Anti-Chief professors mail athletes

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

Some potential University athletic recruits received mailings from a group wanting to ban Chief Illiniwek last month. The group, made up of many University professors and led by Stephen Kaufman, cell and developmental biology professor, plans to continue to send out letters to about 30 other athletes on their list.

Chief Illiniwek, the University symbol who will celebrate its 80th birthday this year, was declared “hostile and abusive” by the NCAA last year. The ruling bans the University from hosting any postseason tournaments.

The decision to send letters, which include names of other organizations who support banning the Chief, came after the Board of Trustees did not discuss the Chief at their recent meeting.

“I was told by a trustee that there was no leadership (on this issue) by the members of the board,” Kaufman said. After the meeting, the group distributed the letters to four potential recruits.

“We’re not telling students not to come here,” said Kaufman, who used to be a basketball and football season ticket holder until he got involved in the movement to ban the Chief. “We’re only sending letters to students who have options.”

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The group compiles its list by looking for students whose names appear in the press, Kaufman said. Those tend to be students recruited for basketball or football. Then, the group just searches the recruits’ contact information on the internet.

Tom Hardy, executive director of University relations, said that the University is not concerned about the actions of Kaufman’s group.

“They’ve done this in the past,” he said.

Hardy said that student athletes choose what school to attend based on a multitude of different factors.

“I don’t think this appears to influence any decisions,” Hardy said.

He also cited the school’s winning basketball, gymnastics and soccer teams as proof that the University continues to get quality athletes despite the Chief controversy.