U of I Student Court Hears Chief Illiniwek Case
By Sean Powers
A student Moot Court on the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case related to the U of I’s former symbol, Chief Illiniwek.
Josh Good, a student Senator, maintains that a January survey asking students to choose a new symbol for the U of I violates student government rules, and that the results should not be released. The complaint alleges the survey conflicts with a 2008 student referendum in which nearly 80 percent of ballots cast were for re-instating the Chief as the U of I’s official symbol.
The U of I’s Board of Trustees retired the Chief in 2007 to avoid NCAA sanctions. Over the years, criticism had grown that the Chief was offensive to Native Americans.
The Moot Court has not decided yet on whether to release results of the design survey from January. Student Trustee David Pileski sponsored it, and he said he hopes the results are made public.
“It’s really disheartening that we’re taking a lot of time and effort as students to discredit what other students have tried to do,” Pileski said. “I mean it was essentially a survey. It wasn’t something that was going to the administration, saying we’re going to make the squirrels the official mascot.”
Now that the student court heard arguments in the case, results from another recent survey were released on Wednesday, showing 78 percent of students want the Chief back as the U of I’s official symbol. About 12,000 ballots were cast, according to the Campus Student Election Commission.
Good was behind that survey, which was available for 48 hours last week. He said he is hopeful the results send a message to student leaders and administrators.
“Right now it kind of shows that this is what the students’ feelings on the matter is,” Good said. “So, I think the next issue at play is to make sure that the Illinois Student Senate or the University for that matter doesn’t go about looking for a new mascot when obviously a majority of the students aren’t in favor of that.”
But Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise has said the Chief is not coming back.