UI chancellor: Dropping 'war chant' was my call

UI chancellor: Dropping 'war chant' was my call

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CHAMPAIGN — Following a decision to drop the "war chant" from Illini athletic events, Chancellor Robert Jones reiterated Monday that the campus has no plans to eliminate the popular "Three-in-One" medley or Fighting Illini nickname.

"We have had no systematic discussions about the Three-in-One the way that we've had about the chant," Jones said Monday.

And while some have suggested the chancellor wants to do away with the nickname, Jones said, "I can assure you I never had those discussions. It's not part of what I'm thinking about, and I just want to be very clear about that. That's a tradition that's critically important and predates a lot of the issues that people are concerned about.

"There's no plan to do away with or eliminate either of those two items," Jones said.

Critics say the music and nickname stereotype Native Americans and prolong the divisive debate over Chief Illiniwek, which was retired as the UI symbol 10 years ago. But others point out that "Fighting Illini" the nickname predates the Chief and referred to Illinois soldiers in World War I.

Jones reiterated that the decision to drop the war chant was motivated by "multiple reasons" — one, the chant wasn't motivating fans at football games as historically intended; two, it had been used less and less in the last couple of years; and three, "not everybody agrees that the music is appropriate, and it's offensive to some people."

"We made the collective decision that it's time for us to stop having that as part of our game-day experience," he said.

But he said the decision was ultimately his call.

"At the end of the day, everything at this university is my decision. But I don't make mandates or edicts of my staff. We discuss things. We talk about the pros and cons," he said. "This was a collective decision. Nobody was forced to do this. We had a discussion about it and mutually agreed that now was the time to do it."

In a separate interview, Athletic Director Josh Whitman characterized it the same way.

Whitman said both he and Jones were each approached about the general issue of Native American imagery soon after taking on their respective positions last year. They had some early conversations about it and agreed to talk further with Marching Illini Director Barry Houser before making the decision last spring.

"It was just evident at the conclusion that this was the direction we needed to go," Whitman said.

Whitman posted a letter to Illini fans on Monday, saying he shared some of the sadness they felt over the decision to drop the war chant, which he called "the soundtrack of my football career." He said the music and Chief Illiniwek evoked "feelings of pride, unity and confidence" when he was a student in the 1990s.

"Today, I understand that my emotions were not shared by many connected to our university. And as I have spent more time around these issues, my feelings have evolved. For some, Fighting Illini athletics has been a source of division, not unity. Segments of our university have felt unwelcome at our athletic events. Regardless of whether you agree with these sentiments, at a minimum, we must acknowledge that these feelings matter," he wrote.

"Obviously, I have a pretty strong connection to this place and a pretty strong connection to our history and our traditions," Whitman told The News-Gazette on Monday. "I have very strong memories of the Chief, the war chant, of what it feels like in Memorial Stadium or the old Assembly Hall.

"I've recognized now that it was the feeling that I cared most about. It wasn't the performance of any particular piece, whether it was the war chant or the Chief. It was the feeling that came over the place. I believe that we can recapture that feeling in other ways," he said.

Whitman said he wants athletics to be a source of unity, not division."There's a lot right now societally that is pulling people apart," he said.

* * * * *

Whitman reiterated that Jones is committed to maintaining the Three-in-One and the nickname. He said he understood that some fans who may not even have been that familiar with the war chant were upset because they fear "this is the beginning of what's next."

"I don't think there's a lot to be worried about on that front," he said. "We're very committed to certain traditions."

"At the same time, I think we have an obligation as an athletic program to be a unifying influence on this university," he said. "If this decision allows us to take an important step in that direction, then it was worth it."

"We're bigger than the war chant," he said.

Whitman said the song wasn't played at games until the mid-1970s. It started with a simple drumbreat, he said, and "over time, members of the band on their own started adding the horns and ultimately the crescendo. So it's not as old a tradition as perhaps some people might think it is."

