Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu
UNM alumus Mario Atencia speaks at a forum held on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2016 at Hodgin Hall. This forum is one of several that have been organized by UNM to discuss a potential new design of UNM's official seal.

UNM alumus Mario Atencia speaks at a forum held on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2016 at Hodgin Hall. This forum is one of several that have been organized by UNM to discuss a potential new design of UNM's official seal.

Alumni tapped to provide opinions on UNM seal

In the ongoing debate over whether or not to abolish UNM’s official seal — which some call offensive for essentially glorifying the conquest of indigenous people — another important part of the University’s population was asked to provide insight.

A forum on Wednesday provided UNM alumni the opportunity to voice their opinions.

The final forum was focused on gathering input from alumni on the seal, which became the subject of controversy last semester after Kiva Club and the Red Nation alleged that it is racist.

Virginia Scharff, associate provost for Faculty Development at UNM, said Wednesday’s forum was the last stage of consultation before the community input gathered by the Division of Equity and Inclusion is presented to the Board of Regents.

“It’s been as exhaustive a consultation process I have ever seen. Particularly in terms of public events,” Scharff said.

Scharff said the forum was a chance to check in with alumni on the topic, or anyone else who decided to come.

“We’re happy to hear from people,” she said.

Lorena Blanco-Silva, a program manager for the Division of Equity and Inclusion, said the forum was scheduled during Homecoming week at the suggestion of the Alumni Association, since former students are more likely to be in town for Homecoming than other parts of the school year.

Many alumni had already sent comments through e-mail and phone, she said.

“They’re kind of on both sides of the conversation,” Blanco-Silva said.

Alumni Mario Atencia, who graduated from the University in 2010, said he was in favor of eliminating the seal.

“The seal as it stands does not provoke an endearing pride in being a UNM alumni,” Atencia said. “I’m here to stand with the UNM Kiva Club, the Red Nation and all concerned peoples and changing the seal to something more inclusive and equitable of all peoples.”

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

Alumnus James Friedman, of the class of 2015, also came to show his support for eliminating the seal.

“I am optimistic that the seal will be changed because it is so egregious in 2016 that we are celebrating these images representing colonialism and genocide of the continent's original inhabitants,” he said.

However, Friedman stressed the notion that changing the seal is not sufficient.

“The University must take steps to address the demands of the students. That includes greater representation of native faculty at the administrative level, and providing a tuition waiver to all Native American students and rebuilding of a student services center,” he said. “Without that it is simply an empty gesture.”

Friedman is a candidate for the Albuquerque chapter’s Party of Socialism and Liberation, a group that stands in solidarity with the Red Nation, he said.

“The PSL and the Red Nation work very closely together. We are both revolutionary social organizations,” he said. “We are both anti-capitalists and we stand in solidarity with members of oppressed nations.”

For groups like the Red Nation and Kiva Club, the campaign to abolish the current iteration of the official University seal remains a priority.

But Kiva Club officials said at the latest forum on Wednesday that if their goal is met, they will continue to push their other demands.

“We already showed up to one Board of Regents committee meeting and made our voices heard,” said Kiva Club President Demetrius Johnson. “We came in there with signs, we came in there with voices. The demands are what we’re pushing for, but what everybody else seems to be pushing for is the seal.”

The meeting had a lower attendance than previous forums, allowing for one group discussion.

The meeting focused on the importance of representing UNM’s diverse student body, while suggestions for new seal designs centered on natural elements of New Mexico, including the Rio Grande and the Sandia mountains.

Eliminating the seal from everywhere it appears on campus could cost $50,000, Scharff said. However, the cost would probably not stop UNM regents from deciding to eliminate the seal.

Blanco-Silva said UNM may be willing to reissue diplomas that do not feature the seal for a nominal fee if the seal is eliminated.

The findings from the seal forums and other community input will be presented to the Board of Regents in November, Scharff said.

Johnson said Kiva Club will be at the meeting that will decide the current seal’s fate.

“We come to these meetings reminding people that these demands are still here, these demands are still here,” he said. “We’re gonna be there reminding them these demands are also still here too, and you need to respect them because they are a part of documentation, they’re a part of treaties, they’re a part of law binding documents that you are responsible for and you still have not yet met these criteria.”

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Daily Lobo