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Political correctness battle

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000


Students at San Diego State University voted overwhelmingly to keep their 75-year-old mascot, Monty Montezuma, and the school's nickname, the Aztecs.

The unofficial results of a three-day student referendum that were announced Wednesday night differ sharply with the Associated Students Council, which voted Sept. 27 to change the nickname and to ban all Indian images at school sporting events.

The council will certify the results and forward them to SDSU president Stephen Weber. He is expected to make a final decision in November after the university senate makes its recommendation.

The ouster campaign began after the Native American Student Alliance complained that the Aztec image is a caricature of indigenous cultures. Alliance spokesman Rey Soto said use of such symbols is dehumanizing, demoralizing and racist.

The early polling results showed that 95.1 percent of the students who voted want to see Weber retain the Aztecs nickname, while 4.1 percent voted no and 0.8 percent said they didn't care.

Additionally, 86.7 percent said they wanted to see the Monty Montezuma mascot and logo retained, with 10 percent voting for retiring them and 3.3 percent saying they didn't care.

Voter turnout exceeded expectations with 8,050 students (26 percent) participating.

The election results did not surprise Soto, who concluded that other students besides Native Americans dislike Monty Montezuma because 10 percent voted to retire the mascot.

"But I still think it's going to go through," he told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I'm still smiling."

The issue has divided the campus, with some students defending Monty Montezuma's image as a positive way for the Aztec people to be remembered.

In recent years, some universities have changed nicknames, including the Marquette Warriors, who became the Golden Eagles, and the St. John's Redmen, who are now the Red Storm.

Many college and professional teams -- including baseball's Cleveland Indians and football's Washington Redskins -- have been pressured to change their Indian-related names and mascots.

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