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The Chief


Students vote in favor of Chief Illiniwek

By Mary Johnson | Staff writer
Published Friday, March 19, 2004

The majority of students have voted in favor of keeping Chief Illiniwek as the mascot for the University.

The Illinois Student Government (ISG) unofficial election results show more than 13,000 students voted on the Chief issue. According to the results, 31 percent of the students voted in favor of retiring the Chief, while 69 percent voted to keep him.

Sixty two percent of the voters also supported increasing the Cultural Programming fee to $2 per semester in order to fund Asian American programming. The fee already funds the Native American, Latino and African American programming.

Although the majority of the votes did not go to retiring the Chief, members of the Progressive Resource/Action Cooperation do see a victory.

"It's a victory knowing that almost a third voted in favor of getting rid of the Chief," said Bryana French, PRC spokeswoman and graduate student. "While we may be the minority, the majority is not always right ... I feel we are right in our struggle. The name and the mascot are offensive."

Other students do not see the Chief as an offensive symbol.

"The Chief is a respected and honored tradition," said Nick Klitzing, external vice-president of Students for Chief Illiniwek. "The Chief embodies qualities such as dignity, respect, honor, bravery, courage, and the students have spoken. This is what they say."

Amanda Ashley, junior in business and Chief supporter, said she would not have voted in the ISG election if it were not for the Chief referendum on the ballot. She said she hopes results in favor of keeping Chief Illiniwek will end the issue on campus.

"This is the first time I have voted in the University elections," Ashley said. "This vote was important to me, and I wanted to voice my opinion on the Chief ... I'm hoping the school will leave the issue alone now. There are more important issues on this campus to be dealt with."

Klitzing said the referendum vote is a good representation of the students' opinion.

"Everyone had the chance to vote. It was very easily done online, so it is a very fair representation," he said.

Lindsay Morgan, junior in LAS and Chief opponent, said the majority vote in support of the Chief might be a result of students' misunderstanding of the issue.

"People are misinformed as to what the issue stands for," Morgan said. "They do not understand why people are anti-Chief ... They do not understand that it is a tradition based on negative stereotypes."

French said the PRC will continue to educate people on the issue of Chief Illiniwek.

"We want people to see why this mascot is so offensive and so hurtful to Native Americans," French said. "We want people to know why we are so against it and why we are so committed."

Chief supporters and opponents are both pushing for a vote from the Board of Trustees. French said the issue will continue to divide the campus until there is a vote.

"We are putting pressure on the Board of Trustees to vote and will continue to do that until the Chief is gone," French said.

Klitzing said he wants the board to consider the results when making a decision.

"A clear majority of the students have said they want the Chief to stay as the symbol of the University of Illinois," Klitzing said. "We hope the Board of Trustees accepts these results and considers them in their decision."

 




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