Vice chancellor responds to Senate’s concerns over ‘Next Dance’ e-mails

The Illinois Student Senate welcomed comments from the public on the issue regarding Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano and “The Next Dance” event Wednesday evening.

On Jan. 27, The Daily Illini reported that the Director of Intercultural Relations Anna Gonzalez, former Chancellor Richard Herman, Romano, and other University administrators had written over 50 e-mails about the event. “The Next Dance,” which is hosted by registered student organization Students for Chief Illiniwek, was discussed because the administrators wanted to prevent the group from using Assembly Hall during Homecoming weekend.

The proposed resolution requested that the Board of Trustees and the University ethics officer review the Office of Student Affairs and other University offices to ensure that administrators “conduct themselves with the highest degree of integrity and honor.”

Romano spoke during public comment at the meeting.

“When the chief dances in the Assembly Hall, its very confusing to the University and the community,” Romano said.

She added that it brings up questions of whether the chief is truly retired.

“I don’t regret trying to balance the need of a student organization and the University’s decision in March of 2007 to retire the chief,” Romano said. “I do regret some of the words and phrases that were in those e-mails; I do regret students believing that I am a barrier to student rights when I have defended the rights of students.”

Romano left immediately after her speech and was not present for questions from ISS members.

She added that: “We (Romano and other administrators) struggled with the issue as I’m sure you struggle with issues. In this struggle, you might write e-mails back and forth. You might have conversations talking with students on your way to class or texting …and many of those conversations you may not intend for those to be published or on the radio.”

Anthony Keel, president of Students for Chief Illiniwek, said that he supports the resolution but was not there to debate on the issue of the chief’s retirement.

“It’s unfortunate that people are trying to tie that to our issue, but the issue I wanted to talk about is that the fact that our rights were trampled on,” Keel said.

Rob Scott, graduate student in Educational Policy, said he did not think this issue was suppressed because it is discussed on campus frequently.

Scott also suggested that the resolution was only proposed as a result of the upcoming student senate elections.

“What’s obviously happening is that they are using this resolution to politicize the upcoming student senate elections,” Scott said. “I think it’s disingenuous that they’re really concerned about constitutional breaches of speech.”

David Wall, vice president external for ISS and University trustee candidate, said this was not the case.

“The reason why it was brought up is because it didn’t break until three or four weeks ago,” Wall said. “It wasn’t me who chose the timing, it was whoever enacted the FOIA requests and put them online.”

Wall said the student senate will continue discussion of the resolution on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m. in the ISS office, which is located at 250 Illini Union.