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University Senate passes resolution to retire use of human Aztec Warrior mascot

The+Aztec+Warrior+mascot+leads+the+football+team+on+to+the+field.+
The Aztec Warrior mascot leads the football team on to the field.

The Aztec Warrior mascot leads the football team on to the field.

Kelly Smiley

Kelly Smiley

The Aztec Warrior mascot leads the football team on to the field.

by Bella Ross, Staff Writer

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This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday to include an official statement from SDSU.

The University Senate passed a resolution to retire the Aztec Warrior mascot and to form a task force to investigate the appropriateness of the continued usage of the Aztec moniker at a meeting on campus Tuesday evening.

It passed 52-15, with two abstentions.

The final version of the resolution was a combination of two resolutions the University Senate discussed during the meeting, the first of which included a call to retire the current human representation of an Aztec — a figure commonly seen in the stands at sporting events.

It also recommended the university retire use of spears or “weapons that connote barbaric representations of the Aztec culture.”

The second resolution called for creating a task force that will investigate and make recommendations regarding the appropriateness of the continued usage of the Aztec moniker.

The task force will also make recommendations regarding an education component in relation to the Aztec identity.

This was an advisory vote, meaning that university president Sally Roush will be advised of the vote. She may approve or reject the resolution as a whole, or choose to adopt only parts of it.

Senate Chair Marcie Bober-Michel said she is confident the resolution will not be approved by Roush, although this is no reason to believe that the senate’s message is not being heard.

“It sends a signal that this is not the end of the discussion — it’s the beginning,” Bober-Michel said.

Beth Chung, a management professor and member of the Diversity, Equity and Outreach Committee, said the Aztec mascot in its current state is very oppressive for some students.

“The Education Code of California states that singling out the Native Americans through the use of mascots, team names or nicknames creates a barrier to equality,” Chung said.

She said that senate members must also consider the objective negative effects of such mascots.

“The social science literature talks about the harmful effects of this kind of stereotyping,” Chung said.

Marva Cappello, an associate professor of teacher education, said she is strongly in support of resolution.

“I am in support of the resolution because it asks for a gathering of information and we’re a group of academics,” Cappello said. “If we’re not going to be in favor of gathering information then I don’t understand what we represent.”

Carin Crawford, head coach of the women’s water polo team and member of the University Senate, said she believes we need to consider our identities as members of the university community, and that she opposed the resolution.

“I certainly think this is an issue of the identity of the university and what it means to be a San Diego State Aztec, not an Aztec 500 years ago,” Crawford said. “Those are different things.”

A number of protesters from the Native American Student Alliance were also present outside of the meeting prior to its start.

“Today we came with other members in solidarity to show the University Senate that we’re aware of this issue and that our voices will not continue to be silenced,” said American Indian studies junior Lane Yazzie, “and to show them that they’re voting on our behalf and they’re representing students and to hold them accountable.”

American Indian studies lecturer Ozzie Monge, who was also protesting, said the Aztec mascot discussion should not be a question as to whether the Aztec mascot is racist.

“The question is not ‘is this racist?’ or ‘is this problematic?’” Monge said. “It is. The question is ‘do we want this to continue to represent us?’”

SDSU responded to the resolution with an official statement Wednesday.

“Any final decision regarding the resolution will be made by the president of San Diego State University,” the statement read. “SDSU is proud of its long-standing commitment to the shared governance process, of which the University Senate is a part. There can be no question that all viewpoints regarding SDSU’s Aztec identity have a right to be respectfully heard and carefully considered. This resolution provides an opportunity for dialogue to continue among all stakeholders in the SDSU community – including faculty, students, staff, and alumni.”

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28 Comments

28 Responses to “University Senate passes resolution to retire use of human Aztec Warrior mascot”

  1. Bret G on November 7th, 2017 9:59 pm

    Hi. The article sites “Crawford” but doesn’t explain who Crawford is. Please edit so the reader gains perspective. Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Andrew Dyer Reply:

    Fixed, thank you!

