RetireTheChief logo image A forum for discussion on retiring Chief Illiniwek
Welcome to RetireTheChief Nov. 15, 2004 Vol. 3, No. 12
What honor?
Not a mascot
Media n/a
An Open Letter to the
University of Illinois Board of Trustees

Members of the Board of Trustees
of the University of Illinois:

Why are we here?

You, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, are stewards of one of the greatest Universities in our country. It is an institution that, long after all of us have departed this life, will remain a hallmark of excellence in education and research known around the world.

There are, today, 11 Nobel laureates and 18 Pulitzer prize winners among UIUC faculty and alumni. Enough said.

Why are we here?

The University of Illinois is more important than any one of us in that it does today and will continue in the future to shape generations of bright minds.

It is in this frame of mind that I find the image - of a white University undergraduate student, wearing face paint and a costume, doing splits at halftime at a UIUC football game - quite beyond belief. In the University I imagine, and that I see around me, such a spectacle harms the honorable past, acclaimed present and promising future of this University. In this institution I imagine such a student would be politely, but firmly, ushered off the field and reminded that while football may be a serious game, representing the University of Illinois is not a game of any sort.

Whether you are on the field, or behind a podium, you represent the institution, and the institution deserves better.

Is it economics? Would University donors really withdraw their support should the University change its athletic symbol from the aforementioned college student wearing face paint? What kind of support are we talking about here?

There is always the desire to promote and perpetuate our memories of what is, for so many of us, one of the most exciting and challenging times in our lives. But real support for the University means supporting its future - whatever form that might take.

Rally Nov. 10th

A rally organized by the PRC was held at the Illini Union on Nov. 10th, on the eve of the Board of Trustees meeting the next day. Video will be here soon; for now, audio clips (MP3) from some of the speakers are below.
Darrell Muslim Student Association
Joe (IResist) Brooke Anderson
NAACP Call to sign pledge cards

Continued from left column

Why are we here?

You, the Board of Trustees, are among the best and brightest at what you do. We count among you attorneys, educators, physicians, engineers, politicians, and business professionals. Your standards for yourselves are clearly quite high, as are those of the University under your guidance. You are no strangers to excellence.

How, then, is it possible we are having this conversation? How can an institution mentioned in the same breath as Stanford, MIT, and Cambridge be associated with the visible icon we have today? This is not a matter of political correctness. This is not a matter of activism. It is a matter of excellence. The University is about striving for the very best in so very many ways.

Imagine that we took aside someone strangely unfamiliar with the UIUC, and spent an hour telling them of this institution: of the awards, the impact of its graduates, of its place in history; of names like Beckman and Ebert, Lauterbur and Leggett, and, yes, Grange and Butkus. Imagine we then showed them chief Illiniwek performing "fancy dancing" at halftime. I imagine they would be astonished, as well they should be.

Why are we here? Let us please think of the future, of a place beyond our imagination, but one we know to be defined by greatness and respect the world over.

Brian Jewett
UIUC Ph.D, 1996

Last issue: Divisiveness in an era of consensus

"The list of institutions which have dealt successfully with similar issues is long ... the list of those institutions still attempting to defer or avoid the obvious solution is very short." - NCA report

Remember?      March 15, 2004      Native Americans protest at the University of Illinois

Ten Reasons to Retire The Chief
  • 1. Diversity. We do want a diverse, inclusive atmosphere welcoming of all cultures.
  • 2. Stereotypes. The Chief perpetuates harmful, insulting stereotypes of Native people in a big way.
  • 3. Publicity. The presence of the Chief has brought national disapproval to an outstanding University.
  • 4. Racism. It was not the intention, and no one likes the "R" word, but Native Americans are very upset by the presence of Chief Illiniwek.
  • 5. Children. Powerful stereotypes are particularly harmful to children - their self esteem and school performance.
  • 6. Accuracy. Let's be honest - the Chief isn't the real thing. The dance is part of half-time entertainment.
  • 7. Honor. Native Americans are not honored. Quite the contrary, they have made it clear they are offended by the Chief.
  • 8. NCAA. In case you missed it, the NCAA has made it clear they are unhappy with American Indian mascots.
  • 9. Choices. Potential faculty and students have chosen not to teach or attend the University because of the Chief.
  • 10. Image. Call the Chief a symbol or a mascot - he is a public figure that harms the University's image.

WELCOME This site exists to give a voice to those who believe Chief Illiniwek should be retired, to promote discussion between those who are pro- and anti-Chief, and to encourage a change in policy - to retire the Chief. We want to turn up the volume on the Chief debate. Regardless of your stand on this divisive issue, welcome .