Board shows no courage on Chief issue

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Barring an unlikely shift in opinion of the University Board of Trustees or an equally unlikely legal challenge, Chief Illiniwek will no longer perform his dance during halftime of home basketball and football games after tomorrow. While we do believe the decision was in the best interest of the University for a multitude of reasons, the way in which it was done was by no means proper.

Regardless of one’s feelings on the Chief, it cannot be denied that it has been a powerful symbol. For more than eight decades, Chief Illiniwek performed before a crowd of loyal alumni and students attending University sporting events and served as a source of pride for many. Friday’s announcement, however, did not do enough justice to resolve the conflict over a controversy that has dominated this institution for years.

The way the decision was made public was cowardly; done behind closed doors and with minimal exposure to the public as possible. That the NCAA knew of the board’s decision to put an end to the Chief’s performance, as indicated by the first paragraph of the letter from the athletic association to board chairman Lawrence Eppley, received by the board Thursday, is a slap in the face.

Apparently Friday’s decision was one that no trustee was willing to take responsibility for in a setting in which they might encounter students, alumni or members of the community who felt passionately about the issue.

Instead, one of the biggest decisions in this University’s history was announced through a two page press release sent out in the early hours of a Friday morning in an undeniable attempt to bury the story into the weekend. Later, a series of interviews between reporters and Eppley took place at a building in the Research Park, away from the public view.

While it was a good decision to allow the Chief to dance in the final two men’s basketball games, everyone involved in the Chief debate deserves better closure to an issue that has divided this community for so long.

There is the argument that this was the only way the Chief issue could’ve been decided. This hollow defense crumbles when it was the Board’s total mismanagement of the issue that led to this environment in the first place.

All 10 members of the board, President White and other key University administrators should have made a public statement on a weekday during business hours before the members of the press as well as the members of the community. No individual of the campus community, alumni or fan should be happy with the spineless way the board decided to resolve the Chief issue.