Remove and replace the Cowboy/Cowgirl mascot for NMHU

Remove and replace the Cowboy/Cowgirl mascot for NMHU

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Petition to
New Mexico Highlands University

Why this petition matters

Started by Krista-Mari Sorra

Dear New Mexico Highlands University Leadership,

As current students, staff, faculty and alumni of New Mexico Highlands University’s (NMHU) Facundo Valdez School of Social Work, we are writing to express our concerns about the University’s existing mascot, the Cowboy/Cowgirl, and request that it be abandoned and replaced with an image that more accurately represents our diverse population and mission.

The remainder of the letter continues below:

NMHU is an educational institution with diverse degree programs and a multicultural student body. The Facundo Valdez School of Social Work embraces progressive and innovative curriculum, which prepares students to advocate for social justice in all levels of practice. The School of Social Work’s mission statement asserts that its objective is “to educate students to practice social work competently with the diverse, multicultural populations of New Mexico and the Southwest.” Additionally, one of NMHU’s broader core values is diversity. Upon our review of the University’s historical underpinnings, unique regional and cultural influences, and dynamic and pioneering approach to learning, it is our concern that the Cowboy/Cowgirl symbolism does not reflect the ideals endorsed by NMHU.

The book, The Contested Homeland: A Chicano History of New Mexico (2000, UNM Press) includes a chapter “La Reconquista: The Chicano Movement in New Mexico,” where scholars David R. Maciel and Juan José Peña delineate NMHU’s Cowboy/Cowgirl mascot symbolism as a celebration of an oppressive and exclusionary era. According to the article, in the mid-twentieth century Chicano activists across the state of New Mexico struggled for representation in educational institutions. Despite the fact that the Las Vegas population was predominantly Chicano, minorities were systematically excluded from leadership and faculty positions at NMHU. Chicano students at NMHU mobilized, demonstrated, and ultimately attained a hard-fought and costly victory with the establishment of NMHU’s Chicano studies program. However, it is noted by Maciel and Peña that by the mid 1970’s, the Chicano movement at NMHU was suppressed by the New Mexico state legislature’s “cowboy coalition,” a group of conservative legislators who sought to return the curriculum of the state’s higher-educational institutions to a monolithic cultural framework.

With this historical knowledge and NMHU’s stated values in mind, we are requesting that NMHU reimagine the Cowboy/Cowgirl mascot. It is irrefutable that mascot symbolism serves not only as an outward reflection of the University’s internal cultural identity, but also as an outward projection of the school’s priorities and values.

We are therefore requesting steps be taken to replace the mascot, with the objective of inclusivity and reverence for the heritage of all NMHU students and faculty.

For more information about the book referenced, see UNM Bookstore.

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