Letter from Dr. Paul Lester

Dear President Charles Kupchella:

I am writing this E-mail message in response to an issue that I have recently been advised of concerning the use of a Native American mascot at your University. As an expert in the field of visual communication--including cultural symbolism and pictorial stereotypes (please feel free to visit my website where I have information concerning two of my books, "Visual Communication Images with Messages" now in its second edition from the Wadsworth Publishing Company and "Images that Injure: Pictorial Stereotypes in the Media" published by Praeger Publishers), I am deeply concerned and disturbed by the lack of cultural sensitivity when it comes to the use of mascot symbols purporting to "honor" members of diverse groups.

Universities should foster a spirit of openness and learning. They should set examples for ethnic and cultural sensitivity. They should not be a place where economic forces or intolerance control decisions that harm those from diverse cultural groups. I urge you to use this volatile issue to help heal the divide between those on your campus rather than create further differences between people. A Native American symbol--no matter how "abstract"--is not an appropriate icon for sporting events. It is a source of great pride and religious symbolism for countless of people--many of those who are not Native American. There are many ways a cultural group can be honored--through scholarships, special courses, endowed chairs, annual symposia, educational resource centers, and so on. I know that the sensitive and intelligent students, faculty, and staff on your campus can resolve this issue to the satisfaction of all.

Thank you for this opportunity to write my opinion. If you have any questions or if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Dr. Paul Lester
Professor of Communications
California State University, Fullerton