University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Student Investigated for Facebook.com Comments About School Mascot Debate

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In response to calls to eliminate the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign mascot, “Chief Illiniwek,” a group of Illinois students started a Facebook group entitled “If They Get Rid of the Chief I’m Becoming a Racist.” Comments posted on the group’s “wall” included criticism of one of the mascot’s most vocal opponents, including the statement, “apparently the leader of this movement is of Sioux descent … the Sioux are the ones that killed off the Illini indians [sic], so she’s just trying to finish what her ancestors started. I say we throw a tomohawk [sic] into her face.” A group of the school’s American Indian Studies Program faculty publicly asked the university to discipline the student, prompting the Illinois Chancellor Richard Herman to send an e-mail to the university community stating “The University will take all legal and disciplinary actions available in response to the threatening messages.” FIRE wrote to Chancellor Herman urging the university to cease its investigation, as the student was engaging in constitutionally protected expression, although the university never responded.