SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Outgoing San Diego State University President Sally Roush announced Thursday that the university will retain the Aztec moniker and create a more culturally sensitive version of its Aztec Warrior mascot.
The decision comes after years of debate over the university's depiction of indigenous peoples, and increased national scrutiny of sports team and school depictions of cultural groups.
"The use of the Aztec moniker will continue. It is a source of pride for the collective majority of those who responded to the surveys or volunteered their views," Roush wrote in an open letter.
SDSU sent more than 200,000 survey forms to alumni, faculty and staff, students and the community to gather opinion on the Aztec nickname and mascot. Nearly 13,000 people replied, according to the university.
In her letter, Roush said the Aztec Warrior will be retained as a "spirit leader," but not a mascot, and there will be "immediate and visible changes in demeanor to achieve a respectful portrayal" of the figure.
"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 wrote.
Additionally, Roush called for the creation of a governing body chaired by the university president to address issues related to SDSU's Aztec "identity."
The Aztec Culture Education Committee, formed during the 2016-17 school year, will also reconvene and be formally institutionalized with the addition of Native American representatives. The group is responsible for recommending additional cultural and co-curricular programming related to Aztec history and culture. Members will also recommend the meaningful inclusion of local Native American tribes in SDSU functions.
The nicknames "Monty" and "Zuma," which reference the word Montezuma, will be dropped immediately.
Roush's decisions were informed by the work of a 17-member task force of students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members. The task force was convened in February after SDSU's Senate overwhelmingly voted to issue a nonbinding resolution recommending the university retire the Aztec Warrior and create a task force to evaluate the university's Aztec nickname.
Adela de la Torre, a social justice expert who will become SDSU's permanent president in late June, supports Roush's decision.
"I thank President Roush, the University Senate and the task force for their leadership and for their respectful and widely consultative approach to this issue, and recognize the cultural sensitivity surrounding SDSU's historical and continued use of the Aztec moniker," de la Torre said.
President Roush’s full statement can be read here.
For more information about the Aztec identity decisions, including statements and documents can be found here.
To read the Final Report from the 2018 Aztec Task Force click here.