I’ve long wondered about our mascot and it’s association with, well, what matadors do. Apparently, someone wrote to President Harrison with similar questions. I was copied on the response, which I found interesting and helpful. I thus though I’d share it here (with minor edits to make it look a bit less like a letter):
The Matador was adopted as CSUN’s official mascot in 1958 by a vote of the student body. The Matador was partly selected because it reflects the Spanish and Latin roots of the local Southern California region. Over the years, the mascot has become integral to the institution’s history and traditions, particularly our athletics program. More recently, the mascot has gained spontaneous momentum of its own through the number of student organizations and groups that use the identity. In 1994, students reaffirmed their support of the Matador as the University’s official mascot by an overwhelming majority.
We are aware of the controversial aspects of the matador and bullfighting. Over the years, we have downplayed and removed any suggestion of violence related to the mascot. No explicit representations of violence against bulls are ever used in association with the figure or image. Several years ago, for example, we removed a sword that used to be part of one of the Matador visual images.
When we commissioned the Matador statue, which was unveiled in 2011, the process was an opportunity to reach out to students, faculty, staff, and others who might have cause to be sensitive to the identity. Partly as a result of that consultation, in providing guidance to prospective artists, we asked for the piece to emphasize the beauty and grace related to the balletic movements of the matador, and to exclude any suggestion of violence. We believe the courage and grace embodied in this type of representation are positive qualities worth emphasizing as they relate to our mission and goals in service to our students. In addition, in many countries and regions, the practice of killing the bulls, or the sport itself, has been outlawed.
We recognize that the image of the matador is not easily separated from the history and realities of bullfighting. We believe, however, that we have found a way to preserve the Matador identity and to respect the wishes of our students and alumni in a way that does not celebrate or endorse violence, particularly against animals, in any way. Our current student body, which is 46% Latino, and our active alumni support our use of the Matador mascot and retain great affection for it as part of the CSUN identity.
We respect your views and feelings on this matter, and hope this letter shows the efforts that have been taken to consult with and respect the wishes of the broader campus community on this issue.