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Students, alumni react to mascot resolution

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Students, alumni react to mascot resolution

The Aztec Warrior mascot – now to be called a

The Aztec Warrior mascot – now to be called a "spirit leader" – at a football game in fall 2017.

Kelly Smiley

The Aztec Warrior mascot – now to be called a "spirit leader" – at a football game in fall 2017.

Kelly Smiley

Kelly Smiley

The Aztec Warrior mascot – now to be called a "spirit leader" – at a football game in fall 2017.

by Bella Ross, Staff Writer

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Following a resolution to retire the human representation and use of weapons by the Aztec Warrior mascot passed by the University Senate, students and alumni shared their reactions to the controversial topic.

“I think the idea is, when something is around for such a long time, we don’t want to change it or have to question something that we’re kind of attached to,” theater sophomore Mario Vega said.

Vega said the first time he heard San Diego State was trying to change the mascot last semester, he had serious doubts about altering such a long-standing figure. He said his perspective has since changed, since he’s done more research on the topic.

“The more research I’ve done and the more I’ve educated myself on the topic of the mascot and how indigenous people are treated, I’ve started to think maybe it should change,” Vega said.

Political science senior Violet Friudenberg, who was pictured on the cover of The Daily Aztec’s Nov. 8 issue holding a sign reading “tradition is no excuse for racism,” said they believe changing the mascot should not be considered an issue in any capacity.

“So much needs to change and I don’t actually think needing to change the name of a sports team or a building is that big of an issue,” Friudenberg said. “If anything, getting rid of the mascot and the moniker is a starting point and it should continue from there.”

The University Senate resolution was only a recommendation to President Roush, and has no power of its own.

Friudenberg said they have little confidence that SDSU President Sally Roush will implement the resolution.

“I really don’t have a ton of faith in the university administration because they’ve shown time and time again that they’re not here for the most at-risk, marginalized, underfunded, and tokenized populations on campus,” Friudenberg said. “They will talk about how diverse their campus is but, once (Native American) students and other students of color talk about any of this stuff, admin is not there to defend them.”

SDSU 2013 alumnus Matthew Clarkson said he gets frustrated when students complain about the mascot, since he feels they do not recognize how good the university is to them.

“You have these students who are essentially reaping the benefits of an education at a prestigious university going around saying things about the mascot,” Clarkson said. “It just seems absolutely absurd to me.

With alumni donating large sums of money to SDSU, their feelings on the mascot are likely to be a heavy consideration by the university president in any decision she makes on the mascot.

Clarkson said he, along with many of his alumni friends, would consider pulling his donation from the university if SDSU were to change the mascot.

“I think I’d think twice about donating to the university because I really don’t agree with that,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson said a decision to change the mascot may also have negative implications for SDSU in the debate over what to do on the current site of the SDCCU Stadium, which SDSU hopes to acquire through a November 2018 ballot initiative. The goal would be to develop an SDSU West campus on the land.

“I think (changing the mascot) would have an impact because that land has an identity since it was past the Charger’s home, but also the Aztec’s home,” Clarkson said. “I think the area has that history.”

Timothy Meyers Sr., father of an SDSU graduate and co-admin of the “SDSU Aztec Football Fan Club” on Facebook, said he thinks the answer to this debate is not binary, but somewhere in the middle.

“I think when you see the reaction, especially on social media, people perceive it as a binary thing where either we’re going to have (the mascot) or we’re not going to have it,” Meyers said. “I think elements of both sides of the argument see it that way. Neither one is right.”

Meyers said he doesn’t find the Aztec mascot problematic because the Aztecs no longer exist as a civilization. However, he still said he thinks it should be assessed for appropriateness.

“I think it’s something that should be looked at periodically, but I don’t think it’s a binary decision,” Meyers said. “I think it should be updated and challenged and it should evolve.”

Theater sophomore John Michel also criticized the conversation surrounding the mascot resolution, and said supporters of changing the mascot were too reliant on emotional arguments.

“Last semester, a lot of them ended up breaking out into tears or relying on pathos-like appeals,” Michel said. “I think everyone’s just relying on emotions and hysteria rather than relying on the objective, logical point of view.”

