Faculty targets `Chief'

February 28, 2001


The fight over Chief Illiniwek could get uglier next week.

A University of Illinois faculty group is considering a campaign that would target athletes and discourage them from attending the school unless the controversial symbol is removed.

"That's part of what's under discussion now," professor Stephen Kaufman said Tuesday.

Kaufman, a professor of cell and structural biology, said the group's plan to escalate the fight against the Chief will be revealed at a news conference Monday.

"How we will we go about trying to influence student-athletes is going to be multifaceted," said Kaufman, part of a faculty group that is working in cooperation with the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media.

Illinois basketball coach Bill Self and football coach Ron Turner, who have tried to walk an increasingly thin line in the Chief debate, said they hoped faculty members wouldn't discourage recruits.

"Having only been here for six or eight months, I'm not as up on this situation as other people," Self said. "I haven't taken a stance on it. But I would be very disappointed if anybody that works at our university would try to discourage students from coming to school here, whether they are student-athletes or not.

"We have a tremendous university here, with a great tradition. It would be especially disturbing to me if anybody would say negative things about our program that are unfounded because they have nothing to do with what's going on inside the basketball program."

Turner also was caught off guard by the possibility that faculty members might be working against him.

"Obviously, that's not something we would want," Turner said. "There are other ways to go about trying to get something done."

Turner said he hasn't noticed the apparently growing faculty unrest about the Chief while going about his job.

"It is a difficult issue," Turner said. "But the majority of the faculty and staff at this university have been very supportive of what we're doing with our student-athletes. I really appreciate the support they have given us."

The Faculty/Student Senate voted 97-29 on March 9, 1998, to recommend that Chief Illiniwek be retired. A petition signed by more than 800 faculty members urges that the university stop using a race-based symbol,Kaufman said.

The university recently rejected an offer by the U.S. Justice Department to mediate the dispute, saying there is nothing to mediate yet because its trustees are studying the issue.

"The faculty are so much in favor of ending this," Kaufman said. "They go around the world and they're the subject of ridicule. They would all welcome [dropping the Chief], and so would the upper
administration here. All this has been incredibly bad public relations for the University of Illinois.

"We will all move on ahead. We will have a new symbol and mascot for our sports teams that's appropriate for all people to rally around."