Despite assurances, university now says Aztec task force members won’t be named

SDSU has decided not to release the names of the members of the Aztec task force, and went so far as to amend a Jan. 17 news release by removing a section saying it would do so.

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Despite assurances, university now says Aztec task force members won’t be named

A man portrays the Aztec Warrior mascot at a sporting event in spring 2017.

A man portrays the Aztec Warrior mascot at a sporting event in spring 2017.

Kelly Smiley

A man portrays the Aztec Warrior mascot at a sporting event in spring 2017.

Kelly Smiley

Kelly Smiley

A man portrays the Aztec Warrior mascot at a sporting event in spring 2017.

by Will Fritz

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San Diego State will not release the identities of the members of the Aztec mascot and moniker task force after all, officials said this week.

In November, the University Senate recommended the creation of a task force to investigate the appropriateness of the Aztec moniker, called for the retirement the human Aztec Warrior mascot and the use of spears or “weapons that connote barbaric representations of the Aztec culture.”

In January, the university began taking applications for the 17-member task force, and said names of the task force members would be announced on Feb. 2.

That day came and went, and at the Feb. 14 Associated Students Campus Life Council meeting, A.S. President Chimezie Ebiriekwe said no names would be released after all.

“This is so that they will have the ability to deliberate without disruption and work effectively,” he said.

A university statement from Jan. 17 was changed to remove the reference to the Feb. 2 announcement date.

Reports in both The Daily Aztec and the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the Feb. 2 date at the time.

A screenshot of an email the university sent to students linking to an SDSU NewsCenter story about the mascot task force and stating that task force members would be announced Feb. 2. The university has since decided not to release their names.

The task force is set to include four students nominated by the Associated Students Board of Directors, three faculty members and one staff member nominated by faculty and staff, and four alumni nominated by the SDSU Alumni Board of Advisors. President Sally Roush will then select an additional person for each category at her discretion, and appoint two additional at-large members.

SDSU College Republicans President Brandon Jones said he doesn’t like the idea of the task force conducting its business behind closed doors.

“I mean, obviously I would like to see the names of who’s going to be on the task force,” Jones said. “I think it will be very important in deciding the legitimacy of the task force regarding the mascot.”

Victoria Gonzalez-Rivera, an associate professor in the Chicana and Chicano Studies Department and an advocate for changing the mascot, also said the task force needs transparency if they want to appear legitimate.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said. “I think it’s very strange. There must be some logic, but I don’t know what the logic is behind this.”

University spokesperson Jill Esterbrooks defended the decision to keep the members’ identities private.

The university president made the decision, she said, “in order for the task force to be effective and make findings without any undue attention and pressure.”

None of the task force’s recommendations will be binding, and at the end of the process, everything will become public, Esterbrooks said.

But by that time, it won’t matter, Jones said.

“If they keep it a secret and then we find out after the fact, after the decision’s been made about what the dynamic, the diversity of who’s on the group, it’s going to be too late,” he said.

SDSU Native American Student Alliance, which has led the fight against the Aztec mascot in recent years, declined to comment on the matter.

Ebiriekwe said it’s ultimately up to the university president and the members of the task force.

“I think it’s a decision of the people who are on the task force if they don’t feel comfortable releasing their names,” he said. “That’s their decision and I feel like we should all respect their wishes.”

Staff Writer Bella Ross also contributed to this story.

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