Adam and Eve Sing Their Swan Song


With recent changes to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations for the care and maintenance of mute swans, Colgate’s beloved swans will no longer sit on Taylor Lake. 

In an email sent out to Colgate employees and students last week, Vice President of Finance and Administration Brian Hutzley announced the university’s decision not to seek a new pair of swans for the lake. This decision was made because the private swan owner decided he could no longer keep the swans as a result of the DEC’s regulation changes. The stricter policy changes enacted by the DEC will require swans to have their wings clipped and stay in an enclosed area, along with being tagged. Every owner of mute swans must also have a license for nonnative species.

After a long decision process that included input from President Jeffrey Herbst, Interim President-Elect Jill Harsin, the New York State Governor’s Office, the DEC Commissioner and local experts, it was decided that the cons of keeping the swans outweighed the pros. 

“Mike Jasper, Associate Director of Grounds and Custodial Services, brought the proposed DEC regulations to the attention of the President’s Senior Staff this spring. Members of the Senior Staff then did additional research, including gathering information from John Pumilio, sustainability director and Audubon Society ornithologist. After gathering all of this information, we concluded that complying with the proposed DEC regulations, whether we were to find another pair to lease or buy, would be cruel to the swans themselves. We also looked into other species, and came to the same conclusion,” Colgate’s Communications Office said.

In response to the removal of the swans, many Colgate students have made their displeasure with the decision very clear. Hours after the decision was made public, a Facebook page entitled “Colgate University: Save Our Swans” was created in order to garner more attention to their view. An online petition of the same name currently has nearly 200 signatures and argues for a different solution – the incorporation of native trumpeter swans to Taylor Lake.

Many students have argued that removing the swans is removing an important Colgate tradition.

“I really thought the swans were iconic for campus. They added that extra something to the legend of Willow Path and the romance that coincides with it,” sophomore Alexa de Alessandrini said.

“As a Colgate student, I’m sad about the end of a classic tradition, and as a tour guide, the removal of the swans will definitely affect my spiel about this school’s history,” sophomore Ali Duke said.

Even Yik Yak’s anonymous forum was filled with complaints about the removal of one of Colgate’s most famous traditions.

While many students and alumni have admitted their disappointment with the swans’ departure, the Colgate administration has made clear that the swans will always have a place in Colgate history.

“We are sad to see this important tradition come to an end, but it is in the best interest of the birds that we all love so deeply. The swans will always remain a beautiful part of Colgate’s history. Coincidentally, the Class of 2015 logo features Adam and Eve. That logo will continue to represent our seniors when they are alumni–it will also serve as a tribute to our swan tradition, helping to keep it alive in our memory for years to come,” the Communications Office said.

Although much of the social media presence regarding the decision to end Colgate’s swan tradition has been negative, the Colgate administration has created a #colgateswans campaign directed at students and alumni.

“We hope this will be a way for the community to share their fond memories and photos of the swans as a tribute to the birds our community has come to care so deeply for, helping to keep them alive in our memories and online for years to come,” the Communications Office said.