The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Chief Illiniwek "An Embarrasment"

By Margaret Lyons in News on Aug 26, 2004 6:22PM

2004_08_26.chief.jpgThe University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign got slammed yesterday in a report from its accrediting agency, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The report says that the continued use of mascot Chief Illiniwek and the tremendous controversy around that use had started to erode the academic integrity of the institution. “The rate and amount of damage to the institution will continue to accelerate if the issue is not addressed decisively and soon,” the report reads, and it cites two major problems that surround the debate: it pits students and faculty against university administrators and board members, and that it hinders recruiting efforts targeted to minority students and faculty. It's also pitting students against each other: last March, only 31 percent of students at UIUC voted to retire the Chief.

The report also suggests that situation has affected the UIUC's search for a new president and ability to fill faculty leadership positions—“at least one candidate for a leadership position in minority affairs expressed the view that one of the reasons for his not accepting the position was the use of the Chief as a symbol.”

The report really pulls out all the stops, claiming “The real issue here is a troubling failure of enlightened leadership,” and while U of I’s accreditation hasn’t changed, the committee will revisit the issue in 2006. The report is brief and worth reading; there’s nothing like incredulous, angry academic writing. Sigh. We especially love the two-page addendum, which includes these juicy bits:

Continued use of the symbol is manifestly inconsistent with the university’s demonstrated achievements in offering experiences and respect programs by and about minorities including Native Americans.

Times change. Values and practices change. As the nation has moved over the last century to de-legitimize and reduce discrimination against minorities, it has become less tolerant of the use of stereotypes and language regarded as offensive by minorities and many others. If UIUC continues on course, it will be increasingly out of step with the times.

…[The authors of this report urge] the Board of Trustees to recognize the substial adverse impact of this symbol upon the educational mission and success of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, find some appropriate and dignified way to ‘retire’ the chief, and make the decision to discontinue the use of the symbol.

Can I get an amen?