By Zach Pellonari
Last week the University Senate at San Diego State University voted 52-15 in favor of a “resolution to eliminate the mascot and form a task force to investigate the Aztec identity.”
As a 2003 graduate and Aztec for life, I could not disagree more with this decision — especially since the SDSU student council voted 14-12 in April to reject a similar resolution to phase out the Aztec logo and mascot.
The 80-member senate, which is comprised primarily of faculty and staff — there are only 4 students represented — thinks it knows better than thousands of current students and even more alumni. According to the minutes of the Nov. 7 meeting, it only considered one side. No argument for keeping the Aztec mascot was presented.
The resolution’s primary reasoning is that the Aztec Warrior and the Aztec name itself are discriminatory. The resolution cites Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: “No person in the United States 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 a fallacious argument for two reasons. First, there has never been, nor will there ever be, an Aztec who is an American citizen. Therefore, the Civil Rights Act does not apply.
Second, for the sake of argument, let’s say it does apply. 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 certain facilities, or stay in certain dorms based on racial discrimination because of the Aztec Warrior or the Aztec name? The answer is “no.”
The resolution also cites an NCAA policy that prohibits college teams “from displaying hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA championships.” But this isn’t relevant either because in 2004 the university changed the mascot attire to more accurately reflect Aztec culture.
Lastly the resolution takes issue with the mascot’s “usage of spears or weapons that connote barbaric representations of the Aztec culture.” But we all know the archaeological evidence shows that the Aztecs did have a warrior culture — along with a highly advanced civilization that produced enduring monuments. The mascot celebrates this.
Despite the faults in this resolution, there’s great danger of its the passage.
If SDSU Interim President Sally Roush approves the resolution, we will not only lose the Aztec Warrior mascot, will also lose our Aztec identity. The final sentence of the resolution specifically targets use of the Aztec moniker in signage, logos, branding, buildings, statues and awards. Monty, the Zuma awards and much else would be gone.
I implore all San Diegans, Aztec alumni and students who agree with me to contact the SDSU Senate and the president’s office to voice your opinion. Let them know you are proud to be an Aztec and what it represents.
Aztec for Life!
Zach Pellonari is a 2003 graduate of San Diego State University. He is a commissioned Air Force Officer officer who lives in Louisiana with his wife and three daughters.