Whitman said he addressed the decision when he met with 500 or so student-athletes on Sunday. He said none of them objected outwardly but acknowledged some may not agree."Everybody's entitled to their opinions. I'm sure some had strong feelings about it," he said.* * * * *

Jones said he wasn't surprised by the emotional reactions to the decision by fans and alumni.

"I know people feel deeply about this issue. They feel a sense of loss," he said. "But at the same time, we're trying to use this as an opportunity to remind them that the core part of the reason they came to this university was to get an education," he said.

"The issue is that 18 to 20 seconds of music shouldn't define us as a university," he said.

"I certainly hope over time they will understand what is really important is that we prepared them for work and for life at this great university," he said.Both Jones and Whitman said they regret how the news came out — after some Illini Pride members were told not to play the drum beat at a soccer game Thursday night. They said no decisions had been made about how to roll it out, just that it would take effect this season. Whitman said he was still talking with various coaches, and the hope was to talk about it closer to the first illini football game.

* * * * *

UI senior Sam LeRoy asked Jones at a Senate Executive Committee meeting on Monday why he hadn't consulted with the senate about the issue first. Given the long debate over Chief Illiniwek, "I don't think it should have surprised anyone that this was a decision that would make national headlines," he added.

Jones and other senators said the senate's opposition to the use of Native American imagery in athletics had been made clear.

"Debating it was not going to do anything but kind of re-initiate a lot of the agony and the angst that have been a cancer that has been eating away at this university for more than a decade," Jones said.

"I know not everybody was going to be happy with the way we handled this," he said, but "the status quo is not sufficient."

"I will not sit here as your chancellor ... and not try to move this community internally and externally away from what I think is the most divisive issue in higher education. I do think it undermines our excellence. It undermines our education."

On a related issue, Jones didn't seem eager to move ahead with a new mascot committee, saying the university faces much more urgent challenges. Though the state budget crisis has subsided for now, he said, "we've got to think about the year after that and the year after that."

He said he wants to initiate a broader discussion first to help the campus move past the divisiveness of the Chief before taking on the question of a mascot, though he's not sure of the format.

Jones said that reconciliation could be part of a "Critical Conversations" dialogue on campus, where people from both sides would agree to come to the table for "respectful and thoughtful conversations ... so we can find a collective path forward. It may not succeed. But I feel very strongly that one of the things that hasn't happened over the last decade is an opportunity for people to be heard," particularly those who feel a sense of loss, he said.For those who want the UI to go further, and eliminate all vestiges of the Chief and related music and imagery, Whitman said he will "continue to welcome conversation."

"Clearly if nothing else I hope that this action demonstrates that their opinion matters," he said. "And I do think that at some point, we need to get the right people in a room and talk about how we can continue the healing process that started for some when the Chief was retired. But it's an ongoing effort, and it's going to require some compromise on all sides."

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cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 29, 2017 at 7:08 am


We have had no systematic discussions about the Three-in-One the way that we've had about the chant," Jones said Monday.


Parsing of words.  Better question.  Have you had discussions with ANYONE on campus as to replacing the 3 in 1 who is in the administration on campus or with any BOT to replace the 3 in 1.


Systematic means 'University wide"  those come later.  Who have you talked to NOW in replacing the 3 in 1.  


Does the University believe in censorship for other instructors.  Do you agree that the U of I should monitor what other instructors are teaching.  Remember............... band is a class......... academic freedom.

But at least we are not alone.

We wont have to hear  Maryland   My Maryland any more when the U of I plays them...


too many ties to the CSA






I am sure that we can go through NG past articles and see where past Chancellors have stated that the Chief would never be replaced.


Chancellors are like  light bulbs.  They are bright for a while then they burn out and are replaced.  Bob will be gone in 3 yrs and the next person might have that on their agenda to replace the 3 in 1.


