November 22, 2000
San Diego State University President Stephen L. Weber announced that SDSU will retain its affiliation with the Aztecs and that Montezuma will remain a symbol of the university. In addition, Weber will convene a special task force of SDSU students, faculty, staff and alumni to review the accuracy and appropriateness of how the university depicts Aztec culture through characterizations of Montezuma and SDSU's Aztecs logo.
Weber stated that SDSU's affiliation with the Aztecs is appropriate for a university "that prides itself on diversity and on its openness to different peoples and different societies." The announcement was made at a morning news conference held at SDSU's Cox Arena.
"San Diego State University will proudly continue its affiliation with Aztec culture and traditions," said Weber. "However, as a campus community dedicated to learning, we have an obligation to ensure that such portrayals are historically accurate and culturally appropriate."
In making his decision, he consulted with several experts on Aztec culture at SDSU, reviewed literature on the issue, spoke with local Native American leaders, and met with Miguel Leon-Portilla, Mexico's leading authority on Aztec culture and history. In his remarks, Weber thanked Native American students for bringing up the issue and said it was a perfectly legitimate question for a university community to discuss.
"Part of the job of being a university president is making though decisions," said Weber. "I realize that this is not a decision that will make everyone happy. However, I hope all parties will respect the process and agree to continue to dialogue with others and me as we strive to enhance our celebration of the Aztec culture.
"This decision is based on what I believed to be appropriate and in the best interest of San Diego State University. It is not based on popularity, cost or tradition. While these are all important factors, none is sufficient reason to continue a racist, or inappropriate practice."
In establishing a task force to review the university's depictions of Montezuma and use of the Aztecs logo, Weber cited the need to be historically accurate in portraying Montezuma as the Aztec leader. Weber challenged the task force to find a way to invoke Montezuma with the same respect and care afforded other leaders. The task force will consist of five representatives appointed by the president of the Associated Students, five representatives appointed by the chair of the Senate, five representatives appointed by the chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and five representatives appointed by Weber. It has until May 1, 2001 to report back to Weber with its recommendations. If changes are recommended, and he accepts them, some transition will be needed. SDSU will incorporate any associated expenditures in future budgets.
"If we intend, as I believe we do, to celebrate Aztec culture, then we must do so responsibly and in a way consistent with our scholarship," said Weber. "If we are to appropriate these symbols, we have the responsibility to do so carefully and respectfully. That care and respect begins with a concern for the truth."
SDSU's sports teams have used the Aztecs nickname since 1925. Monty Montezuma a depiction of Montezuma II (also referred to as Mocte-zuma), ruler of the Aztec empire in the 1500s has participated at SDSU football games since 1941.
Discussion about SDSU's Aztecs nickname, Monty Montezuma and "Aztecs" logo began in September when the Native American Student Alliance brought a resolution to the SDSU Associated Students Council asking the council to retire the current nickname and mascot. On Sept. 27, the council's approval of a similar resolution generated debate both on campus and in the community. Since that decision, several groups including the Senate, the SDSU Alumni Association, the Aztec Athletic Foundation, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and SaveMonty.org have weighed-in with resolutions. Additionally, the university has received more than 3,000 e-mails from students, faculty, staff and alumni, and a student referendum was held in which students voted overwhelmingly to keep the Aztecas nickname and Monty Montezuma as a symbol of the university.
"I want to express my pride in the manner in which all parties have conducted this conversation," said Weber. "Each has brought credit to the dialogue by the thoughtfulness, care, and mutual respect with which they have joined the debate."
Those interested in learning more about the decision and voicing their opinion are encouraged to visit the SDSU Web site (www.sdsu.edu) where a special Web page on the issue has been created. The site includes a detailed position paper on the subject authored by Weber and affords readers an opportunity to share their views.