    [Reply]

  2. Roberto D. Hernandez on November 8th, 2017 12:30 am

    Crawford’s comment justifying the mascot name as an issue about “what it means to be a San Diego State Aztec, not an Aztec 500 years ago” highlights precisely the whole problem with having Indigenous Peoples as mascot names and the need to not only get rid of the mascot but also to have more American Indian Studies and Ethnic Studies classes as an integral part of K-12 and college curriculums. Part of the dominant narrative that American Indian Studies has always challenged is the false idea that Indigenous Peoples are “dead or dying”…. That is, that Indigenous Peoples are a thing of the past that do not exist in the present, or that to the extent that they do their numbers are so small that it does not matter anyway what we do to them in terms of stereotypes and demeaning attitudes and practices justified as “honoring” them. The Aztec/Mexica Peoples are a living people that continue to exist in the present and that deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And as for what it means to be a “San Diego State Aztec,” it means to continue to perpetuate a similar type of “dead or dying” violence that erases and invisibilizes the fact that SDSU exists on Kumeyaay land, who are themselves also a living and thriving Indigenous Nation that co-exists in the present alongside Aztecs/Mexicas and hundreds of other Indigenous Nations throughout North America.

    [Reply]

    Rob Reply:

    Hi Robert … so this was the most logical reasoning I’ve come across for the removal of the mascot. But I’m not sure how accurate you are. I didn’t think the Aztecs were alive and well, and after doing some research… it would seem that they in fact aren’t. Their ancestors of course do … but I don’t think they identify as Aztecs. I suppose I could be wrong. But even if they were… I’m guessing that they wouldn’t be running around in loin clothes throwing spears. They would be modern people living like most people in Mexico. Hard working, resourceful, creative, giving, friendly. So the Aztec name and mascot is historical. And it may not honor all aspects of the culture. But it does honor the warrior aspect of their society … which undeniable existed. Which is why SDSU chose them as their mascot. So if the goal is to promote American Indian Studies… it would seem counterproductive to remove them from the zeitgeist. There are perhaps thousands of cultures across the word I am completely unaware of … but not the Aztecs!

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  3. Marlin Britton on November 8th, 2017 5:37 am

    Will the newspaper consider changing its name?

    [Reply]

  4. Frank Davis on November 8th, 2017 7:22 am

    No, we won’t be the San Diego State Snowflakes. Is lecturer Monge still trying to beat this dead horse?

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  5. Thom Dick on November 8th, 2017 8:05 am

    Hello. I can’t believe you’re still arguing about this. Can’t we just have a little fun?

    The Aztecs were an ancient civilization, not known primarily for their agrarian accomplishments. You can’t tell me they would be offended to know SDSU uses their name, likeness (and a spear) to represent the school’s competitive sports teams. Nor can any of you say you know for a fact that you have direct lineal ties to them.

    I was the news editor of the Daily Aztec in the late ‘60s. Daily we were confronted by members of organizations like SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the KKK, the Black Panthers, The Gay Liberation Front, NOW, the NRA, Hell’s Angels, the Young Republicans, Veterans Against the (VietNam) War, the ROTC and advocates of every other agenda you can possibly imagine. All they seemed to want, any of them, was to tear stuff apart. None of them seemed to have any suggestions, and most of them were so upset they couldn’t articulate to us what they actually wanted.

    I have an idea, for those who want to do away with SDSU’s Aztecs identity. Propose an alternative and see if people like it.

    [Reply]

    Donn Dufford Reply:

    I agree with Thom. I too was a Daily Aztec editor in the 60s and saw groups trying to tear down things they disagreed with without offering positive solutions.

    If those who want to do away with Aztecs, offer something better. But remember you’re trying to take down decades of tradition and positives tens of thousands of us have associated with being an SDS Aztec.

    And, I would challenge those who want to do away with this tradition to find ONE single LIVING Aztec who is offended. After all, the Aztec Empire existed from approximately 1300 to 1521. Aztecs have been gone for 500 years. Anyone living today who has Aztec blood in them, has less than 1%.

    One person in the article mentioned that “the Aztec mascot in its current state is very oppressive for some students.” We have much more oppression in this country we should be worried about (and fighting against) than an Aztec symbol.

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  6. Richard Rider on November 8th, 2017 8:26 am

    So San Diego State University is moving towards banning its mascot and removing the “Aztec” label as their school sports’ nickname. I’m sure it’s because the use of “Aztec” is somehow viewed as demeaning to this ancient tribe/race. “Cultural appropriation” and all that. Fine.

