University Senate endorses kingfisher mascot in landslide vote


Photo Courtesy of Spencer Hulsey

Spencer Hulsey updated the design for her belted kingfisher mascot idea. Hulsey, 2020 University graduate, saw her mascot design win a nonbinding student body referendum on March 9, then it won the endorsement of University Senate on Monday.

By Aliza Majid

A vast majority of the University Senate voted in favor of an orange-and-blue belted kingfisher as a new mascot for the University at Monday’s meeting. 

The resolution called for Chancellor Robert Jones to adopt a new mascot, condemn public displays of Chief Illiniwek and consider the kingfisher as a potential successor. 

Of the senators present, 105 voted yes for the resolution, two voted no and four abstained. 

Spencer Hulsey, creator of the kingfisher mascot and 2020 graduate of the University, was “apprehensive” about seeing the meeting’s results. 

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said. “No one did.”

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But seeing the count roll in was exhilarating. 

“The live time reaction was intense, because (the votes) went from 50, 60, to 70 and then my friend was like ‘I think we could hit 100,’ and we did,” Hulsey said. “It was so quick. I could not believe it was such a consensus.” 

Hulsey grew up on a farm in Kinmundy, Illinois, where she saw countless birds flock to her pond. One day in mid-2019, Hulsey doodled an Illini-inspired kingfisher and spread her design to a campus subreddit.

With warm responses on multiple University online communities, her design caught the attention of Illinois Student Government. Multiple representatives worked with Hulsey to introduce and gauge the design with the student body.

Back in March, students voted in favor of adopting the kingfisher as a University mascot 4,222 to 3,597 in a non-binding poll, included on the Illinois Student Government ballot. 

Next, Hulsey will try to work with the Chancellor and his committees, as the final decision around a mascot lies with Jones and the UI athletics department. An athlete Q&A panel around the mascot is scheduled for October, Hulsey said. 

The University has been without a mascot for 13 years. Chief Illiniwek’s last official appearance at an athletics event was in February 2007, nearly two years after the NCAA ban of Native American mascots in 2005. 

“A mascot is the face of school spirit from many schools and we need something to represent us,” Hulsey said. “I’m really excited to see how this turns out. I think it’ll be a way for a University to show solidarity by saying that we are committing to the decision we made in 2007 and we mean it.” 

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