In the mean time Bob................. what dont you explain to every one your decision a year and a half ago at Albany.  Did you consult with anyone on that before you made the wrong decision that was clearly racially motivated?

kiel wrote on August 29, 2017 at 7:08 am

Given that the Peoria Tribe, Oklahoma -- the last, closest remaining descendants of the Illini -- have expressed concern that both The Chief and the war chant are not appropriate, this is a good move forward. If UIUC were truly interested in "paying homage" or "heritage" of Native Americans, the university would ask the Peoria Tribe a) if, in fact, they would like UIUC to incorporate Illini heritage into sporting events, etc., and if 'Yes', then b) how UIUC should go about doing so. What music, what symbols, etc. would be approriate, accurate, and respectful?

I'm not sure this effort has ever been made. From what I understand, however, the current and past symbols were decided upon without this sort of consultation.

Annotator wrote on August 29, 2017 at 8:08 am

"Given that the Peoria Tribe, Oklahoma -- the last, closest remaining descendants of the Illini -- have expressed concern that both The Chief and the war chant are not appropriate, this is a good move forward. If UIUC were truly interested in "paying homage" or "heritage" of Native Americans, the university would ask the Peoria Tribe a) if, in fact, they would like UIUC to incorporate Illini heritage into sporting events, etc., and if 'Yes', then b) how UIUC should go about doing so. What music, what symbols, etc. would be approriate, accurate, and respectful?"

A group of people who don't live in Illinois, don't pay taxes in Illinois, don't have anyone enrolled at the UofI and haven't attended any UofI functions where the "war chant" was played, shouldn't have input into the music played by the UofI.  Period. 

The entire statement by Robert Jones is an attempt to place his racially slanted viewpoint on UofI culture and tradition.  He did the same thing at Albany when three black females lied about being victims of racial attacks by 12 to 20 white people on a CDTA bus.  Jones' public statement, upholding the allegations of the three black females, backfired when the three black females were proved by police to have been the perpetrators of an assault on one non-student rider.

jwr12 wrote on August 29, 2017 at 9:08 am

Annotator, let me annotate something for you:

You write, "A group of people who don't live in Illinois, ..."

That's interesting.  How come the Peoria Tribe lives in Oklahoma? Why don't these descendants of the original Illini live here?

Let's do a little research.  Here's what the Tribe notes about its history on its website:

"Forced from their ancestral lands in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri, the Peorias were relocated first in Missouri, then in Kansas and, finally, in northeastern Oklahoma. There, in Miami, Ottawa County, Oklahoma is their tribal headquarters."

So there it is.  One reason that this Tribe doesn't feel honored by a made up 'war chant' that is used in its honor--a reason the tribe doesn't attend the games or feel honored to buy Chief-emblazoned merch--is that it was forcibly driven from this state, and relocated.  And while we who do live here can still make choices about what happens here, I would think it decent to at least hear and respect their opinion.


myattitude wrote on August 29, 2017 at 9:08 am

Actually people have tried to talk to the Peoria Tribe who were receptive to the Chief but when word spread about it both radical national Native American representatives and officials from the UI have swept in and stopped it. This attempt has been made multiple times with past Chancellor Wise being one of the latest to stop it. It appears that Jones is of the same thought and will do anything to stop supporters of the Chief. I suspect he didn't realize the negative impact of his decision.

Contrary to any words otherwise the administration has been and probably always will be against the Chief. The board made a big play to keep him when the NCAA came down with their ruling but it was all window dressing.

nbaxley wrote on August 29, 2017 at 8:08 am

Wait, wait, wait.  "Clearly if nothing else I hope that this action demonstrates that their opinion matters," enforcing an un-debated, surreptitiously implemented edict that strips away a part of the Illini tradition should make people feel that their opinion matters!?  That has got to be one of the stupidest statements in this conversation.  Either that or I'm confused and he's talking about the anti-chiefers who were being so ignored up to this point.  It ranks right up there with "We're very committed to certain traditions." This whole thing makes me so sick to my stomach.

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 29, 2017 at 9:08 am

The more I think about this, the more in disbelief that I become.   Remind me again Bob how some brain trust at the U of I thought that this decision, which would go national in the sports relm, was best implemented at a soccer game..... DURING THE GAME?   While the band was playing? What genius thought that was a good idea.  You?  Whitman?  Who???????????????


