With all the recent talk of a potential mascot change, I would like to take this opportunity to suggest a pinata for San Diego State’s official representation. With the amount that SDSU has been metaphorically battered with bad press and student-organized protests all semester long, this new icon only makes sense. This school has been criticized about its handling of sexual assault reports, debates surrounding the alleged racist connotations of the mascot and now, the lack of gender neutral bathrooms. But let’s not be deceived by feeling apologetic for this school, because it deserves every bit of criticism that’s been thrown its way.
Every single one of these issues is important in it’s own right and needs to be properly addressed. In this process our school may look bad, but SDSU is responsible for every ounce of blame it gets in for its wrongdoings. We wouldn’t allow a company to get away with an oil spill that happened on its watch, and we hold our university to the same logic of accountability.
Not everyone is so cynical that their first priority is to needlessly smear the school. Students who speak up by constructively criticizing the school, or protesting for change are attempting to improve SDSU. Only apathetic people couldn’t care less with the happenings of this school. Students who get involved in campus-related issues by speaking up care enough about SDSU to attempt making a difference.
Every student has his or her rights protected under the First Amendment to protest peacefully and speak out in whatever form he or she pleases. Those who have a message want their voices heard, and that’s completely justifiable. The active voice of students is the most peaceful solution when it comes to positive changes on campus. Turning a blind eye for the sake of our school’s image doesn’t make these issues disappear. For progress to be made, speaking out is the first step.
Granted, how the school is improved against social issues is incredibly subjective. But that’s the whole point of debates. When two ideologies clash, something is bound to change as long as one side understands the other.
Let’s take the mascot debate, for example. Whether the Aztec Warrior is offensive or respectful is a valid concern in need of discussion because one person disagreed with the status quo. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the situation, understanding of both sides comes from open debate. Silencing students means accepting SDSU as a stagnant institution. Even President Elliot Hirshman recognizes the importance of free speech.
“It is critical to present a range of perspectives so students can understand issues and develop frameworks for thinking about these issues,” Hirshman said in his blog post.
Although he was referring to the conflict between Israel and Gaza at the time, it would be crazy to encourage silence just to improve the currently infamous reputation of SDSU. We can’t just idly sit back and get used to it. People might not know about a certain issue (cue to the suddenly-forgotten Ice Bucket Challenge) until someone speaks up. Unfortunately, SDSU isn’t going to fix itself without a little encouragement and criticism.
SDSU is an entity with the power to fix and change these issues. The push of public pressure is the quickest way to seek action and change. Sure, it might not look too great for SDSU’s track record, but considering how it’s ranked No. 152 nationally, we’ll still look preferable to any future employer. It’s our responsibility to call out SDSU whenever it messes up or fails to address a problem, whether deliberate or out of ignorance.
The worst thing to do is nothing. We have the civic duty to criticize our school when we believe it’s doing something wrong. Otherwise, the school will just become some form of dystopia looking perfect on the outside, while its students still suffer.