Investigation into board action needed

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

Since the decision to end the Chief Illiniwek halftime performance was made Feb. 16 by University Board of Trustees Chair Lawrence Eppley, there has been controversy over whether this was the right thing to do. But now another serious question must be raised: Was this decision legitimate?

The decision had to be made under the authority of the board. The Chief has been defined as an issue for the board by the trustees as well as University administrators for years. A letter from the National Collegiate Athletics Association to Eppley Feb. 15, which indicates that the NCAA was notified of the plan to end the halftime performance, is one of many proofs.

But the decision was not made by the full board, as trustee David Dorris told The Daily Illini Friday. To our knowledge, the only other way a board matter could have been decided in accordance to the board’s bylaws would be through the executive committee, comprised by the board’s chair and two other trustees elected by the board. This committee can meet and make a decision on issues too pressing to wait until the next scheduled board meeting.

However, the bylaws also state that this committee cannot overturn or revise any past votes made by the entire board. If the committee did come together to make the decision to end the halftime performances, then its action appears to be illegitimate; on Oct. 11, 1990, the board voted 7-1 in favor of retaining the Chief as the University’s symbol. The same motion also says the ceremonial dance is “done with grace and beauty.”

Further, the executive committee is not immune from the Illinois Open Meetings Act even if it acted in accordance with its own bylaws. Discussion about the fate of Chief Illiniwek is a matter of public interest. Therefore, the committee is required by law to notify the public where and when it will meet to discuss the Chief at least 48 hours prior.

Most importantly, any decision made on the Chief must be done in public. While the law provides an exemption for “bona fide emergency,” the committee would be hard-pressed to prove that the Chief required such a rapid response; NCAA’s denial of the University’s final appeal was announced April 28, 2006.

We have stated previously that the board failed to reach a “consensus resolution” by making such a sudden and hasty decision to end the Chief performances. But now we must also ask what prompted such a shoddy, incomplete decision made in such a hasty and illegitimate manner. The way this decision was reached, based on what we know now, was a blatant circumvention of the law.

If the Illinois state government is indeed committed to serving the public interest, then the state’s attorney general should launch an investigation into the legality of the decision and find out exactly what happened.