Special Commentary: SDSU identity will be lost with mascot change


Samantha Bonpensiero

The Aztec Warrior mascot – now to be called a “spirit leader” – at a sporting event.

by Zach Pellonari

On Nov. 7, 2017, the San Diego State University Senate voted 52-15 in favor of a resolution to eliminate the Aztec Warrior mascot and form a task force to investigate the Aztec identity.

As a San Diego State graduate, I could not disagree more with their decision, specifically because the SDSU Student Council voted 14-12 last April, rejecting a similar resolution to phase out the Aztec logo and mascot.

The University Senate, which is comprised primarily of faculty, think they know better than the students. However, that is not the case. The resolution’s primary argument is that the Aztec Warrior and the Aztec name itself are discriminatory. As one of its key arguments, the resolution refers to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which states that “no person in the U.S. shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

This is invalid for two reasons. For one, there has never been, nor will there ever be, an Aztec as an American citizen. Therefore the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not apply. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say this does apply. The Civil Right Acts of 1964 prevented racial discrimination in public places that were privately owned. To the University Senate — are specific individuals or groups being discriminated against because of the Aztec Warrior or the Aztec name?  Can these individuals or groups not attend certain classes, work out at the gym, eat at establishments on campus or stay in the dorms based on racial discrimination because of the Aztec Warrior or the Aztec name? I find it hard to believe they are, which makes the resolution’s primary argument invalid and illogical.

Did the University Senate vote on sentiment and feelings alone?

Make no mistake — if President Sally Roush approves this resolution, the Aztec Warrior mascot will not only be lost, but also the Aztec identity.

The final piece of the resolution explains, “let it be resolved, that SDSU form a task force to investigate and make recommendations regarding the appropriateness of the continued usage of the Aztec moniker including symbols, signage, logos, branding, buildings, statues (e.g., Monty), awards (e.g., Zuma) and other references to the possible misappropriation of Aztec identity (i.e., get rid of the Aztec name all together).”

I implore all Aztec alumni and students who agree with me to contact the SDSU Senate Office which can be reached at http://senate.sdsu.edu/contact-us.aspx and the SDSU President’s Office which can be reached at http://newscenter.sdsu.edu/ootp/contact-form.aspx. Voice your opinion. Let them know you are proud to be an Aztec and what it represents. Aztec for life.

Zach Pellonari is a San Diego State alumnus from the class of 2003.