Although the UTRGV Student Government Association approved a resolution April 8 to use “Vaquera” when referring to female students, the University of Texas System says the term does not need the board of regents’ approval to be used or trademarked.
In an email sent to The Rider last Wednesday, UT System Public Affairs Specialist Melanie Thompson wrote:
“The University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously approved ‘Vaqueros’ as the official athletic nickname/mascot for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at its Nov. 6, 2014 meeting. We spoke with our Office of General Counsel and since it is only a slight variation of the name, ‘Vaquera’ can be used and trademarked without the board of regents approval.”
Denisse Molina-Castro, the newly elected SGA president, said the next step in the resolution is meeting with UTRGV administration.
“We’re at the process of meeting with the administration,” Molina-Castro said. “We’re hoping to set up a meeting with our administration, like [UTRGV President Guy] Bailey, Student Success and with the Athletics Department to see how we can go on board.”
The resolution also seeks to have the soon-to-be-designed mascots represent all genders “adequately” in merchandise sold by the school and emails sent to the university community.
Asked if the resolution had been presented to him, Bailey replied: “No, it hasn’t but I did hear about it. Here’s the grain from my point of view. When we made Vaquero the mascot, we also made Vaquera. In other words, in my understanding, when we passed it, all forms of the word [were passed as well]. … Vaquera is already part of our mascot. I don’t know how widely people use it and the students may not be aware of that. But, from my point of view, the resolution is fine with me. I don’t see any issue there.”
Priscilla Martinez, a mass communication junior, said she supports the Vaquera resolution.
“Any type of moving forward is a great outcome in any shape or form,” Martinez said. “I don’t why this is an issue if it’s something that should have been squashed since day one.”
Martinez said she doesn’t feel the Athletics Department represents the UTRGV female population when it refers to women athletes as “Vaqueros.”
“Even in the banners that you see, ‘We play for you’–I think is one of their little mottos–how exactly are they playing for us if they’re disregarding our language?” she said.
The Rider tried several times between April 19 and press time Thursday to contact Athletics Director Chris King for comment via telephone, email and in person but was not granted an interview.
Bailey told The Rider he supports whatever female students or athletes want to be referred as.
“From my point of view, the female athletes can be called what they want to be called,” he said. “It’s up to them to choose how they self-identify. As far as I’m concerned, this is a matter for the female athletes to decide. I’ll support them, whatever their decision is.”
Martinez said the use of the term “Vaquera” should not be an issue as it is part of the culture in the Rio Grande Valley.
“I would expect these issues to be brought up with somebody that doesn’t know any better,” Martinez said. “They don’t know the language, they don’t know the history, they don’t know their surroundings, but this is the university in the Rio Grande Valley. This is Valley 101. This is something that comes with the language. It comes with the territory and, you know, Guy Bailey, he promised a lot of things and none are being fulfilled so you just need to be accountable to what you promised and, especially, if more of the students are demanding it, not just 100 athletes. I think the 29,000 of the rest of the students are more important than only 100 of the female athletes.”