President F. Javier Cevallos presented potential designs for an interim seal and logo for the University at the Board of Trustees’ meeting Sept. 23.
The new interim seal designs depict May Hall rather than the current imagery of a Native American.
Cevallos informed the University of a potential change in an Aug. 10 email.
According to the email, the decision to change the seal came after the Massachusetts Senate unanimously voted to form a panel to redesign the state flag and seal. The Framingham State seal is based on the state seal.
The current seal depicts an “Algonquian Native American holding a bow and arrow pointing down, which signifies peace,” Cevallos wrote.
According to the email, the administration decided the seal “no longer lives up to our core values” in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Cevallos added, “We also recognize that many First Nations, Indigenous Peoples, and Native Americans view these types of depictions as symbols of white supremacy and reminders of genocide and violence.”
According to Cevallos, the plan is to base the University seal on the new design for the state seal to maintain the historical connection to the state as the first public normal school in the country.
While the state Senate has voted to set up the panel, the House has not.
A staff person from the office of Rep. Maria Robinson, a Democrat representing the City of Framingham, said discussing the state seal is not currently on the House agenda. She said the focus right now will be on budgeting.
In an email, Rep. Jack Lewis, a Democrat representing Ashland and the City of Framingham, said there are still months left in the current legislative cycle, and there is still time for the House to debate and pass the legislation for a new state seal.
Lewis said a bill to form a panel, composed of Indigenious voices, to review and recommend a new state seal, has been filed every year since 1984.
According to Lewis, the state seal was never “intended to honor native peoples as some now retroactively argue.
“The original seal was developed at a time when local governments and later the Massachusetts Legislature offered bounties for native scalps,” he added.
“Technical fixes alone are not going to bring about the true racial justice our Commonwealth and country need,” Lewis said. “Symbols convey great power and are visual representations of our values, and this symbol, and the outdated colonialist ideals it represents, needs to change.”
In an interview, Cevallos said although the administration wants to maintain the historical connection the seal has to the state, change on the state level won’t happen anytime soon.
Therefore, the interim designs were presented to the Board of Trustees.
At the Board of Trustees’ meeting, Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said the interim seal depicts May Hall in an attempt to maintain that historical connection as does the City of Framingham’s seal.
Cevallos said a governance committee will consider the new designs and make a recommendation when they meet Oct. 2.
In an interview, Cevallos said there are a lot of factors involved in changing the University’s seal. The seal is everywhere – whether it’s on the basketball court or University pamphlets. The change will take two to three years once the Trustees approve the new design.
“It’s not enough to talk about diversity and inclusion,” Cevallos said. “We have to take a proactive stance about racism. We have to get rid of it.
“We have to do our best to really learn to respect every person for what every person is,” he added.
Most students interviewed were in favor of changing the University seal and logo.
Emily Atherton, a sophomore psychology major, said, “I think it’s important to acknowledge the original seal, but also to correct the wrong that has been done. I’m all for the change if it means bettering our campus and school in the name of doing what is right.
“We have to do our part in moving toward a better society and world,” Atherton added.
Katie Dwyer, a junior criminology major, said, “I don’t think they should change it, but that’s my opinion.”
Kerri Morse-Patterson, a senior studio art major, and Samantha Walsh, a sophomore biology major, both said they liked the idea of changing the seal to May Hall because it was one of the first buildings built on campus.
Morse-Patterson said, “I also feel like it has more of a clear connection and symbolism with the school compared to a Native American, which I know can definitely be controversial.”
Walsh said, “Personally, I am not offended by this logo, but I can understand if my peers are offended by it.
“I feel like if the goal is to make Framingham a more inclusive community, where everyone feels welcome, and there is no room for a logo being misinterpreted, then I think depicting May Hall as a logo is a good idea,” she added.
Alyssa Cafarelli, a junior early childhood education and psychology major, said, “With all that is going on in the world today, I strongly believe this is a change Framingham needs to make.”