One last chance for students to speak on Chief

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Most likely, students have received a mass e-mail that reminds them to vote in student elections that are now open online until 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. Along with dozens of candidates for seats in the Illinois Student Senate, the Student Organization Resource Fee, or SORF, board and student trustee, three referendum questions will be decided.

Among these is “Do you support the reinstatement of Chief Illiniwek as the symbol of the University of Illinois?”

Of course, the administration has given no indication that such thing will happen despite the outcome of the vote.

Additionally, it is worth noting that the Board of Trustees is under no legal obligation to go along with the results for this or the other two referendums dealing with study abroad funding and the renewal of the cultural programming fee.

But after another year of argument following the Chief’s retirement, students have the chance to voice their opinion. A secret ballot has the potential to produce the most quantitative results of the student body’s feelings on the matter. And realistically, this is probably the last opportunity for such a measure.

While the methods in which the Chief was retired were assailed, one of the biggest complaints made by Chief supporters was that students weren’t consulted in the process. One year later, that criticism can be answered by action.

Beyond the pro-Chief, anti-Chief divide, there is the more basic question of how important the issue is in the first place. If the question is approved yet there is low turnout – as in most student elections – it would not be unreasonable to assume that the issue is no longer as potent as it once was.

However, no one can dispute that the Chief issue has the potential to mobilize students and get them to actively participate in University governance. While the outcome of the vote has no legal weight, it would be a healthy expression of opinion and in some small way, be an assurance that people are still paying attention.

Despite the inconsequential nature of the vote, it would be a mistake to say that it doesn’t matter. It matters because students should still have a voice in the process, whether they love, hate or couldn’t care less about Chief Illiniwek.

After this vote, it’s unclear what will become of the Chief. While it’s likely that he will fade into memory, the enthusiasm students displayed can be called upon in the future when the next great debate needs the voice of campus to speak. So vote today and Wednesday. While there’s little to gain, there’s nothing to lose either.