In response to calls for UNM to remove elements from the University’s official seal — which some say is offensive to the history of indigenous peoples — UNM art students are drafting potential new designs.
The current seal, which hasn’t been changed in 50 years, has been under review for months, after several Native-American student groups alleged that it was racist. The official seal, which features a conquistador and frontiersman, has been a source of controversy since the ‘60s, said Jozi De Leon of the UNM Division for Equity and Inclusion at a forum held Tuesday.
The art students providing possible designs are a diverse group, De Leon said.
Whereas past seal forums have allowed individuals to address their support or objections of the seal, at Tuesday’s event everyone was asked to share their opinions in small group discussions.
The small groups were tasked with discussing how the University has changed since the seal was created, and making recommendations for its potential new design.
Many of the small groups focused on the need to continue changing University policies and programs to build diversity.
Several new seal design ideas were suggested, including incorporating the Sandia mountains. Groups also engaged in discussion on the history of water access, the increase in UNM’s diversity over the last half-century and a desire to see more people of color on the Board of Regents.
De Leon said the format change came because, at prior forums, there were always people in the room who were not able to voice their opinion.
“This allows for freedom of expression, but it also allows for an opportunity for people to learn from each other, so it’s much more inclusive,” De Leon said.
Kiva Club Advisor Robin Minthorn said she was worried about whether people would be respectful in small group discussions, but the history De Leon provided gave the conversations context.
Minthorn said there were disrespectful comments made during the first seal forum, so this format was a suitable change.
Freshman Daniel Torres said he also liked the format of small group discussions.
“The president of Kiva Club, he actually talked about the issues and how it’s not about the seal but more about how Native Americans are treated within the University. They’re underrepresented,” Torres said.
The Division for Equity and Inclusion will use the small group input in a report on the seal that will be given to the Board of Regents in October, where the regents have the authority to potentially vote in favor of a new design.
Jesus Chavez, a first-year transfer student, said he was disappointed that the forum focused on sharing opinions with other people at the forum, and not addressing UNM Regents directly.
“We all have different opinions and we all know that, but if we could direct our voice to the person that needs to hear it, that’d be better than writing it down on a piece of paper. Because if you read a letter and the first part isn’t interesting, you stop reading,” Chavez said.
Junior Joaquina Castillo said changing the seal is long overdue.
“It’s been the seal for five, six decades almost, and I think it’s time for a change. Native Americans are really getting their voice back. I mean they’ve always had their voice, but now they’re willing to listen,” Castillo said.
Minthorn said she is ready for the change.
“I hope that we’re ready to abolish the seal and to remove it and to redesign it to be more representative of UNM today — but also including all populations, not just one narrative,” she said.
Castillo said UNM’s current seal stands out because of its poor representation.
“I’ve seen other university seals and I think the reason they’re probably not as opposed is because they’re not representing people. They’re not representing past genocide. They’re representing a state, state seal or symbols of education and success,” Castillo said. “Whereas UNM is representing conquistadors, and as we all know, they didn’t exactly have a welcoming gesture to the native inhabitants here.”
Cathy Cook is a freelance news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.