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Protest of UNM official seal attracting attention from administrators

This is an image of the University of New Mexico's current official seal

This is an image of the University of New Mexico’s current official seal. Some student groups say the seal is racist and offensive. (Marla Brose/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Student efforts to change the University of New Mexico’s official seal have gotten the attention of the school’s administrative staff.

On Tuesday, the Provost’s Office sent out a survey to students asking for their thoughts on the seal, which features a conquistador and frontiersman, figures that some students say glorify Europeans’ violent treatment of natives.

“The University will be reviewing the official seal and would like your input on whether it should be redesigned,” the email reads.

That email went out at 11:23 a.m., but by 1:15 p.m. the survey had been pulled from the website hosting it.

“This survey has been temporarily suspended in order to devise a more reliable instrument to further continue the conversation,” reads a note on the Web page linked to the office of the provost’s email.

Some students have said the seal, which was adopted in 1969 though its origins stretch back to the 1910s, is emblematic of deeper-seated racism at the university. In addition to asking administrators to abolish the seal, the protesters also want the university to increase the number of Native American faculty, create a Native American cultural center and to waive tuition for students from federally recognized tribes.

President Bob Frank previously has said he’s open to hearing what students have to say about the seal. He also posted a message on Twitter on Monday night, acknowledging the seal offended some while asking for possible alternatives.

Nick Estes, a doctoral student protesting the seal, said the poll sends the message that “certain administrators don’t value Native students’ and faculty’s expertise that in fact the seal is racist.”

Ultimately, it’s up to the Board of Regents to decide if it wants to alter the official seal. Students plan to attend the Academic/Student Affairs and Research Committee meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday to deliver their demands to the regents there.