    But there’s a better reason (a reason never mentioned) to ban the name — it honors a civilization of SLAVEHOLDERS. Their “Tlacotin” (slaves) were separate from their war captives, of which they had many. Slavery was quite common in their “good old days.”

    Not to mention human sacrifice — but that festive celebration is not frowned upon as much by progressives.

    [Reply]

  7. Joe Solis on November 8th, 2017 9:40 am

    STUPID! As a Latino, one of my proudest moments in my life was when I stepped-out onto the field as a Marching Aztec, knowing that SDSU was and IS the only College in the country that celebrates my heritage.

    I’m NOT offended by the “Aztecs” or “Monty Montezuma”: I’m PROUD of them.

    Joe Solis, B.S. Business Administration, 1987.

    [Reply]

    Steve Harris Reply:

    Bravo! I am also an SDSU graduate and agree with you 100%

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    Gonzalo de Madera Reply:

    Thank you Joe for adding some true meaning & common sense to this discussion.

    Gonzalo de Madera, B.S. Zoology, 1968

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    Monica B Reply:

    Thank you, Joe. I completely agree. This group protesting against the Aztec mascot are not speaking on my behalf as a Latina. I am a SDSU Aztec alumni and proud to be. I am not offended by the Aztecs or Monty Montezuma. I truly hope that this is not approved.

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  8. Gonzalo de Madera on November 8th, 2017 12:26 pm

    Hopefully Sally Roush will do the “logically correct” thing & reject this idiotic idea. Anyone who really cares about the university, its proud history & is an alumni should be enraged by such an insult. The removal of such a beloved & historic representation of our university should not be left to the liberal nutjobs who have no emotional or memorable connection to the Aztec name. They basically want to neuter the university mascot…pretty pathetic…new name for the university will be the San Diego State Neuters!!

    [Reply]

    Francis Kalinoski Reply:

    I am an Aztec Alumnus for Life. Go ahead and change the mascot and name. Sea Slug [nudibranch/sea cucumber] is a fitting local marine invertebrate [spineless]. And then the next time a student at an SDSU School contacts me for a contribution, their answer will be NO for life. Leave my long-lived mascot alone! It is obvious that the proponents of this fiasco have noting else better to do with their time.

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  9. Nathan on November 8th, 2017 1:43 pm

    Personaly i dont think there is anything wrong with the mascotte. I think people just want to coplain about something that doesnt even matter its a costume like chill theres things in life that bug you but you have to live with it.but this like come on its a costume that someone wares i dont see how it is rasicst in any way considering we comitted mass génocide when we came to America there is no aztec human beings anymore. So i think there showing tbat being an aztec was cool and people should be intrested in what they science wise and building wise. So i think we should give thanks to those who still show aztec culture even if means wareing a simple costume.

    [Reply]

    Bill Schindler Reply:

    Did this writer mispell all of these words intentionally or as a joke? Detracts from the point they tried to make

    [Reply]

  10. Rusty Waderpants on November 8th, 2017 9:16 pm

    Aztecs used ritual human sacrifice but we are concerned about “weapons that connote barbaric representations of the Aztec culture.” ???

    Seriously, do we have to be offended by everything? Are the SF Giants offensive to tall people? Are the Dodgers offensive to people who avoid war… like Trump? Are the LA Lakers offensive to incontinent people? Are the Minnesota Vikings offensive to Nordics? Are the Tampa Bay Rays offensive to people named Ray?

    As Elsa said, Let it Go, people. Let. It. Go!

    Lots more important stuff to worry about on our tiny little planet.

    [Reply]

    Gonzalo de Madera Reply:

    Great & humorous examples Rusty that illustrate the complete lunacy of these overzealous politically correct snowflakes, next target will be the Daily Aztec, changing to something neutral like the “Daily Pablum,” something bland & easily digestible !

