Kingfisher backers to “take it slow,” build alumni support

By Alexandra Gergova, Contributing Writer

Following the majority endorsement of the kingfisher mascot by the University senate on Sept. 22, the proposal’s organizers are refusing to rush the process.

Instead, they’re working to increase student and alumni support prior to officially convening with Chancellor Robert Jones and his administration. 

Because this is the first successful mascot proposal to pass through the University senate, there is no precedent set that delineates an official adoption process. 

Instead, Illinois Student Government’s “kingfisher task force” is now focusing its efforts towards reaching out to various student, athletic and alumni bodies to ensure that no voice is left out, said Dana Yun, chair of the task force and junior in Engineering. 

“A lot of other universities that have implemented new mascots have always left somebody out, whether that be current students, alumni or student-athletes,” Yun said. “We’re trying to take it slow, build up more support and reach out to athletes and alumni.”

In an effort to facilitate a dialogue that resolves misconceptions surrounding the kingfisher mascot within the athletic department and better involve athletes’ opinions, the kingfisher task force will be attending the Student Athlete Advisory Committee meeting on Monday. 

One of the more dominant misconceptions that the task force wishes to address is the belief that “Fighting Illini” will be removed with the adoption of the kingfisher.

“We’re going to keep the name ‘Fighting Illini’ because originally when that name was formed, it didn’t have a chief mascot,” Yun said. “The NCAA allowed us to keep that name as long as we remove any ties with Native American imagery or symbolism.”

The task force is trying to involve more alumni groups in these conversations to increase alumni support, something the administration wishes to see more of prior to an official meeting. 

Spencer Hulsey, creator of the kingfisher mascot and 2020 graduate of the University, said that the alumni demographic has the most mixed opinions toward the mascot, and that their voices will be included in the task force’s discussions.

“People say, ‘Oh you’re not including alumni!’ but this has just grown so much, so quickly, beyond the step that we’ve taken, which is just including the campus before taking it bigger,” Hulsey said. “People are worried we aren’t going to, but we will.”

Yun echoed similar sentiments regarding the inclusion of alumni.

“We’re currently working on reaching out to various alumni networks that exist and also starting to form an alumni committee that we can refer to and bounce ideas off of and discuss with,” she said. 

The task force has planned outreach activities for the student body, like a scavenger hunt via the @kingfisheruiuc Instagram page where students solve riddles referencing landmarks scattered across campus and tag pictures with #KingfisherQuest. 

Yun said some kingfisher merchandise is coming soon, like facemasks and shirts themed around the orange-and-blue bird.  

“This is a new process, so we are still developing it,” Hulsey said. “Including every relevant party is very challenging, and we’re trying to take it slow so we do it correctly.”

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