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Confusion follows retiring of ‘War Chant’

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Confusion follows retiring of ‘War Chant’

Members of the Marching Illini cheer on the Illini during the game against North Carolina at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 10.

Members of the Marching Illini cheer on the Illini during the game against North Carolina at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 10.

Austin Yattoni

Members of the Marching Illini cheer on the Illini during the game against North Carolina at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 10.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Members of the Marching Illini cheer on the Illini during the game against North Carolina at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 10.

While neither student government members nor Illini Pride officials were included in the discussions, the University has retired the “Fighting Illini War Chant” from being played at sporting events, Kent Brown, associate director of athletics and media relations, said on Friday.

The dismissal of the chant — which was directly tied to the school’s old mascot Chief Illiniwek — was mostly discussed between University administration, the Athletic Department and leaders of the Marching Illini. Members of the Native American and Indigenous Student Organization, or NAISO, were in talks as well.

The NAISO declined to comment, but did release an official statement regarding its thoughts on the retiring, saying the organization was “pleased to hear that the University has made the decision to remove the war chant during sporting events.”

“We have had the opportunity to speak to members and leaders of the Marching Illini, and while we were personally not involved in final decision of removing the war chant, we are inspired to see how committed the band leaders are to promoting school spirit and making sure that we feel welcome during their performances,” the statement said.

Sam LeRoy, senator in student government, said he wasn’t sure who made the ultimate decision, but plans to ask Chancellor Robert Jones at Monday’s Senate Executive Committee meeting.

“I have a lot of questions for him about the process that went into this,” LeRoy said. “It’s really unlikely that a decision would have been made without at least the support of the Chancellor, if not driven by the Chancellor.”

LeRoy was unaware that NAISO was in talks with anyone regarding the chant. Other student officials said they weren’t involved either.

“Student government was not invited to any conversation regarding that,” said Raneem Shamseldin, student body president.

While Illini Pride respects the University’s retirement of the chant, they said it still came as a surprise.

“Nobody told us beforehand. If someone had we obviously wouldn’t have played it,” said Illini Pride President Ross Drucker. “It’s not like we tried to push the envelope. We respect that decision, but we were just kind of caught off guard.”

Brown said the decision came about in efforts to become more inclusive at games, adding the chants weren’t doing the job of hyping up a crowd as they were supposed to. Drucker said this was “an interesting way of phrasing it.”

“I think what happened, if it wasn’t truly engaging, the chant wasn’t deployed or utilized in the right way,” Drucker said, adding it’s better at basketball games for intimidating the competitors than at a soccer match.

“In some situations he’s right, but I think it really did have its moments where it worked very well,” Drucker added.

Yet, ultimately, Drucker said his organization is focused on school pride rather than fighting the retirement.

“It is our job to provide students with the best game day spirit,” Drucker said.

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