On Wednesday, the University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved a new official seal design. The decision comes after years of advocacy by Native American students and faculty who said the old seal, featuring a conquistador and a frontiersman, celebrated genocide and colonial oppression. But the Regent’s final selection is not the design that won a popular vote, and that has many people feeling left out of what was supposed to be an inclusive process.
Back in 2016, the ‘Abolish the Racist Seal’ campaign by the Red Nation and UNM Kiva Club members pushed the regents to consider a change. Eventually, a task force was created. They gathered student submissions, and sought public input on five designs in early 2020.
Design A won with about 8,000 votes; it shows a wolf in front of campus and the mountains. But this spring, the regents' Academic, Student Affairs and Research Committee (ASAR) said they’d move forward with a simpler UNM logo design, option C.
"People were really proud of the process that they participated in, it was a pretty long-drawn process," said Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Dr. Assata Zerai in an ASAR meeting earlier this month. "People were honestly pretty disappointed in the selection of C. Many students, faculty, and staff felt that their opinions were set aside."
During Wednesday's full board meeting, Board President Douglas Brown said the regents always had the final say, to approve a student submission or even reject them all.
Regent Robert Schwartz said he'd gotten several phone calls "from people who are very concerned about this, and felt that they were undermined by the process that was used."
Several regents agreed that design C, with the UNM logo, would be easier to print on documents and graduation robes than design A. The motion to approve it passed by a 3-1 vote, with Schwartz abstaining and the student regent voting no.