Thursday, October 13, 2005

University of Illinois: Brave on the Mascot Issue?

In a post on the silly vendetta that the NCAA has agains Indian mascots, we stated that “the administration at Illinois has been much more willing to stand up the the politically correct crowd than the Marquette administration.” That drew a response from an alumnus of the University of Illinois who isn’t at all impressed with his school’s administration.
As an alumnus of the University of Illinois and an unabashed Chief Illiniwek supporter, allow me to give a differing opinion. Our Board of Trustees has been spineless in the face of any attack on Chief. Our Adminstration building was literally occupied by an anti-Chief group (yes, think 1960’s occupation) and our former Chancellor (Dr. Nancy Cantor, currently at Syracuse) did nothing to sanction these people. A lot of time has passed since the NCAA came out with their ruling, yet we have heard virtually nothing from the board-however, the did adopt a resolution stating that Chief’s appearances must be balanced against providing our teams an opportunity to “compete at the highest level.” This resolution leads many to believe that the Board may abandon Chief as he will prevent women’s basketball team (among others) from hosting NCAA events. Interestingly, no information was ever given about the sponsor of the resolution nor who seconded the motion. Our board’s most recent appointee (by Governor Rod Blagovich) was a woman who’s entire experience in education seems to be as a developer of “The Diversity Game.” The majority leader of the Illinois State Senate, Emil Jones, has publicly called for a review of the University’s budget if they do not discontinue use of Chief Illiniwek. All of this leads me to believe that our administration is merely looking for a convenient excuse to drop Chief and blame others in an attempt to avoid public backlash.

While I am not a lawyer, I agree that a lawsuit would seem like a slam dunk. IMHO, the NCAA cannot find Chief Illiniwek “hostile and abusive” yet grant a pass to Chief Osceola of Florida State (who uses a flaming spear). To the general public, no difference can be discerned. And this does not even consider the Aztec symbol of San Diego State University, who was not sanctioned as the Aztecs are not originally from the United States. But I don’t believe the Illinois administration has the gumption to file a lawsuit. Our hopes for judicial relief mostly rest with the people of Florida and North Dakota.
In our own defense, we didn’t say the University of Illinois was a model of bravery in standing up to the politically correct crowd. We only said it was better than Marquette. Faint praise for Illinois.

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