Associated Students rejects Aztec mascot resolution

Following the A.S. University Council’s decision, 10 A.S. members resigned from their positions.

by Jasmine Bermudez and Will Fritz

The Associated Students University Council rejected a resolution to retire the Aztec mascot and moniker at a meeting in council chambers April 19.

The council voted 14-12 to keep the mascot, with one abstention.

Council members met at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, but voting was delayed for nearly four hours by discussion and two votes to amend parts of the resolution regarding the inadvertent use of “redface.”

The four voting members of the A.S. executive board, President Jamie Miller, Executive Vice President Patty Masengale, Vice President of External Relations Dylan Colliflower and Vice President of Financial Affairs Alex Shapiro, all voted against the resolution.

College of Business Representative Ben Delbick, who voted against the resolution, said changing the mascot would be financially difficult, as it would become necessary to replace millions of dollars worth of Aztec-branded equipment and merchandise.

He also said during the meeting that changing the mascot would alienate alumni and make many of them likely to pull donations.

“One of the things that makes the Aztec name great is the fact that we have a very unique brand and our identity as a university, nationally, is built very strongly upon that,” he said.

Ozzie Monge, a lecturer at SDSU whose master’s thesis discussed the history of the Aztec mascot and supported retiring it, said while the vote is a huge improvement from 2014 — when the council voted overwhelmingly to keep the Aztec warrior — there is work to be done.

He compared the failed mascot resolution to a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, which the University Council approved April 12.

“It’s disappointing to see that there’s some inconsistency in who gets valued, and whose rights get valued,” Monge said. “But that’s not surprising because we’re dealing with something that has been commonly believed in for so long, without question.”

He also compared the resolution vote to asking white southerners for a referendum on ending Jim Crow laws in the 1960s. Such a referendum would likely have failed, but that would not have made the decision just, he said.

“That’s why the talk of majorities and numbers is wrong,” Monge said. “The debate should have been principles and values. And none of that came up.”

He said he will continue his opposition to the use of the Aztec mascot.

“I’ll still be here,” he said. “I’ll still be educating. We’ll do it again.”

Victor Uwakwe, a College of Health and Human Services representative, said while he personally felt San Diego State’s mascot should remain the Aztec warrior, he decided to vote in favor of the resolution.

“I felt like I couldn’t sit by and do nothing,” he said.

College of Arts and Letters representative Nick Elliott said he made the decision to vote yes after taking a poll of his college’s organizations and their representatives regarding their opinions on the mascot.

“On a personal level, if I were voting with my heart, I would have abstained,” Elliott said. “I think there’s more discussion to be had with the language of the resolution.”

Elliott also said he was conflicted because the Native American Student Alliance is housed under his college.

“I feel that —not necessarily an obligation, but I feel like I have a responsibility and a role to play in advocating for them,” he said.

College of Engineering Representative Dan Rubert said he abstained from voting because he was unable to reconcile his personal issues with both sides of the debate.

“I came in with an open mind willing to hear both sides and I felt as if they both had strong arguments and I personally had issues with each (position),” he said. “I would completely agree with the argument that I should have taken a stance but I also agree that sometimes a neutral setting is applicable.”

Vice President of External Relations Dylan Colliflower said he voted to keep the mascot and moniker because having the mascot will continue discussions regarding indigenous people.

“We can be a bastion for understanding indigenous issues and pushing education rather than just erasing it,” he said. “Getting rid of the mascot would not get rid of the racism of the past.”

Executive Vice President Patty Masengale, who voted against the resolution, declined to comment on her vote and said she has not commented on anything related to the mascot all year.

Following the A.S. University Council’s decision, 10 A.S. members resigned from their positions.

A.S. members Gass Hersi, Samantha Ledesma, Asha Abdirahim, Ozair Purmul, Chloe Sension, Mustafa Alemi, Halima Eid, Brie Hornig, Farris Nabulsi, and Arnelle Sambile stepped down from their positions immediately after the vote.

Alemi said he resigned because he does not believe A.S. supports students of color the way it supports other students.

“I want people to just own it,” he said. “Just say you don’t want to change the mascot, (you) don’t give a damn if it’s racist. Don’t try and cloud it as if they’re making some moral decision or some ethical decision.”

Vice President of Financial Affairs Alex Shapiro said he took issue with the fact that the 10 resignations all took place before a resolution on expanding the campus food pantry took place later that evening.

“It would have been respectful to stay for that vote,” Shapiro said.  

Colliflower said it is unfortunate that the 10 students felt it was necessary to resign.

“Especially since there is a Board of Directors meeting where we are supposed to be discussing the resolution again,” he said. “There is other ways to advocate for the issues.”