University reverses policy on banned mascot

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November 2, 2007

8:54 AM

__University of Illinois’s mascot seen at homecoming after admin approval__

University of Illinois mascot Chief Illiniwek was allowed to return for the homecoming celebration parade this past weekend, in a surprising turn of events driven by the university administration.

p. In the same February ruling by the National Collegiate Athletic Association that caused the College to lose its logo feathers, Chief Illiniwek, a buckskin-wearing American Indian, was also banned.

p. However, in order to protect free speech at the university, Chancellor Richard Herman reversed the existing policy and stated that Chief Illiniwek’s logo could appear on the side of homecoming floats in the parade that took place last Friday.

p. The parade drew thousands of university students; almost half wore some sort of Chief Illiniwek logo. No one in the crowd protested the use of the logo.

p. “The university values free speech and free expression and considers homecoming floats, decorations, costumes and related signage all representations of such personal expression,” a university press release said.

p. In February, Chief Illiniwek was banned after the NCAA passed a policy in which athletic programs using “abusive imagery” could not be hosts for post-season games. The policy also banned the use of nicknames having to do with American Indians by coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members or anyone else directly related to a sports game.

p. Chief Illiniwek had been under fire for some time. Although the NCAA policy served as the final verdict for the mascot, some had been calling for the elimination of Chief Illiniwek since the late 1980s, including the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, a coalition of American Indian dignitaries and activists.

p. “The effort to remove Chief Illiniwek was never about the mascot,” Vice President of the Coalition Charlene Teters said on her website. “It was and remains to be about racism.”

p. In 1991, the university’s own student government found that the mascot was discriminatory and called for its elimination.
The most recent decision has left most students understanding of the issues at hand, but wanting a solid decision by the administration of whether or not to keep the mascot.

p. “I love the chief and I wish it was still here, but I also understand how it can be offensive,” senior Haley Beenenga said. “Now I want to know, is he around or not around? Clearly, it’s hard to get rid of something that’s been around so long.”

p. At the College, the release of a new logo at homecoming was postponed due to trademark and technical issues. A time has still not been set for the unveiling of the logo. However, the logo committee said that it remains pleased with the result.

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