Then 4 days later you suddenly write a letter?




You guys are inept.

GLG wrote on August 29, 2017 at 9:08 am

Who's turn is it going to be tomorrow to come on here and explain why the music was "Retired"??

88illiniwek wrote on August 29, 2017 at 9:08 am


Notsoaveragejoe wrote on August 29, 2017 at 9:08 am

This is the wrong decision. Venues like rock concerts and athletic events are powerful examples of shared community. Students, loyal fans and alumni come to the games not to watch a losing football team but to enjoy the sensation and rituals that affirm their sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. Getting rid of the Chief and now the war chant only erodes this. In a time when our culture is grossly polarized, these venues provide a break from the noise. People of all walks of life don their orange and blue and faithfully sing and chant and celebrate. You can't alter this in the name of political correctness. This is another damning example of how the profession of higher education has lost its way and has elected to sell out to the overly-sensitive and always unhappy snowflake minority. 


Citizen1 wrote on August 29, 2017 at 10:08 am

You are so very correct.  We need a leader not some wimp who panders to a vocal few.

Bob from Champaign wrote on August 29, 2017 at 11:08 am

The U of I brought all this on themselves.  Should have made a clean break from the whole "Illini" and Native American association years ago.

Miami University in Ohio is a good example of how this should have been handled.  Went from the Redskins, with all the associated cartoonish imagry, to the Redhawks.  Complete change with a clean break.  There was the obligatory grumblings and lamentations about traditions and such but after a couple years everyone had bought into the Redhawks and a new culture developed.  Today's students don't have any association or attachment to "Redskins".

Psirena wrote on August 29, 2017 at 11:08 am

An open letter to the Chancellor of the University of Illinois,


After reading your letter, I have felt compelled to write you a response and offer you, and the University, a permanent and fair solution to our collective heartache over our beloved Chief. 


You said you "want to initiate a broader discussion" to let the campus talk and heal over the Chief. I suggest you act on this immediately then. Hold a campus election to chose whether or not to have the Chief active every four years (the average time for a degree). Like politics, each side would only have to bear 'losing' temporarily, but the important difference would be those of us whose worst nightmare is being surgically removed from all modern life for the sake of being non offensive could stop living in constant fear. 


I know I am not a student, I am a grown woman, and I fear the backlash from posting this. That's how "open" the dialogue is right now. If I were not Native, I would be instantly labeled many things. That's not how this should be. Does the University of Illinois not teach debate? Ethics? Political science? Speech? Let the students lead this national debate. Let these students, who are paying thousands and thousands of dollars, decide for themselves, through a fair system, what choice THEY would like. Let them campaign for what they want and hold an election. Let them show us, and the country, what they are learning at the University of Illinois. Let us set the example by putting the decision in the hands of the many instead of the hands of the few. I am proposing this because I believe in the education these students receive at the University of Illinois. I hope that you will show that you do as well.



BruckJr wrote on August 29, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Dr. Jones has a history of seeking to be aggrieved:


Even when called upon to renounce his racism he refused:


Think Al Sharpton.

wayward wrote on August 29, 2017 at 5:08 pm

That would have been a minefield for any college administrator, and I think initially taking the women at their word might have been the smartest course of action. They were ultimately expelled and criminally charged, and nothing about Jones' response seems "racist."

CallSaul wrote on August 29, 2017 at 2:08 pm

So, some of the supporters of the old racist chicken feather 'chief' mascot are attacking Chancellor Jones on the basis of race...?

There is not a single person who can legitimately say they're honestly surprised by this...

GLG wrote on August 29, 2017 at 2:08 pm

We all know about the Chief,  We don't need you 3rd. grade name calling!

cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 29, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Considering anyone with half a brain knows that there are more cameras on an bus than there are at major league baseball game, Bob should have said........... we are aware of the incident.  I will have the police and myself review the video and I will then make a statement later.


