Chancellor Robert Jones announced the commission he appointed to discuss native imagery will not focus on actually selecting a mascot for the University, but rather help establish a path towards it.
Jones said the point of the committee is not to name a new mascot. The panel is working to develop a process for creating new traditions to replace the void left by the Chief’s discontinuation, but they will not be in charge of naming a mascot.
The Chancellor’s Commission on Native Imagery: Healing and Reconciliation specifically focuses on Native American imagery and how the history of Chief Illiniwek impacted the University climate. The team consists of 17 members, that includes students, faculty and alumni.
Jones appointed the commission to talk about suggestions from his Critical Conversation on Chief Illiniwek. The chancellor began his Critical Conversation series last fall to establish a collaborative way to talk about the University.
Aejis Poe, sophomore in Business and identifies using they/them pronouns, said they believes the Chief was a racist caricature of indigenous culture.
Poe said it is disrespectful to Native American people, especially given the oppression they still face in society today.
“I’m glad that the Chief is officially gone, but I feel like the school should still do more to try to erase its lingering presence,” Poe said.
In his State of the University Address last year, Jones said the Critical Conversation series was presented as “a way to speak directly about our campus climate together” and a method of leading the school to “solutions that improve the climate for everyone in ways that lead to a cohesive, collaborative and welcoming community.”
There were four Critical Conversations on the topic of Native Imagery this past April and May. More than 600 students, faculty, staff, community members and alumni attended the meeting to discuss the tradition of Chief Illiniwek on campus 11 years after its departure.
Poe said it is good that the committee is working to resolve the issue and still raise school spirit without the Chief, whether this is through creating a new mascot or not.
Eric Jolly, convener and co-chair of the Chancellor’s Commission on Native Imagery, knew Jones before he was appointed to the committee. The two met when Jolly was in charge of the Minnesota Science Museum and Jones was working at the University of Minnesota.
Jolly said he had been working with Jones’ leadership team on understanding issues of race and cultural identity. The team wanted to pursue a larger focus on the issues they were facing with the symbol of Chief Illiniwek and asked Jolly to join the commission.
The Commission is planning on accepting internet-based reflections on people’s perspectives regarding the symbolism of Chief Illiniwek and the impact it has had on campus.
Essentially, Jolly said, rather than looking to name a new mascot, the commission is working to help the Chancellor move forward to promote alternatives in achieving expression and demonstrating school unity.
“We are going to hopefully provide a guided path and not a solution; the solution belongs in the hands of the students, fans and alumni,” Jolly said.
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