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Faculty, Student Committee Approves Chief Illiniwek Resolution

Chief Illiniwek

University of Illinois graduate student Dan Maloney, portrays mascot Chief Illiniwek at halftime of the Illinois-Northwestern basketball game at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill. on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007. (John Dixon/AP)

A committee of University of Illinois students and faculty on the Urbana campus passed a resolution on Wednesday, re-affirming its stance that Chief Illiniwek is an “inappropriate symbol” for the U of I.

The measure comes in response to a plan introduced earlier this month by the Council of Chiefs to bring the Chief back.

U of I Professor Nicholas Burbules, who sponsored the resolution, said efforts to resurrect the retired symbol have been a distraction for the university community.

“I think a lot of people feel that it would be going back and re-visiting and re-opening some old wounds that really don’t need to be re-opened right now,” Burbules said. “We have much bigger issues challenging us as a campus right now - challenges and opportunities – and I think we should be focusing on how we are going to move forward as a campus together in a unified way.”

Over the years, criticism had grown that Chief Illiniwek was offensive to Native Americans, and in 2007, the U of I’s Board of Trustees ended its appearances to avoid NCAA sanctions.

Burbules said he hopes his resolution, which received unanimous support from the Senate Executive Committee, drums up support for finding a new symbol.

Recent U of I grad Jim Maskeri sits on the committee, and he said he hopes Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise directs committee members to search for a new “mascot” or “symbol.” 

However, Maskeri added that the history of Chief Illiniwek should not be forgotten, and he hopes Wise maintains ”the proud tradition and history of the Chief in some way on campus. ”

“I do think that the Chief is an integral part of our history as an institution, and that memory shouldn’t ever be eradicated,” Maskeri said. “I favor a direction of filling the void we currently have because I think it’s toxic to the university community, to our alumni, to our faculty, to our students.”

Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise has said that the Chief is not coming.

Last week, results were released from a disputed 2011 student survey asking students about finding a new mascot to replace Chief Illiniwek. Out of 11,440 students who responded, 15 percent did not want a new mascot, while the rest indicated that they would support a change.

Categories: Education, History