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A.S. update: Aztec mascot controversy, spring events

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A.S. update: Aztec mascot controversy, spring events

by Jasmine Bermudez, Staff Writer

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The College Life Council of Associated Students discussed the CSU faculty strike, various organizational updates, and the continuing controversy surrounding the Aztec mascot on Wednesday Feb. 17

Guest speaker

SDSU American Indian studies professor, Ozzie Monge, spoke to the A.S. Campus Life Council commissions about Aztec culture and culture sensitivity. Monge said the SDSU community must think critically about the Aztec mascot.

“We are the only school in the California public school system that has a racial mascot,” Monge said. “The tradition of SDSU causes students to behave like accidental racists.”

He said the Aztec mascot is cultural appropriation and it is offensive.

Student Diversity Commission

Student Diversity Commission Chair Arnelle Sambile and Representative Itzelt Santos gave a recap of the two-week long Spring Into Diversity series. It consisted of eight events aimed at empowering various groups at SDSU. They said the goal of the series was to create a more unified and understanding campus.

“Everyone should feel that SDSU is their home,” Sambile said.

Student Diversity Commission will host another Spring Into Diversity series next year.

External Relations Board

External Relations Board Chair Tyler Aguilar said that unless the California Faculty Association and the CSU executives can come to an agreement regarding faculty pay, many faculty members will strike on April 13-15 and April 18-19. He said it is important to be conscious that the strike is happening because CSU employees want a 5 percent pay raise.

“SDSU is not not wanting to pay its professors,” Aguilar said.

Recreation and Wellness Commission

Recreation and Wellness Commission Chair Chris Thomas said the Aztec Recreation has a record number of memberships with a total of 17,788 members. Thomas also said 1,900 members participate in group exercise classes, and there are currently 63 intramural teams with over 20 teams waitlisted.

Thomas said construction for the new recreation field on Lot W has begun and is expected to be finished by August 2016 and ready for the 2016 fall semester. The field will be used by all sports clubs and intramural sports. It will have LED sports lighting and all weather turf.

Student Support Commission and Aztec Student Union Board

Student Support Commission Representative Jack Doheny said he is planning a social media campaign to promote study abroad. He said he is creating a video that includes where to locate the study abroad center. He is also working to promote escort and public safety services.

Aztec Student Union Board Chair Jamie Miller said after 13 months of planning there is a new clock in the courtyard.

Spring events

University Affairs Board Chair Andrea Byrd said tickets to TEDxSDSU, “A World Unraveled” will be available online at noon Feb. 26. The event will be on March 6 with a maximum of 100 tickets at $25 a ticket.

ASUB: GreenFest Committee Chair Patty Masengale said the Aztec Rock Fashion Show will take place on March 8.

Recreation & Wellness Representative Michael Liu said The Annual Health Expo will take place April 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centennial Walkway.

Recreation & Wellness Chair Chris Thomas said on April 8 from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. there will be a Live Well Aztecs late night 3×3 basketball event. He also said the ARC will host a fitness jam on April 28.

Community Service Commission Chair Jenna Beuck said the Community Service Fair will take place on April 26.

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6 Responses to “A.S. update: Aztec mascot controversy, spring events”

  1. Rob Zwierlein on February 19th, 2016 12:22 pm

    Aztecs is a proud name honoring that culture. There are no living Aztecs to offend. The name should be embraced as keeping the culture alive. Redskins or Indians, yes I agree as these are derogatory uses of Native American culture. But Aztecs…come on. You hurt your cause when you take things too far. Choose your battles. I understand what is offensive to me my not be offensive to you. I believe in your cause, but this goes to far SDSU honors the Aztecs.

  2. John Santuccio on February 20th, 2016 6:54 am

    Dr. Monge,

    I’m a 1984 graduate of SDSU. I’ve always consider myself as an Aztec for Life. The Aztecs weren’t American Indians. Although, Mexico is consider to be apart of North America they didn’t have a tribal community in the USA.

  3. Ozzie Monge on February 23rd, 2016 3:57 pm

    Mr. Zwierlein: your position is precisely why I examined the history behind the initial appropriation of the “Aztec” back in 1925. The manner in which the students went about portraying Native Americans (dressing up in “redface,” for example) can hardly be seen as “honoring.” If anything, only ignorance has been on display since 1925 (they actually believed Aztecs were from this geographical region), as well as racism. In fact, the birth of “Monty Montezuma” in 1941 includes the student portraying the mascot uttering the phrases “Me thinkum them mighty fine sagechickens” and “me runnem fast” – with the accompanying performers (three cheerleaders) dressed in scantily-clad buckskin, a reflexion of the “Hollywood Indian” that is, itself, based on a racialized stereotype. Even to this day, you will see students wearing war bonnets and painting themselves with “war paint” – all based on inaccurate and ignorant (even racist) understandings of the cultures of actual Native Americans. These acts of ts of “accidental racism” persist due to the continued appropriation of the “Aztec” by SDSU, all in the name of “school spirit.”

    It is worth noting that SDSU has, in the past, suspended student-run organizations for having theme parties where students dress like “Indians” (2009 and 2014). Student Life and Leadership has a workshop to educate these students about the “wrong” of cultural appropriation and theme parties that feature “potentially offensive” (read as: “racist”) themes (see “culture, not a costume: Even SDSU’s own Diversity Pledge calls upon students to “not contribute to stereotypes.” (

    The hypocrisy of telling your students to not dress like “Indians” while you maintain a mascot that is a student dressed like an “Indian” is astounding. Which shall we abandon? The effort to educate students in order to bring respect and understanding of the world’s cultures in order to combat racism and bigotry; or the moniker and mascot, which are the last vestiges of a bygone era when white supremacy was the norm and racism was so easily articulated?