Michel said supporters of changing the mascot should not be relying on the argument that non-Native Americans could not understand the offensive nature of the mascot, since it is not their culture.

“The problem is, you’re not going to convince anybody by saying ‘you don’t understand,’” Michel said. “I’m a self-identified progressive, but I personally think this is ridiculous.”

Many opponents and supporters alike said they would endorse greater education about Aztec culture at SDSU.

“My solution is we should offer a mandatory unit of Mesoamerican culture, which is what the Aztecs were a part of, so you would be educating everybody on the Aztecs and who they were and what they were about,” Michel said. “I think that’s fair for a school that uses a Mesoamerican mascot.”

Friudenberg said greater education would be an essential step to moving away from the Aztec Warrior as the SDSU mascot.

“I think there needs to be more of a concerted effort by the university to tell people about this history and how we got here and how they’re going to fix that,” Friudenberg said.

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4 Responses to “Students, alumni react to mascot resolution”

  1. Glenn Richards on November 15th, 2017 11:14 am

    As an alumnus of SDSU from the late 70’s, and a person who had a specialty in pre-Columbian history. Nd one who actually taught a class on the subject (as a student teacher) for the history department, I can’t believe that this subject is again rearing its ugly head. Please don’t let my last name of Richards fool you…I’m actually fourth and fifth generation Mexican-American on both sides of my family tree.

    While attending SDSU I visited and worked in the ruins in Yucatan and Colombia researching the Meso-American indian tribes and their impact on the cultural and agriculture we know today. Having the mascot name of Aztecs is a great honor for all people of Indian and Mexican background. SDSU is one of the few schools that honors and recognizes the cultural without a negative connotation attached.

    A student from the theatre arts school should take classes in pre-Columbian history before condemning a positive symbol of a long gone civilization. And one of the few symbols Hispanics can point to with great pride.

    History has been slanted to portray the Aztecs as a culture that was conquered the brave conquistadors, when it was actually the diseases they brought from Europe that conquered the people of the Americas.

    Get over your foolish and unfounded concerns, and concentrate on graduating with a degree as soon as possible from SDSU, and leave the history of our symbolic mascot alone.

    There are more than enough topics to concentrate on happening in Washington DC, beginning with the person in the oval office attempting to build a wall, belittling our enemies, ignoring our allies, and accepting a dictator that interferred in our elections. These subjects will effect your life much more than your condemnation of the SDSU mascot.

  2. Japheth "J.C." Cleaver on November 15th, 2017 2:16 pm

    When it comes to “compromise,” it should be pointed out that we’ve already worked for and reached a compromise. As a result of the Mascot Wars in the early 2000’s, the identity of “The Aztecs” was kept, but the human mascot at sporting events was changed from a diminutive reference to an actual historical figure (Montezuma II) to more broadly representative “Aztec Warrior.”

    I personally didn’t have a strong attachment to “Monty Montezuma” (despite running the web site), but I absolutely understand the feelings of those that did. With those perspective in mind, it’s clear that something actually was, in fact, given up from both sides —
    something debateably even necessary from Aztec supporters, who received 95% and 85% approval in the student referendum on the issue, with the then-highest turnout every reported. This formed the basis of the amicable peace we had reached until the goalposts were moved once again.

    Former President Weber’s reasoned approach and the assessment of the task force he initiated remain the high-water mark for thoughtful analysis on the issue, particularly as it pertains to San Diego State University and not arbitrary mascots of controversy.

    The status quo should remain.

  3. Sharon Reeve on December 22nd, 2017 6:58 pm

    I love our mascot and I do not want any changes. San Diego State is not San Diego State without our Aztecs.

  4. Bruce Wood on January 21st, 2018 7:31 pm

    I don’t see how being a SDSU Aztec could offend anybody since there aren’t any Indian Aztecs to object. SDSU’s use of “Aztec” is a positive reflection on Aztec culture. If anything, I think SDSU should do more to promote the ancient Aztec culture by bringing in a visiting museum perhaps. Our country is facing a lot of serious problems that should attract students attention other than renaming SDSU’s mascot.

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