa University’s Frank the Flamingo was brought into the conversation. Stewart told Buckbee that Frank had helped with student relations and reduced alcohol and drug-related incidents.

Buckbee and Ickes thought about the black squirrels commonly found on campus and Simon was born. A student focus group was put together to decide how to go about sending Simon and his messages out to students.

“The students gave us a lot of interesting ideas,” Buckbee said.

Simon’s main objective is to inform students in a non-threatening manner about the consequences for alcohol and drug violations.

“Students don’t believe in consequences,” Buckbee said. “They think they will never get caught, or if they do, not much will happen.”

Simon has appeared in advertisements in the Daily Kent Stater and on TV2, warning about the punishments for various crimes. The Simon Says section of the Kent State Police Services Web site is dedicated to Simon. He also has a Facebook page where students can comment on his law abiding advice and make suggestions.

Buckbee and Ickes are considering changing Simon or doing away with him all together. They will make the final decision after a few more weeks of deliberation.

Contact safety reporter Christina Anthony at [email protected].