    Bear in mind that SDSU is quickly finding itself on the wrong side of history. The passage of AB-30 by the State of California (The “California Racial Mascot Act”), the findings of the White House’s report ( and the offer by Adidas to pay for the transition away from racial mascots all provide the writing on the wall: the days of Indian Mascots in our public school systems is coming to an end. The sooner, the better, to retire this unfortunate part of history in our public education system into a museum (in fact, go check out the display on the use of Indians as mascots in the Museum of Man).

    Those who continue to advocate for the use of a racial mascot articulate arguments that eerily parallel those who tried to defend the Confederate Flag last year: “It’s not about racism. It’s not about slavery. It’s about tradition and honor.” They were either ignorant of the history, or simply masking their racism. As far as SDSU is concerned, I tend to believe it is the ignorance of history that those who support the mascot suffer – which is why I wrote the thesis. If they choose to ignore the history, well…

    Mr. Santuccio: “Aztecs are not American Indians, they’re from Mexico,” is another remark born from Ignorance, at best, or an intentional renaming just to be able to make your argument work. This is the nonsense President Weber managed to trick the NCAA into believing, in an effort to avoid the 2005 ban on the use of Native American mascots, by the way.

    First of all, for the sake of communication and understanding, let’s call the North, Central and South America the “Americas.” And while we can have a lovely debate about the use of the word “Indians,” we’ll use the dominant culture’s definition of what an “Indian” is, although that is also based on ignorance (sorry, Columbus – this is not India). Given that, tell me, please, what continent do you believe the Aztecs inhabited?

    By your line of reasoning, we now need to redefine “American Indian” once again to something along the lines of “United Statesian American Indian,” just to be sure we can discern from which State/Country the “Indians” in question inhabit.

    By the way, you are correct in saying the Aztecs did not have a tribal community in what we now know as the USA. However, in 1925, when the original appropriation of the “Aztec” by San Diego State happened, they actually believed Aztecs were from the Southwest of the US. This sort of ignorance, and the racist actions that consequentially resulted, are precisely what institutions of higher education are supposed to be addressing, not perpetuating them in the name of “tradition.”

    Thank you both for your comments and for your time! (sorry I wrote so much)

  4. Rob Zwierlein on March 1st, 2016 10:14 pm

    Mr. Monge:

    Completely understand your position. I took what I believe was called American Indian studies at SDSU in 1984..I am dating myself. Nothing I say will change your mind. However, I think your arguments that this some mirrors the arguments in favor of keeping the stars and bars are invalid. That flag represents overt racism against Amercans for no other reason than the color of their skin. And as I said names names like Redskins are deplorable. And if your facts are accurate the former poor trial of Montezuma and Aztecs are also deplorable. But that is history. The school now treats the Aztecs with complete respect. Do you not believe in progress? What this country did to Native Amercans is deplorable. I was witness to racism against Indians when I was in Canada in 1989. I denounced it and was involved in an altrication over it. But respectfully, this does not rise to the level of racism and is not on the wrong side of history. I wish you the best sir.

  5. Ozzie Monge on March 4th, 2016 10:16 am

    Thank you for your response, Mr. Zwierlein!

    Interestingly, you just demonstrated precisely what I was referring to when I said that some defenses of the mascot parallel (not mirror) some of the arguments presented in defense of the Confederate Battle Flag (which is not the same flag as the “Stars and Bars” to which you refer; same Confederacy, different flag – different topic). You said the school treats Aztecs with complete respect. But does it really?

    The example it sets causes the students, in the name of “School Spirit” to paint their faces with “war paint” and don colored chicken feather headdresses and perform “the savage” stereotype. If this is respectful of Aztecs, or any Indigenous culture for that matter, well… we apparently have two different definitions of that word in our minds.

    I do believe in progress. In fact, that is precisely what I support! Progress such as that displayed by the recent passing of AB30 by the California Legislature, signed into law last October, that represents the first step in bringing an end to this particular form of racism. There’s progress in the form of a recent report released by the White House that points out the harmful and damaging effects these racist mascots cause. There’s progress in Adidas offering to pay for the transition of any school (K-12) that wants to migrate away from these problematic mascots that represent racist relics from an unfortunate era in U.S. History. Again, it seems that you and I are at odds at the definition of words, in this case “racism” and “progress.”

    I invite you to read my research on this topic – which should be available for download from the SDSU library very soon. I clearly demonstrate who the ideology of “white supremacy” and racism were articulated in the nascent identity formation of San Diego State.

    In the interim, please feel free to visit the Facebook page I created that is based on the contents of my thesis:

    I’ll leave with one final thought: SDSU has a amazing, award-winning achievements in diversity and inclusion. Its diversity pledge specifically discourages the use of stereotypes. There is a program in Student Life and Leadership that provides workshops called “Culture, not Costume,” that specifically warns students to not have theme parties with “potentially offensive” (read as “racist”) themes, such as those where students dress like “Indians” or redface – bear in mind, a fraternity has been reprimanded and punished, twice for having done so. That is all progress. However, the maintaining of a mascot that is a student dressed as an “Indian” is in complete contradiction to those efforts. That’s because it’s a relic of a racist past.

    Which shall we forgo? The progress of SDSU’s diversity and inclusiveness initiatives? Or an icon from a racist past that is completely antithetical to SDSU’s proclaimed values of diversity and inclusiveness?

  6. Nunya Bee on October 28th, 2016 7:00 pm

    Man you lawyers talk alot. Ozzie, simmer. If you look hard enough for things you’ll be offended. It’s a damn aztec…let it go.

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