Regarding Chief Illiniwek

By Justin Doran

Our community has been divided on the tradition of Chief Illiniwek since my mother attended the University more than two decades ago. With his retirement on Friday we find ourselves at a turning point in the history of our great institution. It will be easy for those of us who have loved the Chief to resent the unilateral actions of Chairman Eppley, and to begrudge our fellow students who fought against the pro-Chief majority. It will be easy for those who won this victory to feel their convictions affirmed, and the views of their opponents revealed as ignorant and racist. I am writing this letter to illustrate a point which has been heretofore overlooked by those embattled in this debate. We have never truly disagreed on this matter. Those who sought the retirement of the Chief argued in terms of the socio-psychological detriment he inflicted on our campus and abroad. Those who defended him spoke of tradition and fellowship. The impasse we had reached was one of a deep miscommunication about not only the meaning of the Chief, but the meaning of belonging to one of the proudest universities in America. What divided us was perspective, not belief. The value of our traditions is measured not by the content of their practice, but by the esteem and affection we hold for one another. It is my sincere hope that when we join together on the twenty-first of February to sing the Chief’s final Alma Mater, we not only say goodbye to a beloved figure, but to the bitterness this conflict has perpetuated in our spirit.

Justin Doran

senior in LAS