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  11. Frank J on November 9th, 2017 6:40 am

    My high school was Irondequoit and the sports nick name was the Indians. Over 15 years ago 2 or 3 people decided it wasn’t ‘politically correct’ (term used more in the past) and it was changed by a tiny minority to the Eagles. Petitions showed overwhelming support for the old name. I’m looking at my yearbook now and it has a profile of a male Indian in a headdress. The first thought is how honorable it looks. No where throughout the yearbook is there anything demeaning to our upstate NY heritage. The Iroquois Indian women were responsible for defining the political, social, spiritual, and economic norms of the tribe. I felt the Indian name simply showed respect to the first peoples that lived on our land, in many ways much wiser than our Euro-American conquerors.
    You will have a hard time finding any person with Aztec lineage complaining. And I truly hope this step doesn’t end up with the ridiculous and sad ending my high school suffered.

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  12. Ted W Bishop on November 9th, 2017 7:45 am

    It would be healthy to discuss how the Aztec warriors dressed and try to replica that for our mascot. Now we gone off the rails with the Senate saying do away with the mascot completely. Sports is about team work and yes conflict, having an ancient warrior as our mascot is appropriate.

    We need to think beyond intellectual sand box of the University. There is real world and struggles out there, we need to be strong emotionally!

    Go Aztecs!
    Ted W Bishop, New Media 2002

    [Reply]

  13. Richard Rider on November 9th, 2017 8:35 am

    San Diego State University is moving towards banning its mascot and removing the “Aztec” label as their school sports’ nickname. I’m sure it’s because the use of “Aztec” is somehow viewed as demeaning to this ancient tribe/race. “Cultural appropriation” and all that. Fine.

    But there’s a far better PC reason (a reason never mentioned) to ban the name — it honors a civilization of SLAVEHOLDERS. Their “Tlacotin” (slaves) were separate from their many war captives. Slavery was quite common in their “good old days.”

    Not to mention human sacrifice — but that festive celebration is not frowned upon as much by progressives.

    BTW, SDSU grads are led to believe that slavery pretty much started in the American South. No mention is made in classrooms of the THOUSANDS of years of Aztec (and every other culture’s) slavery policies that predated black slavery in the U.S.

    [Reply]

  14. Vince Wallace on November 9th, 2017 9:27 am

    Be prepared to lose a ton of alumni support.

    [Reply]

    Gonzalo de Madera Reply:

    Exactly!

    [Reply]

  15. Joe Solis on November 9th, 2017 10:39 am

    Another thing that bothers me is that if these people who want our team name and mascot changed, were so “Offended” by the “Aztecs” or “Monty Montezuma”, then why did they enroll at SDSU in the first place? There are plenty of Schools whose mascots won’t “Offend” their tender sensibilities.

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  16. Daniel on November 9th, 2017 2:09 pm

    52-15! Sounds good, and keep up the good work!

    [Reply]

  17. Maximus300 on November 9th, 2017 4:52 pm

    PC raising its ugly head. I would like to know if anyone has taken a poll among those living who claim Aztec heritage about how they feel SDSU using their culture as a mascot? I am willing to bet the results will be similar to what they found out about the Washington Redskins. About nine out of ten native Americans were not bothered by the use of that moniker by a professional football team. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/new-poll-finds-9-in-10-native-americans-arent-offended-by-redskins-name/2016/05/18/3ea11cfa-161a-11e6-924d-838753295f9a_story.html?utm_term=.15ad3b852df4. I am betting you would get similar results about SDSU’s use of the Aztec as its mascot. Just goes to prove that the good professors et al have their own agenda at heart instead of the Native Americans.

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  18. Rob on November 11th, 2017 6:56 pm

    So I am not an SDSU student, I am not an alumni, I didn’t even grow up in San Diego … but I’ve spent most of my life here. And I am tired of the current political environment in which everything is viewed as offensive, everything is racist, everything is sexist or misogynist. They want to change the national anthem for gods sake. I am encouraged by many of the responses here, even from many of Mexican heritage who support the Aztec name. And I don’t know how likely this current vote is to progress, but I am frustrated enough to think it should be taken seriously. To that wit, does anyone know if there is an organized opposition to this? It occurs to me that every weekend I am asked to sign a petition at my local TJ’s in support of SDSU West. Why would I support the expansion of this University if they are going to fall to every political whim of the day? Thanks for your feedback

    [Reply]

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