UI trustees discuss 'war chant' in closed session

UI trustees discuss 'war chant' in closed session

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URBANA — University of Illinois trustees apparently had something to say about the decision to stop the "war chant" music at UI athletic events, but they didn't do it in public.

The board discussed the matter in closed session at the start of Thursday's UI Board of Trustees meeting, specifically the process that Chancellor Robert Jones and Athletic Director Josh Whitman used to make the decision — and whether they should have discussed it with trustees.

Both Jones and Whitman attended the closed session.

Officials wouldn't disclose details of the discussion, though it was clear trustees were divided about the war chant.

"Some were not totally happy, (for) others it was not a big issue, as you would expect from a diverse board," said board chairman Tim Koritz, who declined to offer his opinion.

Koritz said the discussion of the Chief and Native American symbols is "emotionally charged on both sides."

"I think on anything this sensitive, it's a good idea to consult the board before those kinds of decisions are made," Koritz said after Thursday's meeting. "I'll just leave it at that."

UI officials pointed to the board of trustees' 2007 resolution to end the use of Chief Illiniwek and related Native American imagery, which directed the chancellor to "manage the final disposition of these matters and report the decisions back to the board."

University Legal Counsel Tom Bearrows said the closed-door discussion was permissible because of the "personnel" exception in the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

It allows public bodies to meet in closed session to consider "the appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity."

"The decisions that were made involving the war chant involved specific personnel in the performance of their duties. There's an explicit exception to the open meetings act for that," Bearrows told The News-Gazette on Thursday.

The decision to drop the music was made by Jones in consultation with Whitman and Marching Illini director Barry Houser last spring, but it wasn't publicly announced. They said the music wasn't motivating fans at football games, was being used less and less, and was considered offensive by some.

The news became public via social media after a unnamed member of the athletic department stopped two students from playing the war chant's drum beat at a UI soccer match on Aug. 24.

An athletic department spokesman said at the time there wasn't a plan to announce the decision publicly. Whitman said later that he was still informing coaches of the change and determining how to handle the first UI football game.

Asked if the board would consider overturning the decision, UI spokesman Tom Hardy said, "I don't have a sense that that would happen," and Koritz agreed.

"There may not be agreement on doing away with or keeping the chant, but there's certainly a consensus by everybody, including the chancellor and the director of athletics, that this matter could have been handled better," Hardy said.

UI President Tim Killeen was caught off-guard when the news broke last month.

"This particular issue came out in a strange way," through social media, and there was no opportunity for "clear communication," Killeen told WDWS on Thursday.

Killeen said he generally leaves those issues to the campus, saying "we've got great leadership" in Jones, Whitman and Houser.

"They're much closer to the action, so I'm not interfering in the conversations about those decisions," Killeen said.

Several trustees, including newly appointed Stuart King of Champaign, declined to comment on the issue after Thursday's meeting.

Trustee James Montgomery said his response to a colleague who asked him about it was, "What's the war chant?"

"Quite candidly, I don't think it has a hell of a lot to do with anything other than resurrecting issues that have been festering for a long time," said Montgomery, the only UI trustee who was on the board when the Chief was retired a decade ago.

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Lostinspace wrote on September 08, 2017 at 9:09 am

Nice to know that, with all important iaaues solved, we can relax and chat about trivia.

rsp wrote on September 08, 2017 at 9:09 am

University Legal Counsel Tom Bearrows said the closed-door discussion was permissible because of the "personnel" exception in the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

I don't think this qualifies. Are they seriously going to meet to discuss what music is played at every game? There's one Sarurday. Did they go over the plays for the team? No board micro-manages this closely.

This wasn't about someone's job performance, it was about the war chant. It should have been in public. Get those minutes!

