The University of Illinois administration made the call on Friday to retire the school’s “Fighting Illini War Chant” song that’s played during sporting events and university functions in what seems to be an effort of establishing political correctness.
According to the Daily Illini, Associate Director of Athletics and Media Relations Kent Brown said that the effort to retire the song “was part of the University’s efforts to be more inclusive and improve the atmosphere of Illinois football games.” They even went as far as to say that the video board and music were much better for the football atmosphere than the war chant being played by the band.
Talks to retire the song were mainly held between the University administration, Athletic Department, leaders of the Marching Illini, and members of the Native American and Indigenous Student Organization, or NAISO.
“We have had the opportunity to speak to members and leaders of the Marching Illini, and while we were personally not involved in final decision of removing the war chant, we are inspired to see how committed the band leaders are to promoting school spirit and making sure that we feel welcome during their performances,” NAISO said in a prepared statement.
Apparently, the University of Illinois student government and members of the student-run organization, Illini Pride, were included in discussions about retiring the war chant, and feel a bit confused about the whole ordeal.
“Student government was not invited to any conversation regarding that,” the Student Body President Raneem Shamseldin said.
The Illini Pride President Ross Drucker said that they respect the decision of the University, they were still surprised by it.
“Nobody told us beforehand. If someone had we obviously wouldn’t have played it,” Drucker said. “It’s not like we tried to push the envelope. We respect that decision, but we were just kind of caught off guard.”
He continued. “I think what happened, if it wasn’t truly engaging, the chant wasn’t deployed or utilized in the right way. In some situations he’s right, but I think it really did have its moments where it worked very well.”
Drucker conceded that fighting the chant’s retirement isn’t their priority and they have a job to uphold in promoting school spirit.
Questions still remain as to whether the University ditched the war chant for the sake of political correctness or whether it really had to do with improving school spirit with respect to sporting events.
The school’s nickname, The Fighting Illini, has been at the center of controversy over their use of a Native American tribe name. There has been a new push to change the names of Indian-related nicknames and mascots. In recent years, teams like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins have been protested against for use of derogatory images and names used for their respective teams. The University of North Dakota changed their nickname from the “Fighting Sioux” to the “Fighting Hawks” in 2015.