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Regents keep UNM seal unchanged

The current seal of the University of New Mexico. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

The current seal of the University of New Mexico. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico Board of Regents on Tuesday refrained for now from changing the school’s official seal, the imagery of which some students say is racist.

The board did vote to create a process to design a new seal and gauge the cost of adopting a new image to represent the university.

Regents raised concerns about costs and what appears to be a small group of people supporting the change to the seal. Board President Rob Doughty said he was surprised that only roughly 300 people weighed in on the seal, despite the tens of thousands of people in the UNM community.

The seven-member board of regents did not vote on a portion of administrator Jozi De Leon’s report that called for ditching the conquistador and frontiersmen, the figures some say glorify European violence against Native Americans, from the seal.

On Tuesday, four students spoke at the meeting urging the board to change the seal.

“We have heard them. We’re doing something,” said regent Jack Fortner.

Students, many of them Native Americans, said they were not pleased with the regents decision.

The regents’ vote comes after De Leon’s office, the division of equity and inclusion, had spent about six months hosting forums and soliciting emails on the seal and if it should be changed.

That work generated the 300 response figure. Provost Chaouki Abdallah said he didn’t see a point in additional outreach efforts as UNM has already used extensive resources to reach people.

De Leon said she didn’t hear regents say no to changing the seal.

“What I heard was, ‘Let’s wait and see what the cost is going to be,’ ” De Leon said. “I am hopeful in that we didn’t hear a no.”

Jennifer Marley, vice president for the Native American student group Kiva Club, said the decision shows regents are more concerned about money than they are in listening to students. Marley, who is from the San Ildefonso and Zia pueblos, said the decision feels like another postponement, but she added the issue is not over.

“We’re not going to hold back at all,” she said.