C in Champaign wrote on September 08, 2017 at 10:09 am

It is unlikely that this is a discussion about the use, or not of the song, or the decision to ban its use. That ship has now sailed. I would guess that it will be a discipline or performance discussion with Robert Jones, and Josh Whitman as to process employed in making the decision, and the lack of cunsultation with, and/or communication of the decision with the board, and Dr. Killeen. (Although I find it difficult to believe that Dr. Killeen was so unaware.) So, yes, it most likely qualifies for closed session.

leospice wrote on September 08, 2017 at 9:09 am

I finally understand the definition of a "snowflake." It is someone who has a song "taken away" from them and they throw a toddler-like tantrum to get it back. It isn't offensive...TO YOU. But if you aren't Native American, you don't get to decide what, about the Chief's theme song, is offensive. You can still go to games and you WILL survive without the song. Get off your soap box and stop telling people to "get over" something that is personal and offensive TO THEM.

The athletic director decided. The chancellor decided. Move on.

Tom Napier wrote on September 08, 2017 at 1:09 pm

Rich in irony, coming from someone who finds four drum beats so offensive.

CallSaul wrote on September 08, 2017 at 3:09 pm

As opposed to you, Tom, who refuse to repudiate your assertion that the 'smiling and happy' Aunt Jemimah caricature is not at all racist but in fact shows great respect and honor.


Which is of course just what you say about the equally racist moldy old chicken feather 'chief' mascot.'

It's no surprise that someone who doesn't accept that Aunt Jemimah is racist would also have no problem with the moldy old racist chicken feather 'chief' mascot...

Common Sense wrote on September 08, 2017 at 10:09 am

Do you mean in the same way that all the real snowflakes have moved on from the presidential election?

The voters decided, Trump won, yet they can't get on with their life?

Music is just that, music. It isn't owned by anyone, or restricted by anyone, it's there for the public, whoever wants to use it. Get over it.

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on September 08, 2017 at 11:09 am

I gonna guess that Jones and Whitman got their hand spanked and they said that they are sorry and its time to move on...............Hopefully both are gone in a few years when FB is still miserable and he spent a ton of cash to get a guy here who doesnt seem to like it here.


But the question I have........... since the MI took the song from a tv show, do they owe the jingle writer some money?

honor9chief wrote on September 08, 2017 at 11:09 am

Blah blah blah is what we hear coming from the once great University whom continues to attack  Native Americans. Truly I can say that 2 important occurances in my lifetime regarding sports, Cubs winning the World Series and the destruction of the once great University to a hypocritical marxists filled with haters of American traditions. The U can be proud of yourselves for starting what we see across our country today. So throw that out there about how inclusive the U is when they allow t-shirts, cardboard leprechaun beards and images making fun of the Irish descendants. That's ok right?  I see those students with ILLINI on their uniforms THAT needs to be changed along with any other remnants of the past of a U that once supported Native Americans for decades. You know what's up next? ALL OF THE GREAT ATHLETES WHO ATTENDED THE U PRIOR WERE RACISTS BECAUSE THAT'S WHEN THEY HAD THAT DISGUSTING NATIVE AMERICAN. That is what they are teaching. Change the name to Illinois, change the music, change any affiliation to the past great history. Don't spit in the face of all those great Alumni. In fact I would suggest going to the MAC because you aren't Big Ten caliber anymore and we can get another great football tradition Norte Dame. So they need to retrain the students to yell GO ILLINOIS NOT FIGHTING ILLINI, THEY DIED 2007 

BruckJr wrote on September 08, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Were any pink slips issued?

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on September 08, 2017 at 4:09 pm



I take it that you are supporting a boycott of Quaker Oats right?


She is still on the brand label


move on snowflake.


How is that GWTW boycott going for ya?




I have noted that you no longer speak in all caps.  Someone spank you about that?   I also noted that your no longer screaming about POTUS 45............... you know the one who has told Congress to act within 90 agreeing with Chuck and Nancy. You havent said much about that either.

CallSaul wrote on September 08, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Weird giberish as usual...

Got a link of me writing in all caps...?

