SDSU Aztec mascot to become ‘Spirit Leader’

San Diego State University (SDSU) has announced that it will continue using the Aztec moniker, but will no longer recognize the Aztec Warrior as its official “mascot.”

In a lengthy statement published last week, SDSU President Sally Roush announced that the SDSU Aztec will remain the school’s official nickname, but noted that “there will be immediate and visible changes in demeanor” in order to make the Aztec portrayal less offensive. 

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“The use of the Aztec moniker will continue,” the statement reads. “It is a source of pride for the collective majority of those who responded to the surveys or volunteered their views.”

Roush explained that the university will reclassify its mascot, the Aztec Warrior, as a “Spirit Leader,” but will not change its current name. 

“The Aztec Warrior, similarly a source of pride for the collective majority, will be retained, but as Spirit Leader, not mascot,” she stated. “There will be immediate and visible changes in demeanor to achieve a respectful portrayal of a powerful figure from Aztec culture.”

“We will undertake an effort to assess whether to add other meaningful symbols, marks, or representations, including historically accurate animal symbols that capture the intellectual sophistication, power, and bravery of the Aztec civilization,” Roush added.

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The decision was made in the wake of an April 30 report issued by the 2018 Aztec Identity Task Force, which Roush established following an SDSU University Senate resolution to remove the Aztec moniker and mascot, which passed with a vote of 52-15.

The task force based its recommendations partially on surveys of people of interest, such as alumni, students, faculty and staff, and members of the community. According to the report, approximately 88 percent of respondents supported the continued use of the Aztec moniker, and about 78 percent supported the continued use of the Aztec mascot.

Notably, the survey also found that faculty/staff members were least supportive of both propositions when compared to alumni, students, and community members. 

The SDSU College Republicans have remained critical of the university’s decision, however, declaring that the move is “a step toward the end goal of removing the Aztec, our Aztec warrior, [and] a beloved part of SDSU tradition.” 

“While the human mascot will be retained, a task force will be assessing whether or not to remove other well-known symbols such as the spear logo, the shield, and other warrior symbols,” the College Republicans wrote. 

Additionally, CR Chairman Madison Marks-Noble claimed in an interview with Campus Reform that Roush’s decision was made in order to satisfy “people like the members of the Native American Alliance and Professor Monge” without having to be saddled with “the legacy of removing the mascot.”

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Both the SDSU Native American Student Alliance (SDSU NASA) and SDSU Professor Oscar Monge have been very active in pushing for the retirement of the Aztec mascot. 

In November 2017, for instance, SDSU NASA organized a demonstration outside the University Senate Chambers, which was debating the fate of the Aztec mascot. Demonstrators were instructed to cover their mouths with tape that read #NotYourMascotSDSU in an effort to show that the university was silencing Native American voices. 

Monge has been one of the leading voices in the fight to remove the Aztec mascot, and was recently found by the California Department of Justice to have engaged in “discrimination based on race, racial harassment, and retaliation” against a white female student, as Campus Reform reported in January.

According to The Daily Aztec, the student withdrew from Monge’s class after the lecturer threatened her grade following her critique of his position on the Aztec mascot.

Campus Reform reached out to SDSU NASA and Professor Oscar Monge, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @SkylerShibuya