Champaign News Gazete
UI trustees approve resolution to end Chief Illiniwek
URBANA The University of Illinois Board of Trustees took final action today to eliminate Chief Illiniwek and called on the campus and community to move forward.
Trustees approved a resolution that confirms Board Chairman Lawrence Eppley's action on Feb. 16 announcing the end to the Chief dances and the end to American Indian imagery being associated with the UI and its athletics programs.
David Dorris of LeRoy was the only trustee to vote against the resolution, which the board approved on a voice vote.
"Let's put to rest once and for all what's been done here and go forward," said Trustee Bob Sperling. "This institution has got to come together."
The resolution stated the board "hereby directs the immediate conclusion to the use of Native American imagery as the symbol of the University of Illinois and its intercollegiate athletics along with the related regalia, logo and the names Chief Illiniwek and Chief."
Trustee Francis Carroll and Eppley amended the initial resolution by adding text that revokes the 1990 resolution retaining the Chief as the UI's symbol.
"I'm pleased we have come to this point in this really difficult situation. It's such an emotional issue," said Carroll, who said not a day goes by when she hasn't received a letter, e-mail or call about Chief Illiniwek.
"Hopefully we'll be able to take care of important things like educating the students. We have to move past this event," she said.
She also amended the resolution to direct the chancellor to manage the "final disposition" of the issue and ensure the university complies with the NCAA policy.
The resolution confirms the UI will continue to use the words "Illini and Fighting Illini as they reflect our state, students, faculty, staff and alumni."
Trustees rejected a second resolution that called for the university to join a lawsuit against the NCAA, with Dorris casting the only "aye" vote.
Dorris argued the courts should determine the legality of the NCAA decision, which he called "problematic." Some members of the public will never accept the Chief's elimination unless the matter is heard by an impartial judge, he said.
UI students Dan Maloney and Logan Ponce, who have portrayed Chief Illiniwek this school year, filed a suit against the NCAA in Champaign County last month. A restraining order to prevent the university from eliminating the chief failed, but their lawsuit against the NCAA is still pending.
"I am disappointed, mainly because I still feel like I'm an outsider on this," Maloney said after the board action. "We'll have to go from here and see what happens."
Dorris said he could not vote to eliminate the Chief without somehow maintaining the principles behind it and honoring the people who created it as a symbol of strength, goodness and bravery.
"I can accept change," Dorris said. "What I can't do is dishonor the memory of good people I honor and love. ... They were not racists."
Sperling said he agreed with Dorris that the NCAA acted inappropriately in passing its policy prohibiting postseason competition at schools with hostile or abusive American Indian imagery. But the university should not start spending money that will not go toward what's in the best interests of the university, such as providing support for students.
Sperling said part of him is sad to see the Chief Illiniwek tradition to end, sad that his children and their children won't see the dance, but he never wants to hear what UI student Genevieve Tenoso said ever again.
Tenoso, a UI student and American Indian, stood before the board and said "simply coming to school is an act of courage."
"When someone threatens to put a tomahawk in your face ... when someone would rather butcher you like an animal ... you have to react," Tenoso said, referring to threats posted on the Facebook Web site against students against Chief Illiniwek.
Later Tenoso said she was "a little overwhelmed."
"I was heartened to hear that they recognized that the performance is an anachronism and that it was harmful to the campus and that it was divisive," she said.
After the meeting, UI emeritus professor Stephen Kaufman, a longtime Chief opponent, praised UI president B. Joseph White and Chairman Eppley for their "exemplary leadership" for bringing the resolution to the table today.
Trustee Ken Schmidt asked people on both sides of the issue to think about acceptance.
"When you have acceptance, all prejudice disappears," he said, echoing Sperling's comments that the university needs to move on.