Notsoaveragejoe wrote on September 08, 2017 at 5:09 pm

I have native blood and fully support the war chant and the chief. It is powerful to watch this imagery inspire a crowd as they engage in the lost art of ritual. There is no option to find another mascot as the tradition here is too deep. I hope the dictatorial move by campus leadership is met with sanctions of some sort. We don't need to make overly sensitive noise and suffer the fallout like Missouri and Evergreen. Our institution has enough bad press. If snowflakes are offended at the game they should pop in some ear plugs, use the restroom, or stay home and cook tofu.

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on September 08, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Happens all the time Sollie................  hey...... what are your thoughts on the Dreamers act.. was the President right aloing with Chuck and Nancy?

CallSaul wrote on September 08, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Actually, it doesn't. But why should you be right about that when pretty much everything else you say is also false...?

If it happens so much, providing links to prove me wrong should be trivial...

You won't of course be able to provide links but will instead, as usual, come back with more giberish in 3...2...1...


MazingGracie wrote on September 09, 2017 at 2:09 am

CallSaul.... May I ask what your ancestry or heritage is? Just curious with your chicken feather comment. We don't use chicken feathers.....

CallSaul wrote on September 09, 2017 at 11:09 am

Fired up the old account again, huh...?

Well, leaving aside for the moment that anyone can say anything about themselves on the internet as well as the fact that many people who claim to be Native Americans in debates like this had, according to family lore, a great grandmother who was 1/128 Cherokee, your and my claimed or actual ancestries are irrelevant...

Yes, actual Indians don't use chicken feathers. That's why the racist fake Dancin' Injun mascot is relegated to using chicken feathers as opposed to an authentic headdress...

read the DI wrote on September 08, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Complete and utter micromanagement. Why spend all that money on executives and then criticize them for making decisions?

MazingGracie wrote on September 09, 2017 at 2:09 am

NotSoAverageJoe.... Thank you!! I've been saying this myself!! Being Native American I find pride in the fact Native people are celebrated and in the history of the Chief no one who has ever been Chief has brought shame down on our symbol. The portrayors are taught our customs, rituals and dances and they respect every one. Do I wish they would have a true Native American be the Chief? Sure, but again they have never brought shame on us so why not?

Tom Napier wrote on September 09, 2017 at 10:09 am

Unfortunately, CallSaul and a few others will repel your words like water off a duck's back.  For some reason they cannot (or stubbornly refuse to) acknowledge that there are Native Americans who feel Chief Illiniwek is a positive symbol symbol for the University of Illinois.  Perhaps, because your opinion conflicts with his/her paradigm, you're not worthy of his/her respect, as evidenced by his obsession with chicken feathers. 

If you reply to a CallSaul comment again, you might remind him/her about Ivan Dozier. 


CallSaul wrote on September 09, 2017 at 10:09 am

Oh, Tom...

Still refusing to repudiate your ridiculous claim that 'smiling and happy' Aunt Jemimah wasn't at all racist...?

C'mon on, tell us all about your deeply held belief that it was a respectful and honrable portrayal...

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on September 09, 2017 at 2:09 pm

So since Aunt Jemiamah is racist in your opinion, what should I say to those women of color who wear kerchiefs on their heads?  That I am offended by that?  I mean that is what your saying right Sollie?


I am so confused.  Let me see the light Sollie.


Speaking of which..................... still thinking that women ( as you have stated before) are too weak to CCW?


What do you tell this woman?



CallSaul wrote on September 09, 2017 at 4:09 pm


Unable to back up one of your lies, the only option you can conceive of is to toss out more incoherent gibberish and then recycle another disproven lie...?

Such is the abject despair of a local RWNJ troll, I suppose...

Since we've been over this repeatedly, here's the quote you're deliberately misrepresenting again:

'Are you positing that the victim in this case would have been able to retrieve and use a gun on the attacker without the attacker overpowering her and using the gun on her and possibly others?'


If the person in the other commenter's example had been male, 'her' would be replaced by 'him.'

I guess we need to develop a fund to train better RWNJ trolls because this is bottom of the barrel level ineptitude...and it's not even fresh...