Instead  he refused to apologize after his clearly biased remarks.  Clearly his remarks were race based. If the shoe had been on fht other foot he would have made statement #1.. we are investigating. 


Like the students at Duke...... he owed these guys an apology.. he did not give it.. It is anot an attack on him  its just the facts....


Now Sollie boy..............


how about Gone with the wind............


should be banned from theaters right?


When do you first blame POTUS for the Hurricane?

roach wrote on August 29, 2017 at 10:08 pm

The more they talk, the worse they sound: 

They want to have a conversation to show that all opinion matters, but made this decision behind closed doors and then sat on it for months.  Josh is supposed to be the smartest guy in the room, but he sure royally screwed up the roll out, or were they going to just not say anything and hope nobody noticed.   

The solution requires compromise, but the anti-Chief's have never been inclined to do so (remember the possible solution that Wise squashed).

If Josh continues to evolve, then when the Jones decides to pull the plug on the 3 in 1 or "fighing illini" he will once again mutually agree.  There doesn't ever seem to be a Chief adocate in the room.

While none of the 500 athletes seemed to disagree with the decision, had there preiously been a line at Josh's door saying that the were disturbed by it.

Jones mentions that the core object of students is to get an education.  Couldn't agree more. If today's students are so fragile that 18 seconds of music in the context of an athletic contest distaction them from their main goal, then God help us all.



cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on August 30, 2017 at 8:08 am

The students who were singled out asked for an apology ............ he did not give it.  No the best course of action would be ............ hey lets pull the video from the bus.....................easily done...............


but he did not do that............. even tho the cops probably had done it already and had watched it at the bus garage.  Lets reverse the rolls here and it was the white males complaining about the females.. would have have taken the same tact?




But Bob was surprised that he was lied to by the students....................shocking

JamBam wrote on August 31, 2017 at 1:08 am

Well, Bob is correct about one thing.  The University of Illinois has far bigger problems to worry about such as funding.

And decisions like retiring the War Chant just made those real problems that much even worse.  Think fo the donations that will stop flowing into the University because of the direction that it's taking.  You cant stake out these far far far leftists position, that appeal to maybe 5% of the population, and expect the rest of the 95% to just go along with it and keep sending money.  Eventually, people get to their breaking point, and I think this decision has finally done it (if they haven't stopped giving already).

Bob says  "some people didn't like the chant".  Since when do "some people" opinion matter more than the vast vast majority?  I would estimate there are far more people, who go to the games, that do not like the rap music played on the video board than oppose the War Chant.  Yet, is rap music going to be banned because "some people don't like rap music".  This is nothing but more far leftist absurdity that will ultimately lead to them in far less power than they even have now.  Illinois is one of the only 7 or 8 states in the entire US where you could get away this (governing against the will of the people). 

None of these people could ever get a job in the private sector.  They aren't qualified to do anything other than make decisions without fear of consequences.  Josh Whitman is a flat out coward. He loves his job more than standing up for tradition.  Ultimately, that will get him fired.when IFUND donations sink even lower due to his cowardice.  

Bob Jones will be off to his next job within the next 3 years.  None of these people love Illinois or have any connection to it at all. Even the one that did, Josh Whitman, is nothing more than a sellout. 'We Will Win".  Nah...more like "We Will Lose...games, tradition, and common sense"...

CallSaul wrote on August 31, 2017 at 1:08 am

Yah, you love it so much you threaten to cut off all ties --- however tenuous they ever were --- because of the discontinuation of a silly Capt Kangaroo fake Indian 'war chant' that is based on racist stereotypes of Indians as savages.

And you also throw in your gratuitous attack on rap...

What a surprise...

Notsoaveragejoe wrote on August 31, 2017 at 7:08 am

I agree Jam. The ultra left bias appeases a very small minority and particularly those who hide inside the ivory tower. I've already had conversations with alums who are discontinuing their donations due to the growing absurdity of the university and this latest decision. Of course, Jones and Killeen won't be around long enough for it to matter to them. They'll retire or hop on the next university money train elsewhere.