Conversations about college seal imperative

The land FSU is built on is the original homeland of the Nipmuc tribe. As we work toward being an anti-racist instiution, we need to begin recognizing this.

Part of that recognition includes changing our University’s current seal and logo.

Framingham State’s seal and logo currently depicts an Algonquian Native American holding a bow and arrow pointing down to signify peace. The design mirrors the Massachusetts state flag and seal, according to an email sent by President F. Javier Cevallos when the changes to the University’s seal and logo were first proposed in September 2020.

In a letter supporting a bill that would ban all Indigenous mascots, names, and logos in Massachusetts public schools, the National Congress of American Indians said, “Indian Country’s longstanding position on this issue has been made abundantly clear for decades – we are not mascots, and we will not tolerate being treated as such.” 

For the Native American community, these depictions are not just of mascots. 

Stereotypical representations of Native Americans are degrading and mock their cultures and communities. 

Misrepresentation of Native Americans is worse than no representation at all. 

The decision to change FSU’s seal and logo came after the Massachusetts Senate unanimously voted to form a panel to redesign the state flag and seal.

At the Sept. 23, 2020 Board of Trustees meeting, Cevallos announced the creation of a governance committee to discuss and implement changes to the University’s seal and logo. According to Communications Director Daniel Magazu, the committee included representatives from Native American organizations in the surrounding area.

The committee proposed changing the design of the Algonquian Native American on the seal and logo to May Hall, but nothing has happened yet.

In October, Cevallos said the University is waiting for discussions at the state level before moving forward with changes.

Magazu said another reason the University will not be making major decisions about the seal and logo in the near future is Cevallos’ retirement announcement and the departure of former Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Constanza Cabello.

However, other schools in our state have removed racist representations of Native Americans in their university branding without waiting for the state. 

Before 1972, UMass Amherst’s sports teams were known as the “Redmen.” They decided to change the nickname after UMass’ Chancellor Randolph Bromery received a letter from Attorney Bertram Hirsch on behalf of the Association of American Indian Affairs. The organization argued the nickname was a “racial degradation” of Native People, according to the Historical Journal of Massachusetts. 

Before 1991, UMass Lowell’s community was known as the “Chiefs,” which changed to the “River Hawks” when the school merged into the UMass system.

Before 2002, the “Trailblazers” of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts were known as the “Mohawks.” 

Other colleges and universities in our state have removed racist stereotypes of Naive Americans from their branding.

FSU, what is taking you so long?

FSU does not have to wait for anyone or anything to make changes. 

Conversations about how Native Americans are represented at our school must continue, even if there are pending changes in leadership.

According to Boston.com, bills are currently circulating through the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate. If passed into law, the bills could legally “end the practice of using Native American mascots” in the state of Massachusetts.

If we as a college community continue the conversation about Native American peoples’ depiction at our school, we can demonstrate to state legislators that we value their appropriate representation. Hopefully, keeping the discussion going will speed up the process at the state level so FSU administrators can make their own decisions sooner rather than later.

It would be a shame to lose all the progress that the committee has made. If this conversation ceases for an extended length of time, we risk forgetting how important and timely this work is. 

The conversation can’t stop because we are waiting for the state. Anti-racist work correcting misrepresentation of Native Americans goes beyond changing the seal and logo.

We as a community can brainstorm ways to continue appropriately representing Native American people. 

Conversations about misrepresentation do not require a vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement to happen. Everyone can and should participate in these discussions.

If we truly are an anti-racist instiution, conversations about misrepresenting Native Americans will continue at Framingham State because discussions about diversity should always be taking place.